x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

NBA: Oklahoma hang on to claim second play-off series win over Houston Rockets

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook gave the Thunder a 2-0 series lead over their rivals, despite almost squandering their advantage.

Houston Rockets' Omer Asik dunks in front of Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook.
Houston Rockets' Omer Asik dunks in front of Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook.

The Oklahoma City Thunder claimed a 2-0 first-round NBA play-off lead over Houston Rockets after a narrow 105-102 win last night, despite threatening to throw away their victory.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each scored 29 points, but Oklahoma squandered a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Houston, playing without Asian American star Jeremy Lin because of a third-quarter muscle bruise, rallied with a 21-2 run for four-point lead in the late going, before the Thunder fired back to secure the close-run victory.

"I saw the opening for the three and made that and that gave me some confidence," Durant said.

"I have confidence in Thabo and everybody else. If they are open I will give them the shot. If they miss we will live with it.

"We stayed aggressive. That's why we were able to make some in that fourth. We've got to continue to trust the pass and trust each other that we are going to make those shots when it counts."

The best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series continues with games three and four on Saturday and Monday at Houston, where the Rockets went 29-12 in the regular season and split two games against Oklahoma City.

"We were 15 down — we could have given up and thought about the next game but we didn't," said Houston's James Harden.

"We have a lot of confidence going back home."

Harden scored a game-high 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who also had 16 points and 12 rebounds from rookie Patrick Beverley, who made his first start of the season, and 17 points from Chandler Parsons.

"We had a lot of opportunities in the last three or four minutes to capitalise for a couple of buckets," he admitted.

"There were a few possessions we would like to have back that cost us the game."

Lin had seven points, three assists and four rebounds when he exited with a bruised right chest muscle. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists for the Rockets this season.

Paul George scored 27 points to spark Indiana to a 113-98 win and 2-0 series win over Atlanta.

Indiana could complete a sweep of the Eastern Conference matchup with victories at Atlanta on Saturday and Monday.

"We've got to go for the kill in game three," Frank Vogel, the Indiana Pacers coach, warned afterwards.

George, voted the NBA's Most Improved Player this season, hit 11-of-21 from the field to lead Indiana scorers and also added eight rebounds and four steals.

"When Paul has it going like he did he's a nightmare for any team," Vogel said.

"When he is going like that he's pretty tough to stop. Paul was the star of the game. To do what he did, just a heck of a performance."

George praised Indiana's reserves, who contributed 38 points off the bench in the victory. Gerald Green came off the bench with 15 points while Roy Hibbert added 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

"Our bench is huge for us," George said. "When our starters aren't playing like we need to we have guys come off to give us a huge boost. Our bench is just as important as our starting five."

Devin Harris hit 17 points for Atlanta, with Josh Smith and Jeff Teague contributing 16 apiece.

"We've played well in stretches but in the playoffs you have to be able to sustain and we've not be able to do that so far," Larry Drew, the Atlanta Hawks coach, admitted.

"For three quarters the tempo was where we wanted but then we made too many mistakes. The margin for error against a team like this is very small."

Tony Parker scored 28 points as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Los Angeles Lakers 102-91 to move into a 2-0 series lead.

The Lakers continued to find post-season life tough without Kobe Bryant as no player could score more than 16 points.



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