OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder created the kind of momentum they wanted to take into the All-Star break.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 29 points to help the Thunder roll past the Houston Rockets 133-96 on Wednesday night.
Gilgeous-Alexander was 8 of 16 on field goals and 13 of 15 on free throws. The first-time All-Star played just three quarters because Oklahoma City was up 116-78 heading into the fourth.
Thunder guard Josh Giddey said coach Mark Daigneault helped the team stay focused.
“Guys know the break’s coming up and it’s easy to look past it and kind of brush this game off and just get through it and head into the break,” Giddey said. “But coach really emphasized running the finish line. I think we did a really good job of that tonight.”
The Thunder enter the break with a 28-29 record after finishing last season 24-58. They are positioned to make a run at a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
“We’re aware of the race for the play-in and the playoff spots. ... Every game we can get, we need,” Gilgeous-Alexander said.
Lu Dort scored 15 points, Jalen Williams had 13 and Jaylin Williams added eight points and a season-high 16 rebounds for the Thunder, who posted their largest victory margin of the season.
“We didn’t settle tonight,” Daigneault said. “Transition, we got out and ran. Offensively, we hit the paint. We got to the line a ton. We got to the rim and we sprayed the ball for open shots. I thought we made the right play the majority of the night. So credit to the guys who played together on that end.”
Jabari Smith Jr. scored 15 points and Jalen Green added 14 for the Rockets, who lost their seventh straight game and enter the break with the worst record in the NBA.
“I’m going to take some time over the break and not think about it for a little while,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “But then I am going to take a good amount of the break and really kind of figure out what the next 20, however many games looks like. And maybe there’ll be some some different things, different rotations, different schemes at times.”
Gilgeous-Alexander scored 16 points in the first half to help Oklahoma City take a 76-54 lead.
The Thunder continued to dominate, outscoring the Rockets 40-24 in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 13 points in the period.
Rockets: G Jae’Sean Tate was issued a technical foul in the first quarter after he disagreed with a foul that was called against him. C Alperen Sengun and F/C Usman Garuba were called for technicals later in the quarter. ... G Kevin Porter Jr. missed his 17th straight game with a bruised left foot. ... Garuba was issued a Flagrant 1 for a push in the fourth quarter.
Thunder: Oklahoma City was called for defensive three seconds twice in the first quarter. ... Held the Rockets to 22.7% shooting in the first quarter. ... Held the Rockets to 33.7% shooting.
Thunder forward/center Dario Saric debuted after he was acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Suns. He had 12 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.
“I thought he was good,” Daigneault said. “Plays the right way. Certainly has a great feel for the game stylistically. Just a guy that you don’t have to over coach what we’re doing and stuff. He just kind of plays basketball, figures things out.”