Rockets rally, hang on for heart-stopping 105-103 win in Game 4
HOUSTON - It had to be this way. Fourth quarter, final minute, the Rockets face to face with the crunch time demons that had so wickedly haunted them in Games 2 and 3. This was not a young team in need of another tough lesson. This was a team in desperate need of a win. The Rockets required validation of their efforts that had once more placed them in position to put Oklahoma City on the ropes, not another stamp symbolizing their occasionally bumpy journey through NBA adolescence. Their first playoff win as a group was going to have to be earned, and it would have to be secured in the most harrowing way imaginable; staring down Kevin Durant, with the ball in his hands, and an opportunity to extinguish Houston’s postseason run for good.
There exists the pain of growing, and that process is ultimately a good thing. It builds character, perseverance and all those other characteristics dads discuss that typically leave us cursing them beneath our breath once they’re finished with the lecture. But there also exists the joy of growing; those blessed moments of self-actualization that allow us to reap some of the benefits of our own maturation, bolster our trust in the process itself, and establish a base on which we can continue building – both because we want to and also because we believe we can.
That sort of faith is powerful and absolutely essential to success. After all, a dream without belief is nothing more than a fancy car minus the battery necessary to power it toward its destination. Consider Monday night, then, a much-needed boost to the Rockets’ dream machine. They got the last-second stop they had to have. They overcame both Durant’s brilliance and the errors of their youth. They held on when those old, familiar demons came screeching, scratching and clawing once again. They persevered 105-103. And now they believe.
“We know we can play with these guys and we can beat these guys,” said Chandler Parsons. “We were in this situation the last two games and there was no way we were going to give this one up. We’re resilient and we’re never going to give up no matter how much we’re down in a game and no matter how much we’re down in a series. We’ve got a whole bunch of humble, hard working dudes that are not going to give up and are going to play together.”
The proof of that statement exists not just in the final score but also within the fine details. It’s there in the way Francisco Garcia defended Durant on that final play, knowing full well that Oklahoma City’s superstar was seeking room to let fly a game-winning three and never allowing him even the slightest of opportunities to find it. It’s there in Omer Asik’s textbook defense that immediately followed, when he rose, arms outstretched straight up above his head, forcing Reggie Jackson into the toughest of shots to tie. It’s there within Patrick Beverley’s savvy the possession before when he darted across the floor just in time to take a charge from Durant who was barreling down the lane on his way to the basket. And it’s there in bold, capital, perfectly coifed letters in the way Chandler Parsons led his team on a night when James Harden recorded the most ignominious double-double (15 points, 10 turnovers) of his career.
Parsons made Houston’s first basket and its last Monday night, and amid those two bookends he tallied 27 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists. He was aggressive from the outset and nothing short of spectacular during the Rockets’ remarkable third quarter that transformed a seven-point halftime deficit into a seven-point Houston advantage heading to the final frame. With his team’s season on the line, Parsons played utterly without fear – a mindset the Rockets now have to make sure they carry with them back to what promises to be a bubbling cauldron of hostility in Oklahoma City for Game 5.
“We’re going to need this type of effort in Oklahoma,” said Houston Head Coach Kevin McHale. “It’s really important for us to go out there and feel what it’s like to play a team that wants to close you out on the road. And it was really important for us to win this game tonight. Everyone else might say, ‘Oh, it’s just one game,’ but for us it was our first playoff win for this group and you can’t get two playoff wins until you get one.
“We needed this game for us. I told those guys: we’re going to win this game for us. You guys need to win it, you need to grind it out and you’ve got to fight because you’ve fought all year and I was proud of them.”
Proud in the way a dad derives delight from watching his sons succeed. Proud in the way a father appreciates all the hurt, pain and heartache that came before. The Rockets had heard McHale extol the virtues of hard work, patience and perseverance all season long. Rest assured, however, that there were no sighs, eye rolls or muttering beneath one’s breath Monday night. Houston’s players were fed up with growing pains. They needed a taste of growing joy. To get it they had to apply those tough love lessons and overcome the ghosts and ghouls of playoff games past.
Mission accomplished. And most importantly: Now they believe they can do it again.
(On defensive play on last possession and team play) “First Pat (Patrick Beverley) took a charge on the drive, Omer (Asik) came over and did a great job and denied. They scrambled them out. We did a great job of not letting them take the last shot. KD (Kevin Durant) has already proven that he can already make those shots even if they bounce on the rim four times. So we try to make someone else take the shot. It was a really efficient game by Kevin (Durant) because we were trying to get the ball out of his hands and the guy had 38 points. It kinds of frightens you to think if you weren’t trying to get the ball out of his hands, what do you do? It was a hell of a game by him but it was a great win by us.
