Russell Westbrook tallied a first-half triple-double, but OKC failed to hold on as the Rockets beat the Thunder, 113-109 to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.
Nene scored 28 points on 12-for-12 shooting to lead the Rockets while their MVP candidate James Harden scored only 16 points on five made field goals.
An Alex Abrines tip-in brought the Thunder within 111-109 with 11 seconds left, and Harden pushed off on Abrines to free up space on the ensuing inbounds, but the referees failed to make the correct call as Eric Gordon eventually ended up with the ball and iced the game from the free throw line.
Van Gundy didn't understand how this wasn't called. pic.twitter.com/8BPAMA7YSr— ESPN (@espn) April 23, 2017
Despite the questionable officiating, this was a game the Thunder shouldn’t have lost.
After opening the second half on a 12-2 run, the Thunder led 70-56 and looked to be pulling away for good, but that wasn’t the case. With OKC slipping into an iso-heavy offense, the Rockets ripped off an 8-0 run of their own to bounce right back into the game.
After the Thunder let an 11-point lead evaporate in the first quarter with Westbrook on the bench, things got even worst with their leader on the bench in the second half. Westbrook subbed out with 2:28 left in the third quarter with his team up 75-68, but by the time he returned with 9:42 in the fourth, the Rockets were up 82-79.
The Thunder was able to regain the lead, but the offense was too stagnant down the stretch, and Houston’s gameplan to intentionally foul Andre Roberson didn’t help OKC’s chances. Roberson missed 2-of-8 free throw attempts in the fourth as the Rockets never let OKC get in an offensive rhythm until he was checked out of the game.
OKC had another glimmer of hope after a Westbrook 3-pointer brought the Thunder within one point with 11 seconds left, but instead of fouling immediately, the Thunder tried to force a turnover and it backfired. The Rockets zipped the ball into Nene in the post, and Jerami Grant fouled him, but not hard enough to stop him from making an and-1 and giving his team a four-point lead at the line.
Westbrook finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists while Steven Adams added 18 points and seven boards.
Gordon and Lou Williams each added 18 points for the Rockets while Houston outrebounded OKC 45-40.
The series will move back to Houston for Game 5 on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.