HOUSTON – James Harden had 34 points and his supporting cast helped the Houston Rockets overcome a 47-point game by Russell Westbrook to get a 105-99 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday night to advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
The Thunder head home a year after advancing to the Western Conference finals after Houston took this series 4-1.
The Rockets used a 5-1 run, with all their points coming on free throws, to pull away from the Thunder and make it 98-91. Victor Oladipo threw a pass about 5 feet above Westbrook’s head and out of bounds on the next possession and Harden made a layup on the other end with about 3 minutes left.
The Rockets began eating up the clock after that and Oklahoma City missed shot after shot that could have closed the gap.
Houston couldn’t add to its lead though and the Thunder cut it to four points twice in the final seconds, with the second one coming on a basket by Alex Abrines. But Harden made two free throws both times they got close to secure the win.
After scoring 20 points in the third quarter, Westbrook made just 2 of 11 fourth-quarter shots in a disappointing end to a stellar season where he became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double by scoring an NBA-best 31.6 points a game, with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. He also set an NBA record for most triple-doubles with 42 to help the Thunder withstand the loss of All-Star Kevin Durant in free agency.
He had 11 rebounds and nine assists to come just shy of his fourth straight triple-double in this series, but he made just 5 of a career-high 18 3-point attempts.
Lou Williams added 22 points and Patrick Beverley had 15 to help the Rockets get out of the first round for the second time in three seasons in front of a crowd that included Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, rapper Travis Scott and his rumored girlfriend and reality star Kylie Jenner.
The Thunder had a five-point lead entering the fourth quarter and led by three after a jump shot by Jerami Grant early in the quarter. The Rockets then used a 10-2 run to take an 86-81 lead with about 9 minutes left. Williams made the last eight points in that stretch, making three free throws to start it and capping it with a 3-pointer from way behind the line.
In San Antonio, the Spurs nailed 14 3-pointers in their 116-103 win over Memphis Grizzlies, taking a 3-2 series lead. Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs with 28 points, while Patty Mills added 20. Mike Conley led the Grizzlies with 26 points. Game 6 is tomorrow in Memphis.
And in Los Angeles, after a battle with food poisoning, Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward scored 27 to lead the Jazz to a Game 5 win over Los Angeles Clippers, 96-92. Chris Paul had 27 points to lead the Clippers. Utah will have a chance to end the series at home on Friday.