The Oklahoma City Thunder blew a monster first half lead, but managed to hold off the Houston Rockets late for a 104-101 Game 3 win to take a 3-0 series lead. Kevin Durant led the way with 41 points and 14 rebounds in the Thunder's first game without the injured Russell Westbrook, while Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Rockets got 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists from James Harden, and 21 points, seven assists and seven rebounds from Chandler Parsons, but they couldn't score down the stretch and lost as a result
Durant got the Thunder off to a flying start with 17 points in the first quarter and 27 in the first half. He was knocking down shots from the outside and also taking the ball to the rim, posterizing Omer Asik on one occasion to silence the Rockets crowd. It was a masterclass by Durant, who was on a mission to prove that OKC would be just fine without Westbrook.
For much of the first half, it looked like the Thunder would turn the game into a laugher. The Rockets did go on a 14-6 mini-run to cut OKC's lead to 66-49 at halftime, but they were still facing a steep uphill climb. Durant was lighting it up, James Harden couldn't knock down a jump shot and Jeremy Lin was ineffective while clearly compensating for the bruised chest muscle that put his status for the game in doubt.
When Lin didn't come out for the second half, having decided he could no longer play, the Rockets truly looked sunk, but some lockdown defense brought them back into the game. They limited the Thunder to 5-of-25 shooting in the third quarter and cut the OKC lead to four by the end of the period.
Houston kept the game close for much of the fourth quarter, but they struggled to crack that OKC lead. Every time they made a run to get within a score, the Thunder answered. Finally though, with 3:45 to go, Houston got the lead, as Carlos Delfino knocked down a three to give the Rockets their first lead since holding a 9-6 advantage in the first.
The lead wouldn't last long, though. The Thunder came right back and the teams traded baskets back and forth until there were 41 seconds left and the Rockets led 99-97. That's when Durant pulled up from three, only to see the ball rattle around. It popped way up into the air, but then it somehow came back down and in for the most generous of rolls. It would be the basket that gave OKC a lead they would hold the rest of the way, as Derek Fisher and Westbrook's replacement, Reggie Jackson, knocked down free throws to secure the win.