Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder shook off the pesky Houston Rockets and took Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series, 105-102, despite blowing a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter.
James Harden and Carlos Delfino spearheaded a 21-2 flurry down the stretch to give the upset-minded Rockets a four-point lead with just over three minutes remaining.
But the Thunder's subsequent 10-2 run, highlighted by Durant hitting a go- ahead 3-pointer and assisting on Thabo Sefolosha's open three, has the series headed to Houston with Oklahoma City holding a 2-0 lead.
"We stayed composed," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said. "You have to give the guys credit for sticking together."
Durant scored 21 of his 29 points in the first half, Russell Westbrook also added 29 points and Serge Ibaka totaled 12 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the hard-fought win.
Harden finished with 36 points and 11 boards for the eighth-seeded Rockets, who lost Jeremy Lin to a muscle contusion in his right chest but received an unlikely double-double from rookie Patrick Beverley and 17 points from Chandler Parsons.
Beverley logged 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists after earning a start for the first time all season.
Houston was looking for a spark after losing Game 1 by 29 points, and the small lineup kept the game close before two 3-pointers by Kevin Martin and another by Westbrook in the first three minutes of the fourth quarter gave the Thunder an 89-74 cushion.
That's when the Rockets, who never led on Sunday, surprised practically everyone in attendance at Chesapeake Energy Arena with a 21-2 surge. Delfino's second 3-pointer in the six-minute stretch provided the visitors with a 95-91 lead that wound up being short-lived.
Ibaka scored inside and Westbrook followed with two free throws to tie it, and after Harden got a runner to fall, Durant hit from 25 feet for his only field goal of the fourth quarter.
Misses by Omer Asik and Parsons on consecutive possessions led to Durant swinging to an open Sefolosha for a 3-pointer on the right wing. Sefolosha's try went through with 1:01 to play, and the hosts held on from there as Delfino's heave from well beyond midcourt fell short at the buzzer.
"We had a few opportunities to capitalize on a couple buckets late in the game and we didn't," a disappointed Harden said.
Game 3 is scheduled for Saturday night in Houston, where the Rockets went 29-12 in the regular season and split two games with the Thunder in the regular season.
There were 18 lead changes and nine ties in a chippy first half that saw neither team lead by more than five points. Beverley sent Westbrook to the floor on two separate occasions, and Westbrook returned the favor with a glancing elbow to Beverley's face on a drive to the basket.
Reggie Jackson's last-second 3-pointer gave the Thunder a 29-28 lead heading into the second, while Delfino's late layup pulled the Rockets within 57-55 at halftime.
Harden had 17 points in the first half and continued attacking in the third quarter, most notably when he drove the lane and threw down a rim-rattling dunk for a 63-61 lead near the midway point.
Brooks took a timeout after the slam, and the momentum swung immediately with Oklahoma City scoring the next 13 points. Westbrook netted seven on the surge, including a layup while being fouled for a 74-63 cushion with under four minutes on the clock.
The Rockets scored seven of the last nine points of the quarter to pull within 78-72 entering the final stanza.
In the Oklahoma City era, the Thunder have taken a 2-0 series lead three times and advanced in no more than five games in each ... Teams with a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven NBA playoff series have gone on to win the series 94 percent of the time (233-of-248) ... Durant has scored 20-plus points in 28 straight playoff games ... Lin did not play in the second half and finished with seven points and three assists ... The Rockets shot 33 percent after halftime following a 45 percent clip in the first two quarters ... Asik pulled down nine of his 14 rebounds in the fourth quarter, helping the Rockets to a commanding 57-40 edge on the glass.