Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Team effort leads Thunder in the clutch
By ESPN Stats & Information
Mark D. Smith/USA TODAY SportsThe Oklahoma City Thunder’s quest to repeat as Western Conference champions nearly hit a bump in the road on Wednesday night as they held off a late rally by the Houston Rockets to win 105-102.
Kevin Durant scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half to lead the Thunder.
This is the fourth time in the Durant/Westbrook era (since 2008-09 season) that the Thunder have taken a 2-0 series lead in the playoffs. History tells us Houston’s chances at this point are slim.
In each of its three previous 2-0 leads, Oklahoma City went on to win the series in five games or fewer.
Houston erased a 15-point deficit with 9:23 left in the fourth quarter to take the lead with 4:30 remaining, but it was the Thunder who controlled the game down the stretch.
Oklahoma City scored 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting in "clutch time" (last five minutes, score within five points), getting buckets from five different Thunder players.
During the regular season, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined to score nearly 80 percent of Oklahoma City's points in "clutch time."
But on Wednesday night versus the Rockets, it was jumpers from Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka that put the game away as Westbrook and Durant were outscored by their teammates 8-6 in “clutch time.”
Durant Chasing History
Durant scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, not wasting any time in extending his streak of playoff games with 21-plus points to 28.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Michael Jordan have had longer streaks in the playoffs in the past 40 seasons.
Durant scored or assisted on 29 of the Thunder's 57 points in the first half, contributing to those points on just 30 touches.
He was silent for much of the second half, but hit a 3-pointer with 2:28 remaining to give the Thunder a 98-97 lead that they would not relinquish.
Harden not enough
James Harden almost single-handedly led the Rockets to the upset win over his former team, scoring 36 points to go with six assists and 11 rebounds.
The only other Rockets player to reach those totals in a playoff game in the past 25 seasons was Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994.
Harden has struggled with his long-range shooting in the playoffs, making just 2-of-18 shots at least 15 feet from the basket in this series. During the regular season against the Thunder, Harden made 13 of 24 shot attempts from that distance, including 11-of-20 on 3-pointers.
What the win means
Only 15 times has a team rallied from a 2-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series in the NBA playoffs. However, both of these teams have a strong connection to those 15 comebacks.
Oklahoma City was the last team to come back from 2-0 series deficit, beating the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals last year. The Rockets have come back from a 2-0 series deficit twice in franchise history, in the Western Conference semifinals in 1994 and 1995.