It had been mostly a second half to forget for Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.
But in the final 3:10 Durant took control in every facet, and helped the Thunder to a 105-102 win over the Houston Rockets in Game 2 of the first round of the NBA Playoffs in front of 18,203 at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Durant hit a 3-pointer that put the Thunder ahead for the final time with 2:28 left, then dished to Thabo Sefolosha for a wide-open 3-pointer with 1:01 remaining to put the Thunder firmly back in control.
He also had a block and three assists in the final minutes.
“He’s really improved his playmaking,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “That’s one of the things he’s really worked on. He’s not a selfish player.”
Now the Thunder has a chance to end the series before returning to Oklahoma City.
The Thunder head to Houston up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.
Early in the fourth quarter, it looked like this one could wind up like Game 1, a Thunder blowout victory.
But down 15 with less than 10 minutes to go, the Rockets came back hard, reeling off a 21-2 run to take the lead before Durant took over.
Houston went to a zone defense late in the game and the Thunder struggled to react until Durant helped them regain control.
“When you play a team like the Thunder, you’ve got to try some different stuff,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
James Harden, traded from the Thunder to the Rockets just before the season, scored 36 points but it wasn’t enough.
Durant and Russell Westbrook scored 29 points each, although Durant was dormant offensively for long stretches of time.
He scored 15 in the first quarter and had 21 at half.
The game was similar to the Rockets’ 122-119 win over the Thunder on Feb. 20 in Houston, where the Thunder led by 14 with about seven minutes left before letting the game slip away.
This time, though, Durant took control.
His only points of the fourth were on the late 3-pointer and a last-second free throw.
“Kevin’s a tremendous scorer,” Harden said. “We just tried to play good defense on him and we tried to make him make some tough passes and make somebody else beat us and Thabo made a big three.
“Those were tough two plays and a tough two buckets.”
Earlier, Westbrook and Houston’s Patrick Beverley exchanged words after Beverley attempted a steal midway through the second quarter.
The confrontation seemed to fuel Westbrook, who had an assist, steal and a bucket in the next 30 seconds.
Westbrook also fueled a 13-0 run, scoring seven in the stretch that sent the Thunder to a nine-point lead in the third quarter.