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NBA: Thunder hold off Rockets for commanding series lead

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Kevin Durant scored 41 points Saturday to help the Oklahoma City Thunder thwart a late rally by Houston and post a 104-101 victory over the Rockets for a 3-0 lead in their NBA playoff series.

Durant drained a go-ahead three-pointer with 41.9 seconds remaining and the Thunder held on to take a stranglehold on the Western Conference first-round series.

No NBA team have come back from an 0-3 deficit to win a best-of-seven post-season set.

Durant carried Oklahoma City in the absence of Russell Westbrook, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee on Saturday and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

"Definitely it's an emotional time the last 48 hours," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "We all love what Russell is about, the guy has probably the biggest heart I've ever been around.

"Tonight's game was a great game. We wanted to come in here and get this win. Our guys came in focused and we got the win."

Durant's shot from the top of the arc bounced high off the back of the rim, then bounced twice more on the iron before dropping through the net to give Oklahoma City a 100-99 lead.

Houston's James Harden turned the ball over at the other end to veteran Derek Fisher, who made two free throws to stretch the Thunder's lead.

Harden responded with a basket, but Oklahoma City's Reggie Jackson, starting in place of Westbrook, made two foul shots with eight seconds left to give the Thunder a 104-101 lead.

Houston had one more chance, but Carlos Delfino's three-point attempt -- over the out-stretched arm of Serge Ibaka -- was off target.

The Thunder, playing their first game since learning they would be without Westbrook for the remainder of the playoffs, jumped to a 39-19 lead after one quarter and led by as many as 26 in the first half before taking a 17-point lead into the break.

But Houston battled back, out-scoring the Thunder 27-14 in the third period to get within range, and took the lead for the first time since the first quarter when Chandler Parsons made a three-pointer with 5:46 remaining.

It was a similar scenario to game two, when the Thunder squandered a 15-point fourth-quarter lead but held on for a 105-102 victory.

Harden, traded to Houston by Oklahoma City before the season, finished with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Parsons added 21 points, but the Rockets' remaining starters -- Omer Asik, Patrick Beverley and Jeremy Lin -- combined for 13 points.

Lin was a game-time decision to start after suffering a bruised chest muscle in game two. Houston's Asian American star played 18 minutes and scored just two points.

In Memphis, the Grizzlies mauled the Los Angeles Clippers 104-83 to pull level in their Western Conference series at 2-2.

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph scored 24 points apiece to power the Grizzlies, who will travel to Los Angeles for game five on Tuesday and host game six on Friday.

Spain's Gasol added 13 rebounds while Randolph grabbed nine and Mike Conley contributed 15 points and 13 assists for Memphis.

Blake Griffin and Chis Paul each scored 19 to lead the Clippers.

"We held serve," said Memphis coach Lionel Hollins. "Like I told our guys in there, I said we've got to go get a win when the crowd isn't roaring in our ears."

bb/mtp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130428/nba-thunder-hold-rockets-commanding-series-lead