Dennis Schroder scored a career playoff-high 30 points and the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter to beat the Houston Rockets 117-114 on Monday to even the first-round Western Conference playoff series at two wins apiece.
James Harden had 32 points, 15 assists and eight rebounds for Houston. Eric Gordon scored 23 points and Danuel House added 21 for the Rockets, who won the first two games of the series.
Former Thunder star Russell Westbrook sat out for Houston again with a strained right quad. The all-star point guard has not played in the series.
The score was tied at 60 at the half. The Thunder shot 47.8 per cent and the Rockets 47.7 per cent before the break.
Houston made its first eight 3-pointers to start the third quarter. The Rockets led 93-80 before Schroder made a 3-pointer and Houston’s Austin Rivers was called for a foul away from the shot. Oklahoma City’s Nerlens Noel made the free throw, and that sequence sparked a 12-0 run for the Thunder. Schroder hot a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Oklahoma City climbed within 93-92 at the end of the third.
Harden made a 3-pointer with 16.3 seconds to play to cut Oklahoma City’s lead to 113-111, but Schroder made two free throws with 15.8 seconds to go to give the Thunder control for good.
Bucks put Magic on the brink
Giannis Antetokounmpo offered some advice to teammate Khris Middleton before the fourth quarter of Monday’s playoff game against the Orlando Magic: “Shoot until your arms fall off.”
Middleton took the advice to heart.
Antetokounmpo had 31 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists and Middleton finally came alive with a huge fourth quarter as the Bucks beat the Magic 121-106 to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series.
Middleton scored 18 of his 21 points in the final quarter and finished with 10 rebounds after being held to one field goal in the first three quarters on 1-of-9 shooting.
Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said it was “just a matter of time” before Middleton had a breakout game.
If the Bucks hope to win their first NBA title since 1971 they’re going to need Middleton to be a consistent scorer and take some of the pressure off Antetokounmpo.
The top-seeded Bucks led by three entering the fourth quarter before Middleton scored 11 points during an 18-2 run on three 3-pointers and a mid-range jumper off an inbouds play to help the Bucks build a 102-83 lead.
“Giannis told just to me be aggressive and that is what I tried to do,” Middleton said.
Middleton averaged just 11 points per game in the first three playoff games on 12-of-37 shooting.
Antetokounmpo finished the game 14 of 21 from the field, but did most of his damage inside the paint where he was 12 of 14.
Nikola Vucevic continued his strong play for the Magic, finishing with 31 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Terrence Ross had 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench.