James Harden capped a miserable shooting performance with a timely defensive play, and the Houston Rockets held on for a 104-102 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game 7 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series on Wednesday near Orlando.
Harden closed out on Thunder guard Luguentz Dort and recorded a blocked shot with 4.8 seconds left and Houston clinging to a one-point lead. Following a Robert Covington free throw, the Rockets blew up an inbounds play from the Thunder with 1.1 seconds left to clinch the series and set a date opposite the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals.
Game 1 of that series is set for Friday in the AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
Dort produced a game-high 30 points on 6-for-12 3-point shooting, the highest scoring total for an undrafted rookie in a Game 7. But the Rockets clamped down elsewhere defensively, forcing Thunder guard Chris Paul into six turnovers while holding Dennis Schroder to 5-of-17 shooting.
Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander matched Paul with 19 points and hit a corner 3-pointer that gave the Thunder a 102-101 lead with 1:42 remaining. But those were the final points of the game for the Thunder, who committed 22 turnovers that Houston converted into 28 points.
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Harden shot just 4 of 15 and had a series-low 17 points. But he added nine assists and received help from his teammates, with Covington posting 21 points, 10 rebounds, three steals and three blocks. Eric Gordon matched Covington with 21 points while Russell Westbrook chipped in 20 points and nine boards.
Paul added 11 rebounds and 12 assists to complete a triple-double. Neither team led by more than eight points in a contest that featured 13 ties and 15 lead changes.
With Harden off to a woeful shooting start, missing 5 of 6 shot attempts, Covington, Gordon and Westbrook carried the Rockets offensively in the first quarter by recording six points apiece. But the Thunder led by just one point entering the second quarter despite shooting 11 of 20 from the floor by virtue of seven first-period turnovers that the Rockets converted into 10 points.
Dort caught fire in the second, pouring in a dozen points during one stretch before the Rockets wrestled away control. Gordon and Covington combined for 30 points as Houston led 61-59 at the intermission.