HOUSTON -- After storming their way to their biggest lead of the series, the Houston Rockets hung on for dear life down the stretch in a 105-103 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 4 of the Western Conference quarterfinal matchup Monday night at Toyota Center.
The Thunder will take a 3-1 series lead back to Oklahoma City, where the series resumes Wednesday.
The Rockets earned their first postseason victory since May 14, 2009, despite failing to score over the final two-plus minutes.
Kevin Durant pulled Oklahoma City to within two points after he hit a 3-pointer at the 1:42 mark and made a driving dunk in traffic 30 seconds later. However, on their final possession, the Thunder came up empty, with Durant losing the ball near midcourt and Reggie Jackson having his subsequent drive to the basket thwarted by Houston center Omer Asik.
Durant paced the Thunder with 38 points, eight rebounds and six assists, while Jackson chipped in 18 points.
Houston guard James Harden had just 15 points, missed eight of 12 shots and committed 10 turnovers. His isolation shot attempts late did little to help the Rockets' cause. However, Chandler Parsons scored a team-high 27 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and handed out eight assists. Asik finished with 17 points and 14 boards, and Patrick Beverley chipped in 16 points.
Houston led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter and was up 98-90 after two Asik free throws with 7:37 remaining.
The Rockets took their early cue from their frenzied crowd and darted to a 13-4 lead that represented their largest of the series. Just as in Game 3, the Thunder had a response or, more specifically, Durant did, with two free throws, a three-point play and a 19-foot pull-up jumper that pulled the Thunder even at 16-16.
Separation was difficult to come by for both teams, with each responding to rallies by the other as if this were a series finale.
The Thunder seemed poised to run way when Durant capped a 12-0 burst with a bank shot that resulted in a 43-34 lead with 6:29 left in the half. That's when the Rockets turned to Carlos Delfino because, with Harden en route to more first-half turnovers (seven) than points (six), Houston needed someone to step up and provide stability.
Delfino drilled a 3-pointer and capped a key sequence with a steal and another trey just before halftime as the Rockets stole the final five points. What had been a 12-point Thunder lead disappeared completely when Parsons opened the third quarter on fire, sparking a 10-0 run that pushed the Rockets back in front 63-60.
For that 12-minute stretch, the Rockets were unstoppable, pouring in 38 points on 13-for-20 shooting with Parsons serving as the sparkplug. Contributions came from every corner, but Parsons was the key.
NOTES: Considering the years it took the Thunder to establish an identity with Durant and Russell Westbrook serving as the core of their organizational foundation, one game without Westbrook doesn't provide a clear picture of team's personality moving forward. Westbrook is out for the postseason due to a knee injury. "It's definitely going to continue to develop," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. ... For the Rockets, how the Thunder evolve directly impacts their ability to construct a flexible game plan. "KD (Kevin Durant) handled the ball a little more than I thought he would," Rockets coach Kevin McHale said of Game 3. "I thought that they'd let (Reggie) Jackson handle it a little bit more. So we had to take a look at that."