Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahoma City, we have a problem.
With injured star Russell Westbrook watching from the luxury box, the Oklahoma City Thunder had no answer for the Rockets' uptempo style as Houston pulled away for a 107-100 victory in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.
James Harden, after shooting 4-of-25 from behind the arc in the first four games of the series, made his first seven 3-point attempts Wednesday en route to a 31-point effort despite dealing with flu-like symptoms.
The Rockets shot 47 percent from the floor, made 14 3-pointers and had six players score in double figures, including Omer Asik, who finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds and made enough free throws in the fourth quarter to keep Houston in control.
The Thunder only made 8-of-33 from long distance and fell for the second straight game after winning the first three in the series. No NBA team has ever lost after jumping out to a 3-0 lead, but this series is headed back to Houston for Game 6 on Friday with that scenario still a possibility.
"We're taking it one game at a time," Harden said. "We're going back home for Game 6, and it should be interesting."
Kevin Durant was held scoreless in the fourth quarter and totaled 36 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Reggie Jackson, starting in Westbrook's place, had 20 points, while Serge Ibaka netted 14 with nine boards.
The eighth-seeded Rockets never trailed after the first quarter and led by as many as 16 with under four minutes remaining in the third.
With their outside shots not falling, the top-seeded Thunder attacked the basket during an 11-2 run that cut their deficit to 78-71, but Houston scored nine of the quarter's final 13 points, with Aaron Brooks' runner just before the buzzer resulting in an 87-75 Houston cushion.
The margin remained in double digits until Oklahoma City resorted to fouling Asik every time down the floor. The career 53 percent free throw shooter connected on 9-of-14 from the stripe over a 2 1/2-minute span, and his two makes with 3:53 remaining gave the Rockets a 101-92 lead.
"(Asik) stepped up and made shots, give him credit," Thunder head coach Scott Brooks said.
Asik blocked Thabo Sefolosha at the other end, Durant was whistled for an offensive foul the next time down the floor, and the outcome was never in doubt from there.
After erupting for 18 points in the third quarter, Durant was 0-for-5 from the field over the final 12 minutes.
The Thunder's biggest lead in the game was one point, as the Rockets were connecting from everywhere on the floor from the opening tip. Harden scored 11 points in the first quarter and hit three of the team's five 3-pointers in the frame, which ended with the underdogs holding a 30-26 lead.
Both offenses slowed down in the second quarter, and Harden's late 3-pointer yielded a 50-43 Rockets advantage at halftime.
Houston's 10-3 run in the early stages of the third, capped by Chandler Parsons' driving layup, put Houston in front by a 66-50 margin.
The Thunder were 7-0 at Chesapeake Energy Arena during first round playoff series dating back to 2011 ... Durant has recorded 20-plus points in 31 consecutive playoff games ... Thunder guard Kevin Martin shot 1-for-10 from the field for three points ... The Rockets' double-digit scorers included Francisco Garcia (18 points), Patrick Beverley (14 points) and Parsons and Brooks, who tallied 10 points apiece ... Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin was sidelined for the second straight game due to a chest injury.