Behind a remarkable performance from Chandler Parsons, the Houston Rockets were able to stave off elimination on Monday night, defeating the Oklahoma City Thunder 105-103 in Game 4.
A 36-point second quarter provided the Thunder with a comfortable seven-point cushion at halftime, but the Rockets were not fazed, outscoring Oklahoma City by 14 (38 to 24) in the third quarter.
Deadlocked throughout the fourth quarter, it all came down to one final Thunder possession with time running down.
The Rockets did a phenomenal job denying Kevin Durant the ball, forcing Reggie Jackson into a rushed and contested layup. Serge Ibaka grabbed the offensive rebound but missed from point-blank range at the buzzer.
Parsons was absolutely huge for the Rockets, compiling 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists on the night. With the help of Francisco Garcia, Carlos Delfino, Aaron Brooks and a host of unlikely characters, Parsons headed a long-range barrage as the Rockets shot a cool 44.4 percent from beyond the arc.
It was imperative that Parsons and Co. rise to the occasion, as James Harden put forth his worst effort of the series to date, recording 15 points (4-of-12 shooting) and 10 turnovers in 35 minutes of work.
One game after scoring 41 points in 47 minutes, Durant returned in Game 4 with an even more efficient, and equally effective, performance. Scoring 38 points on 12-of-16 shooting, Durant paced a Thunder offense that's still reeling from the loss of Russell Westbrook.
Going with a more balanced attack on Monday, the Thunder saw four players finish in double-figures, including steady performances from Kevin Martin (16 points), Derek Fisher (12 points) and Jackson (18 points).
With the Rockets double-teaming Durant more often that not, the three-time scoring champion remained patient, finding open shooters on the perimeter throughout the night. Durant finished with six assists.
Meanwhile, the Rockets were without point guard Jeremy Lin (via Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski) and turned to Patrick Beverley to take over starting point guard duties.
Beverley didn't put on a show like he did in Game 2, but was more than serviceable, scoring 16 points and dishing out three assists.
Heavily reliant on isolations in the early going, the Thunder looked awfully sloppy. Not only did they record just two assists over the game's first 12 minutes, but they turned the ball over seven times in that span, nearly equaling in one quarter their total (11) for the entirety of Game 3.
Despite a lethargic start, the Thunder found themselves down five after one quarter, kept afloat by the collective efforts of Durant, Ibaka and Jackson.
The Rockets, on the other hand, came out shooting a blistering 55.9 percent from three, with Parsons and Garcia accounting for all five of the team's connections from beyond the arc in the first period.
Omer Asik was a major contributor in the first half, compiling 11 points (5-of-7 shooting) and nine rebounds. His energy was a major reason the Rockets were able to get off to such a hot start, and he finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
However, a 12-0 run led by Kevin Martin gave the Thunder new life as the Rockets struggled to muster the same defensive intensity that guided them throughout the first quarter.
Ultimately, the Rockets' resiliency was too much for the streaky Thunder to overcome. As a team, the Thunder recorded more turnovers (20) than assists (18), and the Rockets were able to make them pay to the tune of 17 fast-break points.
The scene now shifts back to Oklahoma City for Game 5, which will tip off on Wednesday evening.
The Rockets live in the paint and beyond the three-point line, and when they're in a groove it's hard to keep pace with such an efficient attack.
Durant went scoreless for the game's first five minutes and 42 seconds as Scott Brooks looked to get others involved early.
It looks like OKC is experimenting a bit to not rely purely on the scoring of Kevin Durant. #THUNDERvROCKETS— Jimmy Spencer (@JimmySpencerNBA) April 30, 2013
Another reason Durant went scoreless early: The Houston defense was swarming him every chance they got. Despite the Rockets' best efforts, Durant still managed to score seven points in the first.
Durant can't get open for clean passes, and when he does the entire Rockets defense is loading up on him.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) April 30, 2013
Garcia led all scorers with nine first-quarter points. No, your eyes are not deceiving you.
Better shooter: Francisco Garcia or Stephen Curry?— Royce Young (@dailythunder) April 30, 2013
Grantland's Bill Simmons made some astute observations regarding the Thunder's makeup sans Westbrook.
BS: OKC turned into the 2009 Cavs. It's such a bummer.— Grantland Live (@GrantlandLive) April 30, 2013
BS: With that said, the 2009 Cavs almost made the Finals...— Grantland Live (@GrantlandLive) April 30, 2013
With one minute remaining in the first half, Jackson was besting Harden in the scoring column. The Thunder's interim point guard wound up outscoring Harden 18 to 15.
Reggie Jackson has four more points than James Harden.— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) April 30, 2013
Facing elimination, Harden did not put together a particularly memorable first half.
James Harden had more turnovers (7) than points (6) in the first half.— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 30, 2013
Note to Oklahoma City: Kendrick Perkins' presence on the floor in any capacity is bad news.
Perkins only played 3 minutes in first half. Might not play more than that in second. He's -15 in just 5 minutes of action.— Jason Friedman (@JasonCFriedman) April 30, 2013
We now live in a world where Delfino is dunking on Durant.
Get Carlos Delfino that Gatorade commercial.— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) April 30, 2013
And then Durant got revenge on a big-time slam of his own in crunch time.
ALERT: Category 4 Durant. You are advised to remain indoors.— Beckley Mason (@BeckleyMason) April 30, 2013