Thunder survive Rockets, claw back in series
Los Angeles (AFP) – Russell Westbrook’s latest triple-double translated to a 115-113 victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder as they clawed back in their NBA playoff series against the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder narrowed the gap in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series to 2-1 — but it was a close-run thing.
Westbrook, who notched a record 42 regular-season triple-doubles and had 51 points in a triple-double in the Thunder’s game-two defeat on Wednesday, finished Friday with 32 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds.
But his second missed free throw of the closing seconds kept the door open for the Rockets, whose star James Harden was off-target with a three-pointer at the buzzer as the Thunder escaped with the win.
Harden had hit a three-pointer with 52 seconds remaining that knotted the score at 111-111.
Westbrook responded with his first three-point attempt of the game.
It rattled off the rim, but teammate Steven Adams managed to put it back for two points and the lead.
The teams then traded free-throw attempts until Harden’s final effort.
Westbrook had his triple-double by the end of the third quarter.
He became the first player with back-to-back triple-doubles in the same playoff series since Jason Kidd in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.
Harden finished with 44 points, including four three-pointers.
The Thunder, determined not to fall into an 0-3 hole in the series, were quick out of the blocks. But the Rockets managed to respond, cutting a 15-point deficit early in the second quarter to five in the final seconds of the half.
Houston took their first lead of the game on a three-pointer by Harden less than two minutes into the second half.
But the Thunder wrested back the advantage and led 93-83 going into the final period.