HOUSTON -- Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks thinks the Thunder must improve defensively to become one of the league's elite teams.
The Thunder showed flashes of stingy defense in the second half on Wednesday night, but only after Brooks scolded them for playing so lax in the first.
"We can't let Coach come in here at halftime and get us fired up to play defense," Durant said. "We have to start from the beginning. In the second half, we locked in and played harder."
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Thabo Sefolosha grabbed 13 rebounds, and Serge Ibaka and Jeff Green added 16 points apiece for the Thunder. The franchise won in Houston for the first time since Feb. 22, 2005, when the team was still the Seattle SuperSonics.
Houston scored a season-high 70 points in the paint, but went 5 for 18 from 3-point range. The Thunder focused on shutting down the Rockets' perimeter shooters, leaving wide gaps in the lane.
Oklahoma City came in ranked 20th in scoring defense (101.2 points per game), and has given up at least 105 points in 18 games this season.
"We've just got to be more locked in and focused, and worry about that end more than the offensive end," Durant said. "But we'll be all right."
Luis Scola scored 31 points, but none in the fourth quarter, for Houston. The Rockets played without leading scorer Kevin Martin (sore right wrist) and backup center Brad Miller (sore left knee) for the second straight game.
The Rockets have lost seven of their last nine and three in a row at home.
"We don't have a lot of margin for error," Scola said. "If we make mistakes, they [opponents] are going to make us pay, especially a team like Oklahoma City."
Green sank two 3-pointers in the first six minutes and the Thunder built an early lead. Oklahoma City started 9 for 13 from the field, and Durant and Westbrook had two of the misses.
Scola scored 13 points in the first quarter and helped Houston rally to a 31-all tie. Westbrook, averaging 22 points, missed his first six shots and Houston took the lead early in the second.
Westbrook ended up 7 for 19 from the field and offset his misses by going 9 for 12 from the free throw line.
"He got frustrated, but he fought through a tough stretch in the first half," Brooks said. "Like he normally does, he filled up the stat sheet."
The Rockets went 1 for 7 from 3-point range in the first half, but scored 36 points in the paint to lead 54-52. Scola led Houston with 16 points, and point guard Kyle Lowry scored most of his 14 first-half points on driving layups.
Durant sank a 3-pointer and Nenad Krstic tipped in another Westbrook miss during a 14-4 Thunder spurt in the third quarter. The Rockets missed seven of their first 11 shots after halftime and Oklahoma City built a 72-62 lead.
Scola rallied Houston with more shifty moves inside. He flipped in a layup, drew a foul and made the free throw with 3:10 left in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 76-71.
Scola scored 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting in the third quarter and Houston trailed 82-79 heading to the fourth. The Thunder held Scola to two shots in the fourth.
Reserve Chase Budinger scored seven points in the first two minutes of the final quarter, and Jeffries' rebound basket tied it again, at 88-all. Green answered with a quick drive and the Thunder never trailed again.
"We were doing good up until that point in the fourth quarter where they made their run," Scola said. "It was just a couple of minutes of bad play and bad execution. We need to stay away from that."
Durant threw down a powerful one-handed dunk over rookie Patrick Patterson, then hit a pair of jumpers around a dunk by Green to put Oklahoma City up 101-94.
The Thunder stretched the lead to 13 before the Rockets made a late charge, with Lee scoring seven points in a 2-minute span to help pull Houston within two. Westbrook went 4 for 4 from the free throw line in the last 17 seconds to stall the comeback.
- Westbrook has 17 double-doubles this season.
- The Thunder improved to 17-2 when outrebounding their opponent.
- Scola has scored at least 20 points in 19 games this season.