Oklahoma City holds on against Houston
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
OKLAHOMA CITY — Kevin Durant started strong, Russell Westbrook took over and the Oklahoma City Thunder appeared on their way to a second consecutive commanding victory over the Houston Rockets.
But the Rockets staged an improbable fourth-quarter rally at Chesapeake Energy Arena, and the Thunder, the top seed in the Western Conference, needed one final push against a No. 8 seed that was far more competitive than it had been in Game 1.
With a late surge in the final minutes of Game 2, the Thunder escaped with a 105-102 victory vs. the Rockets, giving them a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Trailing by 15 points with 9:23 to play, the Rockets went on a 21-2 run to take a four-point advantage with 3:27 left in the game. And the Rockets were forced to play the entire second half without guard Jeremy Lin, the team’s third-leading scorer during the regular season who sat the second half with what was listed as a contusion of the right chest muscle.
Picking up the slack for the Rockets was point guard Patrick Beverley. In search of answers after a 29-point loss in Game 1, Rockets coach Kevin McHale decided to go with a smaller lineup and give backup Beverley his first start of the season in place of power forward Greg Smith. That gave the Rockets a three-guard lineup that included Beverley, Lin and James Harden.
The move paid dividends early, as the Rockets led by as many as five points in the first half. And the Thunder had their own issues: Guards Westbrook and Reggie Jackson picked up two fouls apiece in the first quarter. Thunder coach Scott Brooks kept Jackson in the game, and the guard made two three-pointers in the final 90 seconds of the first quarter.
For much of the contest, the game within the game centered on Westbrook and Beverley, who was not backing down from the All-Star.
With less than six minutes left in the first half, Westbrook came up hobbling after Beverley ran into his right knee attempting to go for a steal. Westbrook pounded the scorer’s table in anger. … [For more on Oklahoma City holds on against Houston, click here.]