Oklahoma City Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (35) handles the ball against Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin (7) during the third quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Photo by Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
OKLAHOMA CITY - NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant poured in 42 points to power Oklahoma City over the Houston Rockets 106-98 Tuesday as the Thunder kept pace with their league-leading rivals.
Durant hit 12-of-22 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range, and went 13-of-16 from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds and four assists as the Thunder improved to 3-0 against Houston this year.
"We just went out there and did what we were supposed to do," Durant said.
"We're a team that closes the paint up and makes second and third efforts. Prior to this game we hadn't been doing those things so it was good to get back to that."
It was Durant's 11th 40-point game of the season, six more than second-best Carmelo Anthony of New York.
Oklahoma City had lost two in a row and five of their prior 10 games but took out their frustrations on the Rockets, who fell to 44-20 with their five-game win streak halted.
"Tonight was a step in the right direction," Durant said. "Once our whole team gets back from injuries we're going to build up that chemistry and we're going to be all right down the line."
The Thunder matched Indiana for the second-best record in the NBA at 47-17, just behind San Antonio's 47-16 in the fight for overall home-court advantage in the NBA playoffs.
"We're going to try to win every game and get as high a seed as we can," Durant said. "We're going to focus on every single day, trying as hard as we can and hopefully when that time comes we'll be the top seed."
Indiana beat visiting Boston 94-83 Tuesday with Andrew Bynum making his Pacers season debut off the bench, scoring eight points and grabbing 10 rebounds as Indiana snapped a four-game losing streak.
San Antonio beat Chicago 104-97, the Spurs stretching their win streak to seven games behind 22 points from Manu Ginobili off the bench and 20 points plus a game-high nine assists from Tony Parker.
Russell Westbrook added 24 points for the Thunder while while Spain's Serge Ibaka added 12 points and 15 rebounds.
James Harden led Houston with 28 points while Chandler Parsons added 19 and Dominican guard Francisco Garcia scored 11.
Houston, which made only 41.8 percent of shots in the game, trailed 77-67 entering the fourth quarter but scored the next five points.
A 7-2 Thunder run stretched the lead back to 10, and Oklahoma City kept the Rockets at bay until they closed within 97-92 with just over two minutes to play.
Durant sank two free throws but Garcia answered with a quick Houston basket. Ibaka then was fouled on a 3-point shot and made all three free throws to give Oklahoma City a 102-94 edge.
Harden made two free throws for the Rockets but Durant answered with a jumper over Garcia.
Parsons hit two free throws to pull Houston within 104-98 but Ibaka hit an uncontested inside jumper to secure the triumph.
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