Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each scored 29 points, and the Oklahoma City Thunder's defense clamped down in the second half to hold off the Houston Rockets, 105-102, on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
The Rockets, with an unconventional lineup and a late zone defense, led by two with three minutes left in the game and nearly overcame the loss of Jeremy Lin. He didn't play in the second half after suffering a chest contusion.
James Harden led Houston with 36 points, but it wasn't enough as the Thunder took a 2-0 series lead.
Chandler Parsons, who finished with 17 points, scored nine in the first five minutes of the game while playing as an undersized power forward in a new starting lineup that included point guard Patrick Beverley starting with Lin. Beverley scored 16, grabbed 12 boards and recorded six assists. In the second half, he did his duty in replacing Lin.
The Rockets forced Thunder coach Scott Brooks' hand as far as his rotations. At one point in the first half, he had four guards playing alongside backup forward Nick Collison in the middle, and the Rockets had good looks in the paint.
Houston trailed only 57-55 at the halftime break, but received bad news before the start of the third quarter when Lin headed back to the locker room due to his injury. The Rockets held a 63-61 lead early in the third before the Thunder, behind an attacking Westbrook, reeled off 13 straight points to take a 74-61 lead. Houston then reeled in Oklahoma City to trail only 78-72 to start the fourth quarter, but the Thunder opened the final stanza with an 11-2 run. The Rockets answered again by ripping off a 21-4 run to give them the late 95-93 lead.
But Durant hit a late three-pointer and found Thabo Sefolosha for another to regain the advantage before finishing off Houston down the stretch.
1. Will James Harden find some help?: The Rockets' leading scorer did get some more help in Game 2, but the loss of Jeremy Lin in the second half negated the difference. Parsons got going early as a mismatch against Serge Ibaka, and Beverley played one of his best games of the year, but the duo of Durant and Westbrook proved just enough to give the Thunder a win.
2. Can Houston slow down OKC's big men?: In the first half, the floor spacing caused enough matchup problems that pulled the Oklahoma City bigs out of the paint -- or pulled them out of the game altogether. But with Lin's injury, Houston couldn't go with as small of a lineup in the second half, and the Thunder interior defense clamped down. Ibaka finished with 12 points, six blocks and 11 rebounds.
3. Will the Rockets simply keep launching threes?: Houston got 50 points in the paint. Thirty-five of their 91 attempts were from beyond the arc, and they went to the foul stripe 25 times. In the end, however, it was the Thunder defense in the paint that kept the two-point shooting percentages down, especially in the second half.