The Oklahoma City Thunder will go for the sweep Monday night when they visit the Houston Rockets with a chance to advance in the Western Conference playoffs.
The Thunder endured the absence of Russell Westbrook on Saturday with a 104-101 victory. This was the Thunder's first game since Westbrook tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee and underwent surgery. He will miss the remainder of the playoffs.
"It was a big character win for us," veteran guard Derek Fisher said.
Fisher and Reggie Jackson split the time at the point in Westbrook's absence. They combined for 23 points, two assists and just three turnovers.
The Thunder owned a huge edge in the second quarter, amassing a 26-point lead. Houston clawed back and actually took the lead before Kevin Durant nailed a 3- pointer that bounced off the rim and glass a couple of times with 41.9 seconds left on the clock.
"The Lord was with us," Durant said of the shot. "That's all I was thinking. I knew as soon as that shot hit the back rim, I was thinking 'Not again. Tough three I shot. Maybe I should have drove. Maybe I should have got a foul.' But, it was able to bounce in."
A Houston turnover led to a pair of Fisher free throws and a 104-101 win.
"We did a great job of just staying composed," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. "This is the playoffs, it's always a 48-minute game. It's not like we relaxed and let them back in it. They made a lot of amazing shots, which we know they're capable of doing. That's a very good team."
Durant led the Thunder with 41 points and 14 rebounds. Serge Ibaka added 17 points and 11 boards, while Jackson had 14 and Kevin Martin contributed 12 off the bench.
For Houston, this was yet another disappointing setback.
"We've had leads in both fourth quarters in the last two games," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "You know we've got to, we've got another one on Monday and we've got to find a way to win that game. We got to win that game."
James Harden led the Rockets on Saturday with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Chandler Parsons added 21 points and Francisco Garcia knocked down four 3-pointers for 18 points. Carlos Delfino scored 11.
One player who knows the Thunder very well was not surprised by the effort with Westbrook out of the lineup.
"They're still a good team," said Harden, who was traded from the Thunder just before the start of the season. "They have one of the best players in basketball. They are one of the best shot blockers in basketball. They have some very good players. Of course, they are here for a reason."
If the Rockets stave off elimination on Monday, then Game 5 will be Wednesday in Oklahoma City.