OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook is an emotional player. The Oklahoma City guard believes he plays his best when he is being attacked.
Houston tested that belief Wednesday in Game 2 of their first-round series at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The Rockets pushed Westbrook and his teammates to the brink and came close to pulling off the upset, but the Thunder pushed back to earn a 105-102 victory.
“It’s fun,” Westbrook said. “During this time of the year, the team has one goal and can’t let nobody get in the way. That’s how I feel. That’s how I want my team to respond as well.”
After winning the opener in a blowout, the Thunder (2-0) expected a better effort from the Rockets (0-2), and they got it.
Oklahoma City built a 15-point fourth-quarter lead with eight minutes left in the game. But the Rockets went on a 21-2 run to take a 95-91 lead.
The Thunder looked like they were worn out and out of sync. But Kevin Durant wasn’t done. He drained a 3-pointer to give Oklahoma City a 98-97 advantage. Houston’s Chandler Parsons missed a 3-pointer and the Thunder got the rebound.
Durant got the ball at the top of the key and drove into the middle of the lane, and the Rockets converged on him. Instead of forcing up a shot, he passed out to a wide-open Thabo Sefolosha, who knocked down the 3-pointer with 1:01 on the clock.
Houston’s James Harden hit one of two at the line to close the gap to three points, but Serge Ibaka hit a long jumper to push the lead back to five. Oklahoma City fouled Harden again, and he made a pair from the charity stripe with 14 seconds left.
With the Thunder leading 103-100, Kevin Martin went to the line and hit one of two free throws with 11 second left. Houston used up the rest of the time to get a layup, but it wasn’t enough, as Oklahoma City held on for the win.