HOUSTON — Here's what the Thunder did in the second half of Game 3 on Saturday night against the Houston Rockets.
It shot 26.7 percent (12 for 45) from the field; 23.1 percent (3 for 13) from 3-point range; managed just five assists; and blew a 17-point halftime lead.
And somehow still won 104-101.
On the road.
Without three-time All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook.
One of the ugliest 24 minutes of ball imaginable wound up leaving OKC just one victory away from the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.
With Westbrook watching the game on television after having season-ending knee surgery earlier in the day, the Thunder took a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 opening-round series and can advance to the conference semifinals with a victory in Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. Monday at Toyota Center.
If OKC is able to sweep the Houston series, it will provide some much-needed practice time to adjust to life without the pulsating athleticism of Westbrook, who until Saturday hadn't missed a regular-season or postseason game in his entire NBA career (439 straight appearances).
The Thunder rolled in the first half, building a 66-49 lead at intermission thanks primarily to 27 points from Kevin Durant.
Durant's superlative performance had Westbrook tweeting “#MVP #MVP !!!!! ...”
Odd as it sounds, even more impressive might have been how OKC survived despite a putrid second half during which Durant shot 4 for 14 and had three turnovers.
Houston presumably must be devastated after fighting back from a 26-point first-half deficit, only to be outscored 7-2 in the final 45.2 seconds in front of sellout home crowd of 18,163 against a team missing one of its superstars for the first time ever.
Durant tied a career playoff high with 41 points and added 14 rebounds.
Serge Ibaka had 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
Second-year player Reggie Jackson — Westbrook's replacement who was playing in just his third career postseason game — had 14 points and single-handedly sealed the victory by converting two free throws with 8.0 seconds left and soaring high for the game's final rebound as the buzzer sounded.
Thunder sixth man Kevin Martin wasn't half-bad, scoring 12 points and shooting 3 for 5 from the field in the first half.
After intermission, however, Martin struggled mightily, going scoreless in 15 minutes of playing time while shooting 0 for 6 from the field.
Martin knew he needed to pick up the slack for Westbrook by hoisting more shots alongside Durant.
“We're definitely going to take more shots,” Martin said of himself and Durant. “I think that part's simple.
“The complicated part is we've got to make more shots because Russell is such a big part of what we do at both ends of the court.”
Derek Fisher, who refused to play for the Rockets after being traded to Houston last season, had nine points that included two free throws with 12.5 seconds left to give OKC a 102-99 lead.