By Julie Glass
James Harden scored 34 points, helping the Houston Rockets overcome a 47-point game by Russell Westbrook to earn a 105-99 victory over the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder and advance to the Western Conference semifinals.
The Rockets won their first-round playoff series, 4-1, and sent the Thunder home a year after they advanced to the conference finals.
Houston mounted a 5-1 run, with all the points coming on free throws, to make the score 98-91. Victor Oladipo threw a pass about five feet above Westbrook’s head and out of bounds on the next possession, and Harden made a layup on the other end with about three minutes left.
The Rockets then began eating up the clock, and the Thunder missed shot after shot that could have closed the gap.
But Houston was unable to add to its lead, and Oklahoma City cut its deficit to 4 points twice in the final seconds, the second time on a basket by Alex Abrines. But Harden made two free throws each time to secure the win.
After scoring 20 points in the third quarter, Westbrook went 2 of 11 in the fourth. It was a disappointing end to a stellar season in which he became the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961-62 to average a triple-double, scoring an N.B.A.-best 31.6 points a game, with 10.7 rebounds and 10.4 assists. He also set an N.B.A. record for most triple-doubles, with 42, to help the Thunder withstand the departure of the All-Star Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors in free agency.
Westbrook finished with 11 rebounds and 9 assists to fall just short of his fourth straight triple-double in the series. He made just five of a career-high 18 attempts on 3-pointers.
Lou Williams added 22 points and Patrick Beverley 15 for the Rockets as they advanced from the first round for the second time in three seasons.
Oklahoma City had a 5-point lead entering the fourth quarter and led by 3 after a jump shot from Jerami Grant. The Rockets then went on a 10-2 run to take an 86-81 lead with about nine minutes left. Williams scored the final 8 points in that span, making three free throws at the start sand capping it with a 3-pointer from way beyond the arc.
Houston was up by 6 early in the third quarter before a 7-2 spurt made it 61-50 with about seven minutes left in the quarter. Harden got things going, and Beverley capped it with 4 straight points.
The Thunder responded with a 12-3 run, with 7 points from Westbrook, to get to within 2 with about five minutes left in the third. The Rockets’ offense had gone cold, with its only points coming on free throws by Harden.
Five straight points by Oklahoma City a couple of minutes later, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Westbrook, gave the Thunder a 69-68 lead.
SPURS 116, GRIZZLIES 103 Kawhi Leonard scored 28 points, and host San Antonio rebounded from two discouraging road losses to defeat Memphis and take a 3-2 lead in their first-round series.
The Spurs shot 14 of 28 on 3-point attempts, two short of their postseason record, which included 5-of-7 shooting by Patty Mills.
Mills finished with 20 points, while Tony Parker added 16.
Mike Conley had 26 points and Marc Gasol added 17 for the Grizzlies, who have lost nine straight postseason games in San Antonio.
Game 6 is scheduled for Thursday night in Memphis. The winner will advance to play the Rockets.
Gordon Hayward scored 27 points, Utah controlled the paint and the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers 96-92 to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.