Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

April 30, 2013

Thunder falters late, drops Game 4 to Houston

HOUSTON — Kevin Durant consoled Serge Ibaka after he missed a layup at the buzzer that would have sent Monday night's game against the Houston Rockets into overtime.

Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder lost their first game of the best-of-seven series against the Rockets 105-103. But Durant was quick to remind Ibaka and his teammates not to fret, because they're heading back home still in control of the series.

"We'll be all right," he said. "We're up 3-1 with a good opportunity to close it out at home. We couldn't ask for a better situation, so hopefully we'll get the job done."

Chandler Parsons scored 27 points and Patrick Beverley added 16 points with point guard Jeremy Lin out with a bruised chest muscle. Houston avoided a four-game sweep in the best-of-seven series.

The Rockets led in the fourth quarter of each of the last two games only to end up losing. And it almost happened again Monday.

Durant scored five quick points to cut the Rockets' lead to two. James Harden missed two shots for Houston after that and the Thunder had a last chance.

Reggie Jackson missed a jump shot and Ibaka grabbed the rebound, but missed the layup at the buzzer.

A stunned Ibaka fell to the court after the miss and covered his face with his hands.

"In the last 12 seconds, they did a great job, and they were aggressive," Ibaka said. "They made us take some tough shots. I don't even want to talk about the play. Right now, we're just focused on the next game."

Durant scored 38 points in Oklahoma City's second game without injured All-Star guard Russell Westbrook.

"The game did not come down to the last play or so," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "There were little things along the way that we could have done a lot better."

Durant hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the Thunder's Game 3 win. He wanted to get another one off on Monday, but Francisco Garcia forced him to give up the ball.

"I was. I was going to try to win it," Durant said. "But he played good defense."

The victory kept Houston from being swept in the playoffs for the first time since 1996. Game 5 is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

Harden scored 15 points, but also had 10 turnovers. He had two chances to extend Houston's lead with less than a minute left, but missed both of them, including shooting an air ball.

He picked up his fifth foul with about seven minutes remaining, sending him to the bench. A dunk by Jackson seconds later cut Houston's lead to 98-94.

Jackson got the Thunder within 100-98 with a 3-pointer a couple of minutes later. His 3-point attempt on the next trip down the floor rattled in and out of the basket.

Houston scored four quick points to extend the lead to 104-98 before Harden returned to the game with about three minutes left.

Derek Fisher made a 3-pointer to cut Houston's lead to 104-101 with less than three minutes remaining. It was reviewed a few seconds later and the points were taken away because replays showed the shot clock had expired.

Jackson finished with 18 points in his second start in place of Westbrook, and Kevin Martin added 16.

Houston got 17 points from Omer Asik and 13 from Carlos Delfino.

Oklahoma City's DeAndre Liggins received a technical foul with :07 left in the third quarter for arguing the call on a jump ball. Delfino made the free throw, but Durant hit a jump shot at the buzzer to get the Thunder within 91-84 entering the fourth quarter.

The Rockets led by two points in the third quarter before a 3-point play by Harden. He took Jackson off the dribble for a jump shot and drew the foul — Jackson's fourth — to send him to the bench and the crowd into a frenzy.

Durant was shaken up a few seconds later when he crashed into the scorer's table chasing a loose ball. He remained on his back for a couple of minutes holding his right wrist before being helped to his feet. But he didn't leave the game and when asked about the fall after the game he said he was "great."

"Kevin is as tough as they come," Brooks said. "He gets hit a lot, and he keeps popping up. That's his desire and love for the game."

Harden's three-point play was the start of a 12-2 Houston run capped by another three-point play — this one by Delfino — to extend the lead to 85-75 with about three minutes left in the third quarter.

Delfino dunked after stealing the ball from Martin, and Durant fouled him on the play.

Houston scored the first 10 points of the second half to erase a halftime deficit and take a 63-60 lead. Parsons had six points in that span.

The Rockets did a much better job of keeping the crowd involved in this one than they did in Game 3, when they trailed early by as many as 26 points. Houston rallied to take a lead in the fourth quarter of that game before losing 104-101.

Near the end of the first half Durant sailed into the crowd Superman-style to save the ball on a bad pass from Harden. He was able to get to his feet and stood in the crowd watching as Martin swished a 3 on the other end. He couldn't figure out how to get out of the crowd for a few seconds before finally climbing out and back onto the court. But before he got back to the game Durant asked a woman in the first row who he crashed into if she was OK.

Houston led by five at the end of the first quarter and was up by three points early in the second before Oklahoma City scored 12 straight points, fueled by seven from Durant. The Rockets took a 43-34 lead about 6 1/2 minutes before halftime.

Delfino swiped the ball from Durant and swished a 3 with 17 seconds left in the first half to cut the Thunder's lead to 60-53 at halftime.

The Rockets led 29-24 after one quarter thanks to 5-of-9 shooting from 3-point range on Monday after trailing by 20 points after one in Game 3.

NOTES: Houston's Greg Smith returned Monday after missing Game 3 with a stomach ailment. ... Durant has scored 20 or more points in 30 straight playoff games. ... Former Rockets star Steve Francis watched the game from a courtside seat. ... The Seattle Supersonics were the last team to sweep Houston in the playoffs, getting a 4-0 series win in the Western Conference semifinals in 1996.

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