The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Houston Rockets met for Game 4 of this NBA Playoffs Series on Monday night, and the Rockets avoided the sweep, winning 105-103 in a thrilling match up.
OKC took on the Rockets without Russell Westbrook (knee) and Houston had to play without Jeremy Lin (chest), so many wondered how this one would ultimately shake down without these two dynamic players. Surprisingly, it ended up being one of the most captivating, competitive matches of this series.
For the Thunder, Kevin Durant led with 38 points and Reggie Jackson added 18 more, and for Houston, Chandler Parsons was just shy of triple-double figures, having 27 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.
Houston started the game on a roll, shooting out to a 13-4 lead. They led for the first time in this series at the end of the first quarter, 29-24.
The Thunder went on a huge run in the second quarter, leading in scoring 15-5 in the first five minutes. They maintained a 10-point lead for most of the second quarter, absolutely silencing the Toyota Center. The big play for OKC came when Reggie Jackson seamlessly went from playing defense to offense: Thabo Sefalosha stripped the ball from Harden, and Jackson pounced on it. In the next moment, he was striking down the open court and laying it in for two.
Derek Fisher had a solid first half as he stood in for Westbrook, doing what he does best: sailing shots from behind the arc and knocking down all of them. He was 3 for 3 from the 3-point line, and helped push OKC’s lead to double digits.
But the Rockets were determined not to exit the Playoffs so soon. Carlos Delfino hit two clutch threes late in the first half, both of which cut OKC’s lead from 13 to only seven going into the break. James Harden on the other hand was ice cold, having more turnovers (seven) than points (six) in the first half.
After the break though, the Rockets played liked a completely different team.
The Rockets outscored the Thunder 38-24 in the third quarter, even taking a thirteen-point lead and completely dominating the Thunder after the break. Beverly scored nine of his 16 points in this quarter alone, including two three-pointers.
When Houston went on its run to give them a double-digit lead, the exclamation point came when Delfino stole the ball away from Martin and strode down the court from an invigorating dunk over Durant that brought the home crowd to its feet. Houston took an 85-75 lead.
The Thunder played a particularly sloppy game on Monday night: Houston scored 28 points off 17 OKC turnovers, and that bad ball-handling was most prevalent during the third quarter, when the Rockets made the game theirs.
OKC did close the quarter much better than it starting, closing the gap to 91-84 going into the fourth quarter, but the Rockets still controlled all the momentum.
In the fourth quarter, things got even more interesting. The Thunder kept it within six for most of the period and in the final six minutes, the momentum went back and forth between these two squads. It started when Derek Fisher drew an offensive foul from Harden, sending him to the bench with five fouls. On the subsequent possession he grabbed an offensive board and fed it to Jackson under the hoop to cut the lead to 98-94. Parsons responded on the next play by bodying his way through the paint to lay it in.
Later, Durant found his second wind, knocking down an ice-cold three in the face of a defender and grabbing the defensive rebound on Houston’s next possession. He then drove down the court, beat two double-teams and dunked on two more Rockets in the process. With his five straight points, the Thunder were within two points of Houston, 105-103, with under a minute to play.
With the Rocket’s next possession, Harden air-balled a three, and OKC got the ball back with 53.7 seconds left to make something happen. Durant tried to drive and take the lead, but he was called for an offensive foul. Then Harden put up a jumper to close the door on the Thunder, but he missed and OKC’s Fisher rebounded it.
Houston needed to keep the final shot out of Durant’s hands if they wanted to squeak out this victory, and they got it done: Durant had to dish it to Jackson who missed the shot, only to see Ibaka put it back up but not with enough push to put it through the hoop. He feel immediately to the floor after, and the Rockets’ bench celebrated on.
The Rockets rallied from big deficits twice in this game for their first victory of the series, forcing a Game 5 with Oklahoma City.
Game 5 takes place on Wed., May 1 at Chesapeake Energy Area.