Russell Westbrook makes history but Houston Rockets rally to take 2-0 lead
No one's ever produced a playoff triple-double like it in the history of the NBA – but still it wasn't enough for Steven Adams' Oklahoma City Thunder.
Russell Westbrook poured in the most potent post-season performance of his career, and the first ever 50-point triple double in NBA playoff history, but it couldn't stop the Oklahoma City Thunder slipping into an 0-2 hole in their first-round series against the Houston Rockets.
The Thunder's MVP contender played his part with a mammoth haul of 51 points (17/43 FG, 2/11 3PT), 10 rebounds,13 assists and four steals, but in the end the OKC one-man-band simply ran out of puff, and help, as the Rockets hauled in a 12-point third-quarter deficit to win game two at the Toyota Center 115-111.
It was also the first 50-point showing in a playoff game since Ray Allen had 51 for the Celtics against the Bulls back in 2009.
Very, very few teams come back from 0-2 deficits in NBA playoff series, which leaves the Thunder wedged somewhere between a rock and a hard place as they head back to Oklahoma City for games three and four. And it's hard to see how Westbrook could do any more, even if his effort did falter over the run home.
It had looked for all money as though Westbrook was going to inspire a memorable serires-levelling performance as the Thunder played in front almost all the way. The visitors nudged out by nine (35-26) after one, by six (68-62) at halftime and by three (89-86) at the final break, after they had led by a dozen (86-74) with just under four minutes left in the third.
But then Westbrook's monumental effort finally took its toll. At the three-quarter mark he had 36 points on 13-of-25 shooting; but in the final quarter the mercurial point guard made just four of 18 shots (and one of seven from downtown) as the Rockets' superior all-round offensive game finally came through.
The game was tied at 104-104 with 3:15 remaining and Rockets star James Harden sitting precariously on five fouls.
But from there the hosts took control, with dagger three-pointers from Patrick Beverley and Eric Gordon sealing the deal as the Thunder were unable to respond. Westbrook aside, the rest of OKC went just three of 11 from the floor in the final period.
Kiwi big man Steven Adams had a strong game defensively, but diced with foul trouble throughout (eventually picking up his sixth in the final seconds) and like all of his team-mates was too much of a bystander to make a difference.
Adams finished with five points, seven rebounds, two blocks, an assist and a steal in 27 minutes, though helped keep a much better lid on Houston bigs Clint Capela and Nene who had combined to make 14 of 17 shots in the first game but contributed a collective 14 points in this one. OKC also won the rebounding count 48-37.
Andre Roberson added 12 points, eight boards, three blocks and a pair of steals for the Thunder, while Victor Oladipo (11 points, nine boards) and Doug McDermott (11 points) were the other main contributors.
Harden paced the Rockets with 35 points and eight assists, and did so by making just seven of 17 shots. He was 18 of 20 from the line.
But Houston got big-time support roles from Gordon (22 points on eight-of-14 shooting) and Lou Williams (21 at an eight-of-14 clip) with both making three triples apiece. Throw in 15 points, six rebounds and four dimes from feisty point guard Beverley, and it was the supporting cast that in the end decided this contest.
Game three is in Oklahoma on Saturday (NZT).