Thunder survive Rockets, claw back in series

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Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives around James Harden of the Houston Rockets during Game Three in the Western Conference Quarterfinals

Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives around James Harden of the Houston Rockets during Game Three in the Western Conference Quarterfinals

Russell Westbrook's latest triple-double came with plenty of help from his teammates, and translated to a 115-113 NBA playoff victory for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

It was a win the Thunder desperately needed after falling 0-2 down in their Western Conference first-round series against the Houston Rockets.

That included a disheartening defeat on Wednesday, when Westbrook posted a triple-double that included 51 points but was criticized for a fourth quarter in which he made just four of 18 shots.

"I had to do a better job of trusting my teammates for 48 minutes," Westbrook said. "Today those guys made plays throughout the whole game and that's what I tried to do."

Thunder coach Billy Donovan called Westbrook's effort "unbelievable".

"He got guys shots," Donovan said. "He took advantage when they switched. He did a lot of different things. He played an exceptional game."

Westbrook, who notched a record 42 regular-season triple-doubles, finished Friday with 32 points, 11 assists and 13 rebounds.

It wasn't perfect. His second missed free throw of the closing seconds kept the door open for the Rockets, whose star James Harden was off-target with a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Harden had hit a three-pointer with 52 seconds remaining that knotted the score at 111-111.

Westbrook responded with his first three-point attempt of the game.

It rattled off the rim, but teammate Steven Adams managed to put it back for two points and the lead.

The teams then traded free-throw attempts until Harden's final effort. When it bounced off the backboard, Westbrook was there to bat the ball away.

"I just wanted to get the best shot available," said Harden, who finished with 44 points but missed two three-pointers in the final 15 seconds.

Harden said it wasn't those miscues, but the Rockets' slow start in the face of an early Thunder blitz, that determined the game.

Determined not to fall 0-3 down, the Thunder were quick out of the blocks.

The Rockets managed to cut a 15 point deficit early in the second quarter to five in the final seconds of the half.

Houston took their first lead of the game on a three-pointer by Harden less than two minutes into the second half.

But the Thunder wrested back the advantage and led 93-83 going into the final period.

"We've got to come out with some dog in us," Harden said. "Second half, we did a really good job on both ends of the floor."

- Clippers rally -

In Salt Lake City, Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul scored 24 of his 34 points in the second half as the Clippers rallied for a 111-106 victory over the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers took a 2-1 lead in the series, despite losing Blake Griffin to a toe injury late in the second quarter.

Griffin scored 11 points and pulled down six rebounds before departing, and Clippers coach Doc Rivers said immediately after the game that the extent of Griffin's injury was unclear.

"We should have more news tomorrow," Rivers said.

DeAndre Jordan scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Luc Mbah a Moute added 15 points for the Clippers, who withstood a career-high 40 points from Utah's Gordon Hayward.

The Clippers erased a double-digit deficit by the end of the third quarter. When they took the lead with 4:01 to play they were in front for the first time since the first quarter.

Paul made four straight baskets in a 15-0 scoring run that put the Clippers ahead 103-96 with 2:09 remaining.

The Jazz closed to 106-105 with 7.1 seconds left, but they couldn't get back in front.

"We just hung in there," Rivers said of the key to the turnaround. "I thought the second half even though Blake wasn't there we just kept playing and we just kept hanging in there."