Rockets' late charge stuns Thunder

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 13, 2012
Courtney Lee and rookie Chandler Parsons each scored 21 points, Patrick Patterson blocked Serge Ibaka's point-blank putback attempt in the final 2 seconds, and the Houston Rockets charged back from an 11-point deficit in the final 3 minutes to beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 104-103 on Tuesday night. Lee drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 15 seconds left to complete a 13-1 run in the final minutes for Houston that was aided by a technical foul against Oklahoma City All-Star Russell Westbrook. Kevin Durant led the Thunder with 28 points but missed a turnaround jumper from the top of the key in the closing seconds after fumbling the ball and recovering. Ibaka grabbed the rebound but his follow try was swatted from behind by Patterson to get the Rockets leaping in celebration. Luis Scola added 18 points for Houston, which was without starting guards Kyle Lowry (illness) and Kevin Martin (shoulder). Ibaka had three dunks, one on a putback and two along the right baseline on feeds from James Harden, as the Thunder pulled away by holding Houston without a basket for 5 1/2 minutes. His final dunk, a two-handed slam on Durant's missed reverse layup, put Oklahoma City up 102-91. It wasn't over yet, though. Goran Dragic answered Ibaka's last dunk with a driving layup with 2:21 remaining to start a string of eight straight Houston points, punctuated by Lee's free throw brought on by Westbrook's technical foul. Westbrook rushed back to confront Dragic after he was fouled with 48.5 seconds left, then hit only one of two free throws that followed Lee's shots for the technical. Lee then drove for a layup to get Houston within a basket before stealing the ball from Westbrook to set up his go-ahead 3-pointer. The Rockets won for only the second time in the last eight games and in difficult circumstances. It was the first time this season they didn't have either of their usual starting guards. Martin missed just his third game and Lowry has been out five times, although three were against Oklahoma City. Lee and Dragic filled in and came up with the big plays down the stretch. Before the game, coach Kevin McHale said: ''The bottom line is we haven't played well since the All-Star break.'' That stretch may be over with a win against the West-leading Thunder, who have lost two of three at home after a 14-game winning streak at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. Westbrook finished with 19 points and Harden scored 16 for Oklahoma City, which got only nine fast-break points. The Rockets were able to keep the Thunder at bay most of the night, never leading by more than seven or trailing by more than four until the final 5 minutes. Houston had to settle for a 53-all tie at halftime after holding a narrow lead most of the way. Scola had six straight points during the Rockets' 14-3 run that put them ahead midway through the first quarter. A technical foul against Dragic for arguing that officials missed a traveling call opened the door for Oklahoma City to take a couple brief leads in the final 2 minutes before halftime, but he then set up Patterson's layup to tie it just before the break. Notes: Asked before the game if he considered Oklahoma City a championship-caliber team already or if a move was necessary by Thursday's trade deadline, coach Scott Brooks said: ''I like our guys. I like the team we have. Still, we're not where we need to be and we're going to keep improving and we should. ... I like our chances. I like our team. I'm excited about the opportunity.'' ... At 32-9, the Thunder had the best start in franchise history after 41 games - the usual midpoint of a full season. That's one more win than the 1993-94 Seattle SuperSonics. ... The Rockets expect Lowry to miss two to four weeks while getting antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection.
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