Thunder end Rockets’ playoff hopes

DEATH OF A DREAM::Jeremy Lin came off the bench, but was unable to inspire Houston to become the first team to rally from a 0-3 deficit to win a playoff series

AP and AFP, BOSTON and HOUSTON

Sun, May 05, 2013 - Page 20

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.

Boston cut a 75-49 deficit to four points, but Carmelo Anthony made a jumper to give New York an 81-75 lead and then sank a three-pointer, then J.R. Smith converted a three-point play to restore the double-digit lead the Knicks had nursed most of the game.

Anthony finished with 21 points for the Knicks, who won a playoff series for the first time since the Patrick Ewing era in 2000. They will host the Pacers in today’s opening game of their Conference semi-final series.

Jeff Green scored 21 points for the Celtics, and Iman Shumpert scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half for the Celtics, who now face another offseason of talk whether to break up the aging core that won the franchise’s record 17th NBA title in 2008 and returned to the finals two years later.

Indiana’s George Hill and David West each scored 21 points as the Pacers held off an Atlanta rally.

The home teams had won every game of this series until Friday. The Hawks set a franchise record worst by scoring just nine points in the second quarter on 1-of-15 shooting. The defense broke down in the third, allowing Hill and West to combine for 22 points, and the Pacers built a 65-50 lead going to the fourth.

The Hawks showed some heart, slicing it to 76-73 with 2:13 remaining, but the comeback fizzled there.

Roy Hibbert added 17 points and 11 rebounds. Lance Stephenson also had 11 rebounds.