It was a gutsy win by us. One thing about our team: they’re not going to lay down. They fought all year long. We’ve had different lineups and all kinds of different stuff happening. The one constant has been their willingness to go out and scrap and fight. I said there’s no way we’re lay an egg tonight. If they beat us, they beat us but we were going to fight. Everybody…Chandler(Parsons) had a hell of a game. Omer(Asik) had 17 and 14. Patrick Beverley was tremendous. Los (Carlos Delfino) off the bench made three 3’s.
(On team’s play when James Harden struggles) “We just kept on fighting. We’re just a work in progress. Patrick (Beverley) just starting right now and there is a lot of different changes and stuff. James has been a closer for us all year. He got in foul trouble a little bit. We were able to overcome that. We had 22 turnovers and they did too so that was one thing that was good and we turned it over and they turned it over with us so that gave us a chance. James did not have a very good game for James and I really thought that Chandler (Parsons), Omer (Asik), Pat (Beverley), Cisco’s (Francisco Garcia) defense, Los (Carlos Delfino) hit shots, Aaron (Brooks) came in and gave us a boost. Everbody who played did a good job.”
(On Patrick Beverley’s play) “He’s a tough kid, I mean he really is. He’s a tough, hard nose guy who’s not going to back down. He’s not afraid to take shots, he’s not afraid to make shots, not afraid to make plays, he’ll step in, I really enjoy him he’s a nice kid to be around. I told this story before when we brought him up from Russia, we had a practice and they said well we’ll send him down to the D-League after the practice and I thought, ok we’re trying to develop a guy. I looked at them and said why are we sending him to the D-League, I said lets keep him up here. The guy is running around scrambling, rebounding. I said the guy has more energy than the five guys he’s playing against combined. He just snuck up here and got a chance to play. He’s really making the most of it. I’m really happy for Patrick. He had a long road to the NBA and it’s always nice. He really appreciates it. He’s really a nice young man.”
(On jump shots at the end of the game) “We said we wanted to attack the paint. We set up a play where I thought we can set up an overload situation where we could drive quick then kick out but the jump shots at the end are all or nothing shots. We got to get that thing in the paint. I thought that for the most part Chandler(Parsons) did a good job of that, turning the corner and got there. He led us with 8 assists and had 27 points; he had a hell of a game.
We’re going to need this type of effort in Oklahoma. It’s really important for us to go out there and feel what it’s like to play a team that wants to close you out on the road. And it was really important for us to win this game tonight. Everyone else might say, ‘Oh, it’s just one game,’ but for us it was our first playoff win for this group and you can’t get two playoff wins until you get one.
We needed this game for us. I told those guys: we’re going to win this game for us. You guys need to win it, you need to grind it out and you’ve got to fight because you’ve fought all year and I was proud of them.
(On keeping the momentum after the first half) “We really had a good third quarter. We were moving the ball and attacking. We had a good end to the second (half). We kept it going in the third and just got the ball up and down. We get stops, we run, we share the ball. Like I said earlier, I was waiting for us to shoot in the 40’s(%), somewhere in the 40’s from the 3 point line. We’ve done it on and off all year. We need one of those on Wednesday night. Hopefully we get some open looks and we knock them down.”
(Can this completely change the momentum?)
We think so for sure. We know we can play with these guys and we can beat these guys. We were in this situation the last two games and there was no way we were going to give this one up. We’re resilient and we’re never going to give up no matter how much we’re down in a game and no matter how much we’re down in a series. We’ve got a whole bunch of humble, hard working dudes that are not going to give up and are going to play together.
I think the pain and frustration from those last two losses, we didn’t want that feeling again. We weren’t going to let our season end with that happening for the third straight time. I think collectively we all did a great job. Kevin Durant was very efficient but we did a great job of making other guys try and beat us.
(can this carry over to Game 5?)
Sure. We were right in it in Game 2 at OKC. We’re confident going in there and no one’s giving us a chance so we really have no pressure going in there. The pressure is on them.
(did you ever think at any point that this might be your last game of the season?)
I think it was the exact opposite. We were saying it’s not our last game. All of us yesterday and the day before were talking about Game 5 in OKC. So that never crossed our mind ever.
