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Thunder 105, Rockets 102

The SportsXchange

OKLAHOMA CITY - Despite 36 points, 11 rebounds and six assists from James Harden, the Houston Rockets fell to the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-102 Wednesday in Game 2 of their first-round series at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 29 points on 10-for-25 shooting to go along with nine assists. Russell Westbrook also scored 29 points despite playing on a gimpy knee.

The Thunder lead the best-of-seven series 2-0.

After winning the opener in a blowout, the Thunder (2-0) expected a better effort from the Rockets (0-2), and they got it.

Oklahoma City built a 15-point fourth-quarter lead with eight minutes left in the game. But the Rockets went on a 21-2 run to take a 95-91 lead.

The Thunder looked like they were worn out and out of sync. But Durant wasn't done. He drained a 3-pointer to give Oklahoma City a 98-97 advantage. Houston's Chandler Parsons missed a 3-pointer and the Thunder got the rebound. Durant got the ball at the top of the key and drove into the middle of the lane and the Rockets converge on him. Instead of forcing up a shot, he passed out to a wide-open Thabo Sefolosha, who knocked down the 3-pointer with 1:01 on the clock.

Harden hit one of two at the line to close gap to three points. But Serge Ibaka hit a long jumper to push the leadd back to five. Oklahoma City fouled Harden again, and he made a pair from the charity stripe with 14 seconds left.

With the Thunder leading 103-100 Kevin Martin went to the line and he hit one of two free throws with 11 second left. Houston used up the rest of the time to get a layup. But it wasn't enough as Oklahoma City held on for the win.

Ibaka scored 12 points to go with six blocked shots and 11 rebounds. Martin came off the bench to add 10 points and was 3-for-7 from behind the arc.

Parsons scored 17 points while rookie Patrick Beverley added 16 points and 12 rebounds in his first start. He also had six assists and two steals.

Houston coach Kevin McHale said over and over he wanted Houston to take more charges against Thunder. His team got the hint with two in a one-minute span in the first quarter. This contributed to Westbrook picking up two quick fouls and riding the bench form most of the quarter.

After a subpar Game 1, Parsons came out firing. The Thunder left him open on the perimeter, and he made them pay with a couple of early 3-pointers.

The game got heated midway through the second quarter when Westbrook banged knees with Beverley and had to be helped off the court. Westbrook and Francisco Garcia exchanged words when he came back into the game and had to be led away from the Rockets bench.

Westbrook continued to go after Beverley on both ends of the court. But the rookie didn't back down. Westbrook picked up his third foul when he was called for throwing an elbow at Beverley.

However, the Rockets had no answer for Durant. His 21 points in the first half tied for the most first-half points in any playoff game in his career.

Despite the Thunder shooting 50 percent from the field, Houston stayed close by dominating on the boards in the first half with a 26-18 advantage. Beverley had six boards while Oklahoma City's Kendrick Perkins and Ibaka combined for six total.

Oklahoma City only led 57-55 at halftime.

Jeremy Lin had a strong first half for the Rockets with seven points, four rebounds and three assists. But a right chest contusion kept him from playing in second half.

Houston took a 63-61 advantage before the Thunder went on a 14-0 run with Westbrook leading the charge.

But once again, the Rockets closed the gap and trailed 78-72 heading into the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Oklahoma City's Ibaka finished third in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, which was announced Wednesday. Memphis center Marc Gasol received 212 points and 30 first-place votes to edge Miami's LeBron James, who had 149 points and 18 first-place votes. Ibaka collected 122 points and 14 first-place votes. Ibaka ended the regular season with 242 total blocked shots to lead the league. He had 36 more than second-place Larry Sanders. Gasol was 10th with 136. Ibaka finished second to Tyson Chandler for the award last season. "I'm not hating but the NBA just gives awards away," Thunder teammate Kendrick Perkins tweeted. "Serge don't get defensive player of the year. That don't make any sense. That is Terrible. Too many politics." ... Houston's Beverley got his first career NBA start Wednesday. McHale put the rookie in the lineup to try and slow down Westbrook and keep him out of the lane. ... The first-round format of the NBA playoffs is one players are having to get used to. The two days off between each game is not normal for either Houston or Oklahoma City. But veteran Thunder guard Derek Fisher said it's not going to change any time soon. "Whether I like it or not, I think it's been part of the NBA playoffs for the last several years," Fisher said. "We are in the first round because there are 16 teams playing. There are only so many games you can put on TV each night. You get the two days in between. It catches up and it balances out. You try to make the most of it. There is not as much carry-over from one game."
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