THE FACTS: The Oklahoma City Thunder took a rollercoaster ride to victory in their first game without All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. The Thunder squandered a 26-point second-quarter lead before Kevin Durant received a friendly bounce on a critical 3-point attempt in the final minute of regulation to help lift Oklahoma City to a 104-101 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 3 of their first-round Western Conference playoff series Saturday at Toyota Center.
Durant matched his playoff career high of 41 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Thunder, who took a commanding 3-0 lead in the series and will have a chance to complete the sweep Monday in Houston. Serge Ibaka added a double-double of 17 points and 11 boards, seven of which were offensive. Second-year guard Reggie Jackson, making his first career start in place of the sidelined Westbrook, contributed 14 points.
James Harden paced the Rockets with 30 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but he misfired on one-third of his 15 free-throw attempts. Chandler Parsons finished with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting, seven rebounds and seven boards, while Francisco Garcia exploded for playoff career bests of 18 points, five rebounds and three blocks off the bench.
QUOTABLE: "The Lord was with us. That's all I was thinking. ... I really can't say too much else about that [shot]."
-- Kevin Durant on what went through his head when his 3-point attempt dropped in to give his team the lead for good
THE STAT: The club with more postseason experience won the free-throw shooting battle, as the Thunder knocked down 28-for-30 (93.3 percent) attempts from the charity stripe compared to Houston's 17-for-25 (68.0 percent) performance.
TURNING POINT: After trailing by as many as 26 in the first half and 17 at halftime, the Rockets roared back into the contest behind a valiant defensive effort. Houston held Oklahoma City to 20.0 percent (5-for-25) shooting in the third quarter, setting the stage for a thrilling final period. An Ibaka bucket put the Thunder ahead 97-94 with less than two minutes to play in the fourth period, but Harden and Garcia each scored to give the Rockets a 99-97 advantage. After a timeout, Durant launched a 3-point attempt from the top of the key and got the shooter's bounce to hand Oklahoma City a lead it refused to relinquish.
QUOTABLE II: "This is the second game in a row we feel like we should have won. We feel like we should be up two games to one [in this series]."
-- Chandler Parsons
HOT: Oklahoma City knocked down five of six attempts from behind the arc in the first quarter, including a pair of treys from a locked-in Durant. The potent 3-point shooting stretched the Rockets' defense and forced them to temporarily abandon the 2-3 zone defense that helped them rally late in Game 2.
NOT: In this series, the Thunder have effectively prevented Houston from finding the touch from the perimeter that helped propel it into the playoffs. Including Saturday's 12-for-37 effort, the Rockets have connected on only 27.8 percent (30-for-108) of their 3-point attempts while falling into a 3-0 deficit.
GOOD MOVE: With Jeremy Lin clearly struggling to play with a bruised chest, coach Kevin McHale replaced the third-year point guard with the veteran wing Garcia early in the third quarter. Garcia's presence created more floor spacing for Houston, which shot 8-for-15 as it closed the third period on a 20-7 run that cut its deficit to 80-76.
BAD MOVE: McHale's small lineups paid dividends in Game 2, helping the Rockets produce better scoring opportunities, but it backfired at the beginning of Game 3. The Thunder kept Houston from jump-staring its transition game by terrorizing the Rockets on the glass in the opening period, recording a 13-2 edge on the glass.
QUOTABLE III: "We focused on a couple of areas where we didn't do well last game. We wanted to make sure that we did a good job rebounding, and we did."
-- Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks
NOTABLE: The Thunder announced Saturday afternoon that Westbrook is out for the season after undergoing knee surgery to repair the torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. Westbrook missed a game for the first time in his career, sapping a streak of 439 appearances including the playoffs. ... Lin was unable to battle through his bruised chest injury and did not return to the game after playing the first 4:50 of the second half. ... Durant has netted at least 21 points in 29 consecutive playoff games. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Jordan have posted longer streaks of this kind over the last 40 seasons. ... Houston blocked 12 shots, equaling its highest output of the 2012-13 regular season.
UP NEXT: Game 4, 9:30 p.m. EDT Monday @ Houston, Game 5 (if necessary), Wednesday @ Oklahoma City, Game 6 (if necessary), Friday @ Houston.