(On how it feels to get a first playoff win being on a young team) “It means a lot. I think the previous two games, we let both of those slip away and then having the lead late in the fourth quarter and just giving it away, so just to get this first one under our belt. Now we have confidence going back to Oklahoma City and anything can happen.”
(On how it feels to know that the team can still win even when he's having a bad night) “I did have a double-double (laughter). We have so many guys that can create and make plays. So many guys that can step up. Chandler (Parsons) had a tremendous game tonight. Patrick Beverley did everything tonight. Omer (Asik), double-double, Carlos (Delfino) made some big shots. Francisco (Garcia), playing all the minutes he had, all the juice he had in those old legs. A lot of guys came in and contributed. It was a very good team win for us.”
(On the Rockets defense on Kevin Durant ) “He played an excellent game. Francisco (Garcia) fought hard and was keeping pressure on him. It was a back and forth game and we finally pulled it out.”
(On how much confidence this win gives the Rockets) “The series could easily have been 3 to 1 or could’ve been 4-0, except for that first game. We have been playing hard, we’ve been battling. I think we’re starting to figure out things. Chandler (Parsons) had a big game, Patrick Beverley played huge and to get a win when our starter (Jeremy Lin) isn’t playing shows what we can do.”
(On how much it means to keep the series going) “It just shows that we can do it. We just wanted to show some character out here and we did that the last three games and we just want to carry that over to the next game.”
(On what was the key to tonight’s win) “Our defense. Also, we moved the ball really well today. I know we had a lot of turnovers but we were aggressive and we got some defensive stops. Kevin Durant played an amazing game but Cisco(Francisco Garcia), Carlos (Delfino), James (Harden), Chandler (Parsons), tried to wear him down and we were able to get the victory.”
(On the Rockets 10-0 run to start the third quarter) “We wanted to come out and be aggressive, especially we got to win this game or we’re going home so we wanted to be aggressive, push the ball, and play defense as a team.”
(On his effort tonight) “I was trying to bring energy. I made my open shots and I played defense against one of the best players in the league. I was trying to do whatever I could to stop him.”
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER COACH SCOTT BROOKS
(On the Rockets) “I thought they came out and did a good job of making shots. The initial four of five minutes when Frisco (Francisco Garcia) hit two or three 3's and then we battled back. I thought it was a good game other than we didn't win the game. I thought we did a lot of good things, there were a couple of things we can do much better. We gave them 31 points off of turnovers. Our turnovers, a lot of them were live balls for transition points and threes, but overall I think there’s some areas we can get better at. Our defense needs to be more consistent, stopping the dribble. I thought Chandler (Parsons) had a great game. He had a great game, (Omer) Asik had a great game. They had some really, really good moments. We didn't do a good enough job of staying in front of them.”
(On the last play) “We didn't execute the play as well as we have in the past. It was a tough play, give them credit. They got in to us, they got in to the ball and we didn't get the look that we wanted. At that moment it was a scramble play. I think Reggie (Jackson) did the best he could at driving and (Omer) Asik came over, he's one of the best rim protectors and (with) his verticality he's one of the best in the league. He did a good job on not fouling on the open tip in. its easy to point to a play or two down the stretch, but there are so many plays that we probably could have done much better. We gave them high percentage threes too, 12 for whatever they were 26 or 27. I thought that the game did not come down to the last play or so. It’s some of the little things that we could have did better throughout the game.
(In reference to the dribble penetration) “He's (Chandler Parsons) really good. Give him credit, give the staff credit. He's (Parsons) really improved from year one to year two. He's a triple threat guy, he can put on the floor, he can shoot it, he can make plays for his teammates. He had a great game tonight. You've got to pat your opponent on the behind every now and then and he did a great job. They did a good job, they came in and they had a lot of pride. Both teams did, we didn't want to lose either, but somebody has to lose. But we have one more game and we're focusing on one more game.”
(His thoughts when Kevin Durant went down) “That’s one of the things I never worry about as a player or as a coach. Injuries are part of the game, Kevin (Durant) is as tough as they come. He gets hit a lot, but he keeps popping up, it’s just his desire and love for the game. You don't want nobody to get hurt, either team. Unfortunately we have one, but I wasn't worried that time.”
(On upcoming Game 5) “We have to play a little more consistent defensively, I thought we had opportunities to lock in defense. So we have moments throughout games that we really take pride in and they did a good job of breaking us down, but those are things that we can correct and we have to correct going into next game.”
