OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder got exactly the start they needed for the most grueling part of their schedule.
Durant scored 26 points, top reserve James Harden added 23 and Oklahoma City eased into its only stretch of three games on consecutive nights by beating the Houston Rockets 109-94 on Friday.
The Thunder bounced back after they followed their 5-0 start with two straight losses and were able to rest all of their starters throughout the fourth quarter.
``I think it's huge. I don't know how we're going to play for three games but to start off like this, first of all with the confidence, it helps a lot,' Thabo Sefolosha said. ``And it's good that we got some of the main guys to get some rest.'
Durant played the most at just under 28 minutes, and fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook logged about 25. Oklahoma City plays three in a row and five games in six nights.
``It was important to us since we've got these back-to-back-to-back, then a day off, then another back-to-back,' Durant said.
Kevin Martin and Terrence Williams scored 13 points apiece to lead the Rockets, who fell to 0-5 on the road this season but get a rematch Saturday night on their home floor. They're 2-0 in Houston so far.
``They were just aggressive. They were way more aggressive than we were tonight, right from the start,' new coach Kevin McHale said.
``Right now, we're not playing very well. We're digging ourselves a bit of a hole but we're going to have to dig our way out. The only people that are going to dig themselves out are the players, and I told them that.'
Houston played without starting point guard Kyle Lowry because of a right foot injury. It was also the first game since Lowry was charged with misdemeanor battery after a female referee accused him of throwing a basketball at her and threatening her during a game at a Las Vegas training gym during the lockout.
McHale said he had ``no idea' if Lowry would play Saturday night.
Goran Dragic replaced him in the starting lineup and had 10 points and tied his career high with 11 assists.
Oklahoma City had been limited to only 40 second-half points in each of its losses but this time put the throttle down for 51 and put away the Rockets.
Durant and Westbrook combined to score the Thunder's first 10 points of the second half, and Kendrick Perkins scored underneath to finish a 12-4 opening run and provide a 70-45 lead just over 5 minutes beyond halftime.
Durant followed a spinning basket with a steal for a fast-break layup minutes later for a 76-49 advantage that was Oklahoma City's largest of the night.
The Rockets were able to get close enough to convince Thunder coach Scott Brooks to burn a timeout and chat with his reserves, but never could force the starters back in to action and drain them for the rematch. McHale didn't use his starters much in the fourth either, except for center Jordan Hill and Dragic - who is usually a backup.
Patrick Patterson hit a jumper, Dragic made a 3-pointer and Chandler Parsons had a right-handed slam on a fast break to get Houston back within 91-75 with 7:53 left in the game. The Rockets got within 15 before Harden scored on back-to-back drives - with one of them leading to a three-point play - to convince Brooks to send in rookie Reggie Jackson instead of his starters.
``It was key that our bench came in and they built on the lead and they kept us on the sideline,' Perkins said.
Westbrook added 15 points and Serge Ibaka had 11 points and nine rebounds for Oklahoma City, which only trailed after Luis Scola's basket to open the game.
The Thunder then zoomed ahead by scoring nine fast-break points on their way to an early 16-8 lead. They had 11 of their 17 fast-break points in the first quarter.
``It all started from our defense. I think we started off with a great mindset on defense of contesting shots, making those guys shoot jump shots and rebounding. I think we did a decent job at that and got some easy baskets,' Durant said.
``We also got some deflections and steals and stuff like that to get us going.'
Harden scored seven straight points spanning the first-quarter break to bump the lead to 15, and the Oklahoma City reserves kept piling it on.
The Thunder backups outscored Houston 16-5 to start the second quarter, pushing ahead 46-25 after Nick Collison's jumper from the left side with 7:28 to go before halftime.
Martin led the Rockets back with two consecutive steals that led to four free throws, getting the deficit down to 14. Houston never got that close again after Ibaka beat the halftime buzzer with his second career 3-pointer to make it 58-41.
``So far, it's not working. It's early in the season but we've got a lot of work to do,' Scola said. ``We just need to regroup and go back to work.'
NOTES: The only other 3-pointer of Ibaka's three-year career also came against Houston, on Nov. 29, 2009. ... The Rockets had gone two straight games without a block for the first time since Dec. 25-27, 1997. Hill ensured it wouldn't be three straight by swatting Thabo Sefolosha's shot in the first four minutes of the game. ... Brooks was a part of Houston's NBA championship team in 1994.
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