Thunder, Spurs grab 2-0 NBA playoff series leads
Russell Westbrook (L) of the Oklahoma City Thunder is guarded by Patrick Beverley of the Houston Rockets during their game on April 24, 2013. Westbrook scored 29 points to lead the Thunder over Houston 105-102 for a 2-0 lead in their first-round NBA playoff series.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each scored 29 points to lead the Oklahoma City Thunder over Houston 105-102 while Frenchman Tony Parker scored 28 points to spark the host Spurs over the Los Angeles Lakers 102-91.
The Thunder squandered a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter as Houston, playing without Asian American star Jeremy Lin because of a first-half muscle bruise, rallied with a 21-2 run for four-point lead in the late going.
Oklahoma City answered with a 10-2 run to win the game, topped by a go-ahead 3-pointer from Durant, who scored 21 points in the first half, and the playmaker's key pass to set up a Thabo Sefolosha jumper.
"I saw the opening for the three and made that, and that gave me some confidence," Durant said. "I have confidence in Thabo and everybody else. If they are open I will give them the shot. If they miss we will live with it."
"We stayed aggressive. That's why we were able to make some in that fourth. We've got to continue to trust the pass and trust each other that we are going to make those shots when it counts."
The best-of-seven Western Conference playoff series continues with games three and four on Saturday and Monday at Houston, where the Rockets went 29-12 in the regular season and split two games against Oklahoma City.
"We were 15 down -- we could have given up and thought about the next game but we didn't," said Rockets guard James Harden, a former member of the Thunder backcourt. "We have a lot of confidence going back home."
The Spurs have plenty of confidence as well as they take a 2-0 lead to Los Angeles for games on Friday and Sunday.
"All we did was keep serve," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We have to see if we can play better."
Parker connected on 9-of-20 from the field, scored 24 points in the second half and sealed the game for the Spurs after the Lakers went on a 10-2 run to trim the largest San Antonio lead in the fourth quarter to 93-84.
Parker answered with two free throws, a basket and a 3-pointer to secure the victory and said after the triumph it was the best he has felt "by far" since returning last month from a sprained left ankle.
"It has been a battle, but I'm glad we got the win," Parker said. "It was important to protect the home court. I hope we can do the same thing in LA.
"The thing for us is to play great defense. We have to play great defense to beat the Lakers. We have to be very focused in LA. We'll wait and see."
Mike D'Antoni became the first Lakers coach to lose his first two playoff games, although the Lakers are without star guard Kobe Bryant, who suffered a torn left Achilles tendon earlier this month.
"It seemed like they always had somebody to make the key basket," D'Antoni said.
Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard each added 16 points for the Spurs and Manu Ginobili added 13 points for San Antonio.
Steve Blake, who strained his right hamstring in the second half, and Dwight Howard each scored 16 to lead the Lakers, who also had 13 points each from Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace.
At Oklahoma City, Serge Ibaka added 12 points, 11 rebounds and six blocked shots for the Thunder, who lost to Miami in last year's NBA Finals.
Harden scored a game-high 36 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for the Rockets, who also had 16 points and 12 rebounds from rookie Patrick Beverley, who made his first start of the season, and 17 points from Chandler Parsons.
"Most definitely (we let a win slip away)," Harden said. "We had a lot of opportunities in the last three or four minutes to capitalize for a couple of buckets. There were a few possessions we would like to have back that cost us the game."
The Rockets were effective in silencing the Thunder for a long stretch of the final quarter thanks to a switch to zone defense.
"We had to be aggressive with the zone. We can't let them put us on our heels," Durant said. "We've got to make adjustments for game three. We have to get better. We're looking forward to game three."
When it came to containing former teammate Durant, Harden was philosophical.
"Kevin is a tremendous scorer," Harden said. "We just try to play good defense on him, make him make good passes and make somebody else beat us."
Lin had seven points, three assists and four rebounds when he exited with a bruised right chest muscle. He averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 assists for the Rockets this season.