Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Houston steps up; Westbrook goes off

- By The Associated Press

James Harden’s shot was off, and one of the most unlikely players on Houston’s roster came to the rescue.

Nene scored 28 points on perfect shooting from the field, and the visiting Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder, 113-109, to take a 3-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

The 6-foot-11 center from Brazil made all 12 of his shots and had 10 rebounds. It was an impressive performanc­e from a reserve who averaged about nine points per game in the regular season.

“He puts the work in,” Harden said. “He’s a true vet. He’s in the weight room. He’s doing all the proper things to get his body and his mind right to go out there and compete at a high level every single night. Tonight, it paid off.”

Harden finished with 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, but he had other help, too. Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each scored 18 points, and Trevor Ariza finished with 14.

Houston can close out the series Tuesday at home.

“That’s what a team is for,” Harden said. “It’s not just one guy. I’ve believed in trusting these guys all year long.

“We say it every game that it’s not going to be just one or two guys that win this game. On different nights, it’s going to be different guys that step up.”

Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook had a triple-double by halftime and finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists.

The Thunder said Westbrook joined Wilt Chamberlai­n as the only players to claim three consecutiv­e playoff triple

Steven Adams scored 18 points for Oklahoma City, and Victor Oladipo had 15.

The Thunder again struggled when Westbrook rested in the second half, and Westbrook wasn’t interested in explaining why. He took over a question directed at Adams and defended the team.

“Don’t split us up,” Westbrook said. “Don’t try and split us up. Don’t try to make us go against each other or make it ‘Russell and the rest of the guys, Russell against Houston.’ I don’t want to hear that. We’re in this together. We play as a team. That’s all that matters.”

Westbrook had 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists at the break. He grabbed the 10th rebound in the final second of the second quarter, and the Thunder led, 58-54, at intermissi­on.

Meanwhile, Harden made just 2 of 9 shots and scored just six points in the first half.

The Thunder opened the second half with a 10-2 run, but Houston closed to 77-73 at the end of the third.

Houston pulled ahead in the fourth, but Adams made the first of two free throws with 21.7 seconds remaining to cut Oklahoma City’s deficit to four.

But the Thunder lost track of Nene on the other end, and he converted a threepoint play.

Other games

Celtics 104, Bulls 95: Isaiah Thomas scored 33 points and visiting Boston beat Chicago to tie its first-round playoff series, 2-2. Boston blew a 20-point lead, but Thomas keyed a third-quarter run that put the Celtics back on top after Chicago briefly went ahead. Game 5 is Wednesday in Boston.

Jazz 105, Clippers 98: The bench came through as Joe Johnson scored 26 points Rodney Hood had 18 and Derrick Favors added 17 to lead Utah to its first home playoff win since April 10, 2010, by beating Los Angeles to tie the series at 2-2.

 ??  ?? Houston center Nene goes up against Oklahoma City guard Victor Oladipo in the Rockets’ win Sunday in Game 4. Nene scored 28 points, making all 12 of his shots.
Houston center Nene goes up against Oklahoma City guard Victor Oladipo in the Rockets’ win Sunday in Game 4. Nene scored 28 points, making all 12 of his shots.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States