After the Oklahoma City Thunder took Game 1 by 29 points, the series has been neck and neck. The Houston Rockets fended off elimination with their high-powered offense, and they've put plenty of pressure on the reigning Western Conference champs.
In Game 6 at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, the Thunder finally put Houston to bed with a 103-94 victory.
Kevin Durant scored a game-high 27 points, but other OKC players guided them to Round 2. Kevin Martin played a fantastic first half, and Derek Fisher used his veteran savvy to run a master class on closing out a series in the second half.
James Harden scored 26 to lead the Rockets, but he shot just 7-of-22 from the field. Chandler Parsons turned in an strong game with 25 points coming mostly from long range, but that was not enough.
OKC led 58-54 at the half despite getting outshot 50 percent to 44 percent, thanks in part to a plus-four turnover differential. Martin led the charge with 21 and Reggie Jackson attacked the hoop for 10 points.
After Houston closed the gap to a single point after three quarters, OKC kicked things into high gear. The Thunder went on a 23-10 run to start the fourth quarter and coasted to victory through the final few minutes.
The Rockets put in a valiant effort, and with the right offseason moves (which Daryl Morley will no doubt make), they will be extremely dangerous next season.
But Friday belonged to the Thunder. They took care of business, albeit not as soon as they would have liked, and now prepare to face the Memphis Grizzlies. First, let's hand out grades for the series-clinching win.
Reggie Jackson, PG, Thunder: A-
Reggie Jackson enjoyed an excellent first half, scoring 10 points on numerous knifing drives to the basket. He added seven in the second half to finish with yet another solid game. His instinct for getting to the bucket has made him an invaluable substitution for OKC.
Jackson finished with eight assists and seven rebounds, as he strolled into the neighborhood of a triple-double.
Patrick Beverley, PG, Rockets: C
Beverley has played well in the series, but he failed to make his imprint on this game. He bricked seven of his 11 shots and finished with eight points in 33 minutes. Though he started at point guard, he did not record an assist.
Missing out on Game 7 might have been a good thing for Beverley's health and safety. After initiating the contact that injured Russell Westbrook, the crowd back in Oklahoma would have been brimming with vitriol.
James Harden, SG, Rockets: B+
Harden got blanketed by the OKC defense and struggled from the field. Though he finished with 26 points, it came on just 7-of-22 shooting.
He still contributed a good all-around line, with seven dimes, six boards, two steals and two blocks, but this was not the night for Harden to be out of rhythm. After scoring from three-point land in Game 5, Harden couldn't keep the magic up.
Thabo Sefolosha, SG, Thunder: C-
Sefolosha trudged through an off game on Friday, scoring just three points on 1-of-5 shooting. Despite Harden's struggles, Sefolosha finished with the worst floor rating on the team at minus-21.
That's especially surprising since he's such a good defender, but it's more of an indication that the Thunder didn't thrive until Scott Brooks went with a different rotation. Fortunately for the Thunder, Derek Fisher lit it up in Sefolosha's stead.
Kevin Durant, SF, Thunder: A-
Durant had almost been the entirety of OKC's offense since Russell Westbrook went down, but they played with better balance on Friday.
KD shot 3-of-9 from the field and got to the line just twice for nine points in the first half. Kevin Martin and Reggie Jackson kept them afloat, and then KD woke up for the second half.
He scored 16 points in the final two quarters, and finished up with eight rebounds and six dimes. He also used his freakishly long arms to snag a pair of steals and a blocked shot. In a game where OKC's bench drove them to victory, Durant turned in a very solid game in his own right.
Francisco Garcia, SF, Rockets: B
Garcia turned in a solid all-around game, with 11 points, six boards and five assists. He got himself in some foul trouble late, but still finished with the second-highest rating on the team at plus-six.
Garcia has a little playoff experience a few years back with the Sacramento Kings, but he'll have to settle for a one-and-done this year.
Chandler Parsons, PF, Rockets: A-
Parsons did everything he could to keep Houston's season alive. The rangy forward knocked down six of his eight attempts from downtown and finished with seven boards, second most on the team.
Parsons poured in 25 points and even dished three assists, and he played an excellent second fiddle to Harden. He did cough up five turnovers however.
Serge Ibaka, PF, Thunder: B-
Ibaka couldn't find his shot, hitting the mark on only four of his 13 field-goal attempts for 10 points. He did pull down seven boards and swatted a couple of shots, but he also posted a minus-11—the second-worst floor rating for his team.
The Thunder will need a much better effort from the Serge Protector against Memphis' stout backcourt, as his mid-range offensive game has been a key to OKC's success all season long.
The Flying Turk
Omer Asik, C, Rockets: A
Asik's lucky number was 13 on Friday night. He scored a baker's dozen in points and pulled down the same number of boards, including five on the offensive glass.
The Turkish national was busy on the defensive end with two blocks and a steal, but he's the sole imposing presence for Houston in the middle.
Asik finished with the best rating on the team at plus-seven, but his teammates couldn't match his quality.
Kendrick Perkins, C, Thunder: F
Can someone check if Kendrick Perkins is on a milk carton yet? Perk has disappeared in this series, and his coach knows it. He played only four minutes in Game 6 and did absolutely nothing aside from commit two turnovers and a foul.
Learned historians years from now will study Perkins' disappearance and struggle to come up with an explanation.
Is he doing the Dikembe Mutombo?
Kevin Martin, SG, Thunder: A-
After a dreadful 1-of-10 shooting performance in Game 5, Kevin Martin turned in a fantastic first half, hitting five of his eight field-goal attempts and shooting a perfect 8-of-8 from the line for 21 points.
While he cooled off in the second half, he propelled the Thunder while Houston's shots were falling in the early going. Martin also tallied three dimes, three boards and a steal, but his splendid first half kept OKC in the game until Kevin Durant could take over.
Aaron Brooks, PG, Rockets: B-
Brooks saw only 10 minutes but contributed four efficient points on 2-of-3 shooting. He also had a rebound and an assist but committed a pair of turnovers in limited time.
No wonder that Kevin McHale rode his starters so hard.
Game 6 was Fisher's 235th playoff game.
Rest of Bench, Thunder: A-
Derek Fisher, at age 38, showed that playoff experience is worth its weight in gold. D-Fish shot 4-of-6 from the field for 11 points, and chipped in four boards, two steals and an assist. He also racked up a team-high plus-32 rating and effectively guided OKC through the second half, in which he played 18 of his 26 minutes.
Nick Collison proved his worth up front, scoring 10 points to go with his nine boards (four offensive). He buoyed OKC with Ibaka struggling and Perkins nonexistent.
DeAndre Liggins played for nine minutes but did not do much of anything.
Still, the Thunder got a tremendous lift from their bench, and that was the key factor which helped them dodge a high-pressure Game 7 and head to the second round for a tilt with the Memphis Grizzlies.
Rest of Bench, Rockets: C-
Jeremy Lin played through a chest contusion and saw 13 minutes, but he was not effective. Lin missed three of his four shots, fumbled away a turnover and failed to record an assist.
James Anderson grabbed four rebounds and scored two points. Greg Smith did not attempt a field goal but hit two of his four free throws.
And that was the sum total of Houston's bench, which got outscored 46-11 by the Thunder.