Oklahoma City Thunder managed to pip Houston Rockets with a 104-100 win on Monday, leading to a seventh game that will decide the fate of the two teams in the first-round playoff series in the Western Conference. Chris Paul top-scored for the Thunders with 28 points.
James Harden netted 32 points for the Rockets and also had seven assists and eight rebounds. The winner of Game 7, which is scheduled to be held on Monday, will face off against the Los Angeles Lakers in the semifinals of the conference.
Rockets' Turnover Spree
Paul tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter and drilled back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Thunder even at 98-98 with 2:57 remaining. His two free throws with 13.1 seconds left provided the winning margin for the Thunder.
Paul added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 40 turnover-free minutes. The Rockets, conversely, committed 22 turnovers, including seven from Russell Westbrook, whose errant pass following the Paul free throws sealed the defeat for the mistake-prone Rockets.
Harden committed five turnovers. Robert Covington added 18 points, five steals and three blocks for Houston but was the defender on both Paul treys and committed the foul that placed Paul at the line late. There were 14 lead changes and 11 ties. The Thunder surged back into contention with a 16-3 run that bridged the final two periods, pushing to an 85-78 lead in the process.
Harden's Valiant Efforts
Danilo Gallinari chipped in 25 points for Oklahoma City and Luguentz Dort, who shot 0-for-9 from behind the arc in Game 5, hit two 3-pointers as part of the run that lifted the Thunder back in contention in the third. Westbrook scored 17 points while Eric Gordon missed 9 of 12 shots and had nine points for Houston.
The Rockets and Thunder combined for 10 turnovers and 5-for-22 3-point shooting in what was a ragged first quarter, but Harden provided the Rockets a bit of stability in the second. He amassed 17 points, four rebounds and four assists prior to the intermission, and his length-of-the-court pass to Gordon resulted in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that provided Houston a 51-48 lead at the break.
(With inputs from agencies)