OKLAHOMA CITY -- It's almost impossible for some kind of drama not to take place whenever the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets hook up. Ever since Rockets guard Patrick Beverly ended thunder guard Russell Westbrook's postseason in 2013, the two teams have had perpetual bad blood.
It was the same thing Friday, when the Houston paid Oklahoma City a visit. In a game marked by 50 personal fouls, 31 turnovers and an ejection, the Thunder pulled out an 116-108 victory at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.
"It was obviously a challenge," Thunder coach Billy Donovan said. "I thought it was a difficult game for both teams."
Forward Kevin Durant scored 33 points on 11 of 18 shooting from the field and had 12 rebounds and three assists for the Thunder. Westbrook picked up his sixth triple-double of the season with 26 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists.
"It's part of my job," Westbrook said. "Finding guys, getting them the ball where they can score and keep the pace up."
Center Enes Kanter came off the bench to contribute 22 points and 10 rebounds as Oklahoma City improved to 36-13.
"I think that we came out here, we wanted to get a win," Beverly said. "And we came up short."
With 6:17 left in the fourth quarter, Thunder forward Kyle Singler completed a three-point play to give Oklahoma City a nine-point advantage. Harden answered with his own three-point play to close gap to 101-95.
With Howard out of the middle, Kanter began to take over for the Thunder in the paint. He scored four quick points as Oklahoma City went up by 11. Durant then drained a 3-pointer from the top of the key to stretch the lead to 112-98 with 3:25 left.
"Howard is a good player, I respect him," Kanter said. "I just tried to do my job."
However, Beverly knocked down a 3-pointer to slash deficit to 11. Center Clint Capela hit one of two from the line and Brewer came up with a fast-break dunk as Houston closed to eight with 1:36 left.
Westbrook was fouled and missed both free throws. Harden made the Thunder pay by hitting two of his own as the Rockets trailed 112-106 with 1:20 left.
Thunder guard Dion Waiters scored, but Durant fouled Harden on a 3-point attempt at the other end. Harden made two of the three foul shots and lead was back to six.
A layup by Kanter pushed the advantage to eight. With Durant guarding him, Harden tried to answer but dribbled away precious seconds before missing a jumper to close out the game.
"(Harden) seemed to be bother by Kevin's length," Donovan said, of putting Durant on Harden in fourth quarter. "Shooting over Kevin is tough. Kevin uses his feet very well. Kevin did a great job of getting over screens. I think what Kevin did physically playing both offensively and defensively was really impressive. But just the commitment he made defensively to try and shut him down."
After getting booed strongly by his former fan base, Harden proceeded to work over the Thunder defense to start the night. He posted 11 points in the first quarter and handed the Rockets a 29-22 advantage.
Houston pushed its lead to 12 before Oklahoma City finally stopped the bleeding and went on a run. The Thunder spurt was helped by them intentionally fouling Howard four times in final three minutes. He missed 6 of 8 from the free throw line, but the Rockets held on to a 58-55 halftime lead.
What was already an intense game went up a few notches in the third quarter. Howard was ejected with two technicals, Beverly tossed Westbrook to the ground and 13 personal fouls called.
"There were moments I felt we could have lost our composure," Houston coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. "But I don't think we did as a group. I think one of the messages the guys were telling one another was stick with it, stay together. The effort they put forth tonight, I was proud of. We scrapped. This is a tough place to play."
NOTES: Oklahoma City F Kevin Durant responded to Golden State G Steph Curry guaranteeing a win over the Thunder when the teams play Feb. 6. "Man, I don't pay attention to (stuff) like that," Durant said. "We play tonight. We'll see. We play tonight, we still got to play the game tonight. We got those guys coming up. What else is he supposed to say? They're everybody's, uh, ... I'm just going to leave it at that." ... Houston G James Harden was named as a reserve to the Western Conference All-Star team, the NBA announced Thursday night. This is his fourth all-star selection. ... The Thunder sport the 29th toughest strength of schedule in the league, with opponents having a .477 winning percentage. The Rockets sit at No. 15 with a .502. ... Oklahoma City G Cameron Payne sat out Friday's game against Houston with a concussion he sustained Wednesday at Minnesota. Payne is going through the NBA concussion protocol and is day to day, according to Thunder coach Billy Donovan.