HOUSTON — Kevin Durant put all the body English he could muster into his final field-goal attempt, crouching, leaning, directing, or better yet begging, the basketball to go in the basket.
The ball hit the back of the rim, bounced high into the sky before coming back down to earth. It hit the rim once more, rattled around and dropped.
Durant had done it again.
The bucket was the go-ahead field goal with 36.9 seconds remaining. It enabled Oklahoma City to escape with an emotional 104-101 win in Game 3 against Houston on Saturday night.
“The Lord was with us,” Durant said of his final shot. “That's all I was thinking. As soon as I shot it and it hit the back of the rim I was thinking, ‘Not again. A tough 3 I shot. Maybe I should have drove. Maybe I should have got a foul.' But it bounced in all because of the good Lord, man.”
With the shot, Durant deflated the Rockets and all of Houston, as the Thunder took a commanding 3-0 series lead.
“He just made a lucky shot,” said Rockets guard James Harden. “It was good defense. The ball bounced three times around the rim and just went in. It just took the energy out of us. It was a big-time shot.”
Game 4 is Monday night.
Durant finished with a game-high 41 points, tying his career playoff high. He added 14 points with four assists while playing all but 44 seconds.
With starting point guard Russell Westbrook out for the remainder of the playoffs, second-year guard Reggie Jackson filled in and scored 14 points. He hit a pair of free throws with eight seconds remaining for the final score and grabbed the game's last rebound when the Rockets' last-second 3-point attempt bounced harmlessly off the rim.
“I thought Reggie did a good job,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He made some good plays throughout the game.”