Thunder Survives Scare From Rockets, Takes 2-0 Series Lead

Wednesday, April 24th 2013, 8:44 pm
By: News 9

It took all 48 minutes this time, but a win's a win.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each poured in 29 points as the Thunder survived a highly-contested Game 2 with a 105-102 win Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

This one was close from the start; a far-cry from the 120-91 blowout of Game 1. The Thunder outscored Houston by one point in both the first and second quarters to take a 57-55 halftime lead.

Tied at 61-61 with seven minutes remaining in the third, James Harden blew through the lane and threw down a vicious dunk to give Houston the two-point lead. An irate Scott Brooks called for a full timeout, and following the break, a new Thunder team emerged.

OKC exploded on a 13-0 run to take a 74-63 lead and finally break open what was a back-and-forth contest. Seven of the 13 points were Westbrook's, who appeared to get some extra enjoyment out of the burst following his ongoing altercations with Houston's Patrick Beverley.

Houston got within 78-72 at the end of the third, but Oklahoma City opened the fourth on an 11-2 run to seize an 89-74 advantage with 9:23 to play. Kevin Martin shook off a cold start to bury a pair of 3-pointers to aid the run.

It looked like just another game the Thunder was just going to coast to the finish line and win easily – but the Rockets had other ideas.

In fact, it was Houston's turn to explode out of the timeout. The Rockets responded to the Thunder's 11-2 run with a monster 21-2 explosion, coming from 15 points down to four points up at 95-91 with 3:27 left in the game.

The run finally ended when Serge Ibaka flew through the paint and threw in a shot-put-looking dunk to cut it to two. Westbrook followed with two free throws and the Thunder immediately had it tied back up.

Harden answered with a driving layup, but Durant buried a cold-blooded 3-ball from the top of the key to put the Thunder up 98-97. Then, as the blue-and-white- striped crowd rained the "O-K-C" chant down upon the court, Durant found Thabo Sefolosha on the wing for a wide-open 3-pointer to put the Thunder up four with 1:01 to go.

RELATED: Five Reasons Houston Can't Keep Up With OKC

The sellout crowd erupted as Houston burned another timeout. Things weren't over yet though as Harden hit one of two free throws at the other end to get the Rockets back within three, but Ibaka answered by draining an open 20-foot jumper to give OKC a 103-98 lead with 31 seconds remaining.

The Rockets came out with a different look for game two of the series.  After Greg Smith was mostly ineffective in Game 1, McHale inserted Beverley into Houston's starting lineup in an attempt to shake things up.  The former second-round pick responded with a huge game, scoring 16 points on 7-13 shooting and grabbing 12 rebounds in 41 minutes.  Beverley also spent most of the game attempting to get inside the head of Westbrook, bumping and pestering the Thunder's star guard throughout. 

In addition to Beverley's surprise performance, Harden poured in 36 points and snagged 11 boards to lead Houston.  The former Thunder star shot just 9-24 but drained 17 of his 20 free-throw attempts. 

Jeremy Lin scored seven points in the first half for Houston, but didn't play in the second half after suffering a chest injury.  His status for Game 3 is unknown. 

Outside of Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder's scoring was fairly balanced.  Ibaka finshed with 12 points and 11 boards while also blocking six shots.  Sefolosha scored 11 while Martin added 10 off the bench. 

The Thunder shot 43.5 percent from the floor while Houston managed just 39.6 percent. Both teams attempted 35 3-balls and clanked most of them. Houston hit just 10 of 35 for 28.6 percent while the Thunder hit 11 of 35 for 31.4 percent.

Houston finished with a 50-30 scoring advantage in the paint.  The Rockets also held a whopping 57-40 edge on the glass.  It is the first time in five meetings this season Houston outrebounded the Thunder.  OKC averaged a +9.5 rebounding advantage against Houston  entering Wednesday's game.   

Game 3 in Houston is set for Saturday night at 8:30 p.m.