(On the last seconds of the game) “We were just trying to get a shot. They (Rockets) did a good job of closing the paint up on us…Reggie (Jackson) had a lane, he missed a tough shot and Serge (Ibaka) had an opportunity to tip it in but unfortunately it didn’t go our way so we have to move on to Game 5.”
(On the emotions of losing the game, specifically Serge Ibaka’s reaction) “It’s over. Essentially, they (Rockets) did what they were supposed to do, which is win at home. We came here and snuck one in so we go back home. That’s what we’ve been fighting all year for, home court advantage. We just got to be ready for Game 5. I told him ‘Man, we can’t take that hard. It’s over with. You can’t get it back. You can’t bring it back. So, let it go. It’s an unfortunate play but let it go.’”
(On the Rockets 3-point shooting) “That’s what makes it so tough. They can shoot 3’s and they can drive so we have to figure out a way to keep them in front and to also get to the 3-point line. They knocked down some timely 3’s today. So, we have to make sure we correct that.”
(On whether he is mad about the loss and not being able to sweep the Rockets) “No need to panic. That’s only going to put more pressure on us. That’s only going to make us feel worse. Always stay positive. That’s what I’m about. Stay positive, keep pushing, we got a game at home so we’re going to try to close it out.”
(On his play) “ I just need to keep playing aggressive. Unfortunately we just came up with a loss and now we’ll have to go back to Oklahoma City and get a win.”
(One team playing without Russell Westbrook) “He is such a big key to what we do. He’s a tough cover out there and we miss him but we’ll figure it out.
(On the Rockets gaining confidence with the win) “We’re really not worried about how they’re feeling over there. We’re a veteran group and we know what we need to do and we’ll get it done in Game 5. Once again we blew a 15 point lead and we have to keep the same mentality when we get them down and not let them come back.”
Houston registered another sold out crowd of 18,081 for tonight’s game.
The Rockets battled to a 105-103 victory tonight, forcing a Game Five back in Oklahoma City on May 1, which is set for 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Houston forced a Game Five for the first time in franchise history when facing a series deficit of 0-3. Each of the prior two series ended in a sweep: 1980 Eastern Conference Semifinals - Boston defeats Houston (4-0) and 1996 Western Conference Semifinals - Seattle defeats Houston (4-0).
The Rockets were 12-of-27 (.444) from 3-point range tonight. Houston had gone 30-of-108 (.278) from beyond the arc over the first three games of this series. During the 2012-13 regular season, the Rockets racked up a record of 13-2 in games they shot .444 or better from downtown.
Houston outscored Oklahoma City by a 44-22 (+22) count in the paint tonight, which was the second time in this series that the Rockets have posted a 20-plus point edge in the paint (+20, 50-30 on 4/24/13).
The Thunder went 35-of-72 (.486) from the field tonight. The road team had shot below .400 in each of the first three games of the series.
Over the last two games, Houston has outscored Oklahoma City by a 65-38 count in the third quarter.
Chandler Parsons registered playoff career highs of 27 points (11-21 FG, 3-6 3FG), 10 rebounds and eight assists tonight. Parsons, who also dished out a game-high seven assists in Game Three, marked his first career double-double in the postseason.
Omer Asik posted a postseason-best 17 points (7-10 FG) and 14 rebounds (8 offensive) tonight, which was his first career double-double in the playoffs.
Patrick Beverley, who had a playoff-high 16 points (7-13 FG, 2-4 3FG) in Game Two at Oklahoma City (4/24/13), matched that total with 16 points (5-10 FG, 2-4 3FG, 4-4 FT) tonight.
Francisco Garcia made his first career playoff start tonight, finishing with nine points (3-9 FG, 3-7 3FG) and one block. Garcia gave the Houston starting five each a blocked shot in tonight’s game.
James Harden had 15 points (4-12 FG, 7-8 FT) and a playoff-career-high five steals tonight. Harden, who came into this game off two consecutive 30-point performances (36 on 4/24/13 and 30 on 4/27/13), set the team playoff record for turnovers in a game with 10, surpassing the previous high of nine giveaways by Robert Reid at Boston (4/9/80).
Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 38 points (12-16 FG, 13-15 FT), eight rebounds, six assists and one steal tonight. Durant has now recorded 20-plus points in 30 consecutive playoff games (5/15/11-4/29/13).
Serge Ibaka, who came into tonight off two consecutive double-doubles, was held to just eight points (3-8 FG), five rebounds and three blocks tonight.
Reggie Jackson recorded a playoff-career-high 18 points (7-18 FG, 2-7 3FG) to go along with four boards, three assists and two steals.