Harden saves Game 7 with late block, Rockets beat Thunder in thriller

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla .– James Harden couldn’t drop his shot all night, so the scorer turned the plug.

In this wild game 7 which took one odd turn after another in the dying seconds, the biggest game came when a guy known almost entirely for his offense picked up the defense.

Harden made up for a miserable night of filming with a big blocked shot, Russell Westbrook scored 20 points against his former team and the Houston Rockets edged the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-102 on Wednesday night to win the first round series.

“It was one of those offensive nights so I just wanted to change the game defensively and I think I did that,” Harden said.

The Rockets released a tense final game of the first round that lasted long after the final basket as reruns and fouls were resolved.

“I’ve been around for a long time and just at the end of it it was a little crazy,” said Houston coach Mike D’Antoni.

In the end, Houston managed to set up a second-round game with the Los Angeles Lakers that begins Friday despite Harden, the NBA’s top scorer, 4 for 15 on the field.

“These are the games, you want to win a championship or win playoff games, you have to do it with your heart,” D’Antoni added.

The frenzied final seconds of a game that was tight throughout gave Houston a definite lead with 103-102 when PJ Tucker scored with 1:25 to go. After changes of possession, the Thunder handed the ball over to Lu Dort, who attempted a 3-pointer that Harden blocked 4.8 seconds from time.

Robert Covington delivered a free throw with 1.4 seconds left and Harden was whistled for fouling Danilo Gallinari before the ball was circled, giving the Thunder a free kick and the ball. But Gallinari missed the free throw and the Thunder returned it on the last entry pass.

Westbrook helped defend that, possibly remembering some of his former coach’s games.

“I know a little bit,” Westbrook said.

Covington had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Eric Gordon also scored 21 points for the Rockets. Harden finished with 17 points and nine assists.

Dort has scored the best 30 career points for the Thunder. Chris Paul, traded for Westbrook over the summer, had 19 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.

“It’s difficult. It’s difficult, ”said Paul. “We fought hard all year. Honestly, a lot of people doubted us, but we didn’t doubt ourselves. We don’t care about anyone’s predictions on a show.

It was a crazy conclusion to a weird series in which the Rockets won Games 1 and 2 and the 5th by 34, the biggest margin in franchise history after the season, but did not materialize. in the near. Oklahoma City won Game 3 in overtime, edging Houston 15-3, the largest overtime points differential in NBA history, and struck out Game 4 by three points and Game six of four.

The Rockets had no chance of winning this routed one thanks in large part to Harden’s struggles. He missed 10 of his 12 shots in three quarters, but they were ahead 85-80 behind a strong performance from Westbrook, who missed the first four games of the series with a tight right quadriceps.

Covington then hit some key 3 points in the fourth and Harden hit two of his three shots in the period, including a basket that broke a tie at 99.

The Thunder closed the first quarter with a 10-2 push to take a 30-29 lead. Then it was Dort with a 12-point second quarter, hitting three 3-pointers to continue a remarkable game-five turnaround, when his 3-for-16 night included a 0-for-9 behind the arc. He rebounded with 13 points in Game 6.

“It was one of the most impressive things I have seen from such a young player,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan.

One of his 3 gave the Thunder a six-point lead, but Houston closed in force to lead 61-59 at the break.

Houston got the last five points of third on a basket from Westbrook and a 3 point from Jeff Green, another former Oklahoma City player.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Dort, an undrafted originally on a bilateral contract who has played 13 games this season in the NBA G League, scored the most points by a Thunder rookie in a playoff game. … The Thunder were called to delay the match twice in the first half. The second, an automatic technical foul, occurred when Paul stayed in the lane by tying his shoe in an apparent attempt to give Donovan a chance to contest a foul that had been called on the point guard.

Rockets: Houston is 7-5 in Game 7, including 1-1 under D’Antoni. The Rockets had lost their other two games 7 in the first round, against Utah in 2007 and Dallas in 2005.… Green scored 13 points.

HERE AND NOW

No one knows yet when or where the NBA will return after this season and D’Antoni has more questions about the future, with the contract expiring after this one. But he said he didn’t think about any of that until Game 7.

” Not really. I think the moment is too big to be distracted, ”he said. “We’ve been through a lot, I’ve been through a lot in all kinds of different ways, so I’m looking forward to tonight.



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