By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Eric Gordon had a season-high 25 points and rookie Tari Eason added career-high 20 to lead the Houston Rockets to a 112-106 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night.
The Rockets (13-38), who have the worst record in the Western Conference, have won three of their last five games after dropping 18 of the previous 19.
Eason, the 17th overall pick in the 2022 draft, also had 13 rebounds off the bench, matching a career best on a night Jalen Green sat out with an injury.
Coach Stephen Silas credited Gordon for keeping this young team focused when the game was close down the stretch.
“Eric tonight was so steady and when we went down five or six he was the one settling the guys down, and that’s important,” Silas said. “That veteran presence … was huge tonight.”
Gordon, who is in his 15th NBA season, takes pride in helping his inexperienced teammates.
“My mentality is all about winning,” he said. “And for me it’s all about just giving these young guys confidence.”
Houston was up by five after consecutive baskets by Josh Christopher before the Thunder got a free throw from Darius Bazley and a jump shot from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander to get within 100-98 with about four minutes left.
But the Rockets scored the next five points, with a 3 from Kenyon Martin Jr., to push the lead to seven about a minute later. Gordon missed two free throws after that, and Gilgeous-Alexander made two for Oklahoma City, cutting the lead to 105-100.
But Daishen Nix made a layup before Martin had a two-handed dunk seconds later to extend Houston’s lead to 109-100 with less than a minute to go.
Gilgeous-Alexander had 24 points to lead the Thunder and Josh Giddey scored 20 with eight rebounds and eight assists.
“The best thing Houston did tonight was the way they were ready to play from the jump.” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.
Silas was impressed with his team’s defense on Gilgeous-Alexander, who entered the game ranked fifth in the NBA by averaging 30.9 points.
“It was a team effort,” Silas said.
Tre Mann opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to extend Oklahoma City’s lead to five points. But Houston got consecutive 3s from Garrison Mathews and Eason after that to go on top 90-89.
Eason got a steal a couple of minutes later and drove in for a layup, but missed. It was the first of four straight misses — and four rebounds — by Eason on that possession as he kept grabbing rebounds and missing shots at the rim until finally making a fifth shot that he was fouled on. He made the free throw to put Houston up 93-89.
“That just shows the fight that we had at that moment of the game,” Silas said.
Eason said the moment was both fun and exhausting.
“It’s a little bit of both,” he said. “Any time I step on the court, I want to bring a lot of energy, a lot of hustle and that’s just what I do.”
Houston was up by eight after baskets by Gordon and Martin early in the third quarter before the Thunder used a 9-0 run, with seven points from Jaylin Williams, to take a 72-71 lead.
Their lead was short-lived as the Rockets made the next four points to go back on top 75-72 midway through the quarter.
Oklahoma City used a 7-0 run after that, with a 3 from Isaiah Joe, to take a 79-75 lead with about four minutes left in the third.
The game was tied later in the third before Gilgeous-Alexander made all the Thunder’s points in a 7-1 spurt, capped by a three-point play, to put them up 86-80.
The Rockets scored the last four points of the quarter to cut the lead to two entering the fourth.
Thunder: Luguentz Dort sat out for a third straight game with a strained right hamstring. … Mann had 18 points off the bench. … Oklahoma City made 12 of 43 3-pointers.
Rockets: Green missed a second straight game with a bruised right calf. Coach Stephen Silas said he’s getting better and should return this weekend. … Kevin Porter Jr. was out for a 10th consecutive game with a bruised left foot. … Martin had 18 points and seven rebounds. … Sengun had 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The Rockets outrebounded Oklahoma City 65-52 Wednesday. They’ve won the rebounding battle in each of their three recent wins, with Sengun and Eason leading the way.
“With those guys rebounding the way they are, they’re always going to give us a chance,” Gordon said.
Thunder: Face the Rockets again on Saturday night.
Rockets: Host Toronto on Friday night.
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