Oklahoma City, Memphis, New York and Indiana all won their first-round NBA playoff series with Game 6 victories on Friday, leaving only one spot up for grabs in the Conference semi-finals.
Oklahoma City, trying to get back to the NBA finals for the second straight year, moved into the second round of the playoffs with a 103-94 victory over the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder wrapped up a 4-2 triumph in their best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series and booked a second-round clash with the Memphis Grizzlies, who avenged their first-round loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last year with a 118-105 victory that lifted them to a 4-2 series win over Chris Paul and the Clippers.
Kevin Durant scored 27 points and Kevin Martin added 25 for the Western Conference top seeds Oklahoma City, who had seized a formidable 3-0 lead in the series only to have Houston bounce back with two straight victories.
“I thought that was one of our best Thunder team wins that we’ve had all season,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks, whose team scotched Houston’s bid to become the first NBA team to rally from an 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series.
Only three teams have come back from a 0-3 hole to force a decisive seventh game. The Rockets had their chances, on Friday, but could not hold onto a double-digit lead.
In a back-and-forth battle Houston led by as many as 11 points in the first half and by as many as 10 in the third quarter, but Oklahoma City authored a 14-4 scoring run early in the final period and pulled away for the victory.
Oklahoma City led 78-77 going into the fourth quarter and held Houston to 6-of-19 shooting in the period.
James Harden, battling strep throat, scored 26 points with six rebounds and seven assists for the Rockets, who had 25 points from Chandler Parsons. Omer Asik had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
“In that fourth quarter with about seven minutes left we were just stagnant. We couldn’t get any movement or make any shots,” Harden said.
Houston had to make do without key reserve Carlos Delfino, who needs surgery on his right foot.
Jeremy Lin came off the bench in the first quarter after missing two games with a bruised chest muscle. He scored three points in less than six minutes on the floor.
The Thunder will host the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of their second-round series today.
The Grizzlies won their fourth straight game on Friday — after dropping the first two of the series — to beat the Clippers on their home court where Los Angeles had celebrated a Game 7 first-round victory last year.
Mike Conley and Zach Randolph scored 23 points apiece in a bruising encounter and Tony Allen added 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists for Memphis.
The Grizzlies became the 16th team in NBA history to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win a seven-game series and just the 10th to do so in six games.
Chris Paul led the Clippers with 28 points and eight assists, but was ejected with 2:29 to play after receiving a technical foul for a shove of Marc Gasol.
It wasn’t the only flare-up in the often testy contest. Randolph was ejected after receiving a second technical with 1:57 to play.
Meanwhile, the New York Knicks got the staggers and almost gave up a 26-point lead, but steadied to beat the Boston Celtics 88-80 and the Indiana Pacers withstood a big final-quarter comeback from Atlanta to beat the Hawks 81-73.