HOUSTON — Oklahoma City Thunder fans can breathe easy. There is no need for a potentially historical showdown at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.
The defending Western Conference champion Thunder instead were able to advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs with a series-clinching 103-94 victory over the Houston Rockets in Game 6 on Friday night before a sellout crowd of 18,357 at the Toyota Center.
Had OKC lost for the third straight time to the Rockets, it would have necessitated a Game 7 on Sunday afternoon, at which time Houston would have tried to become the first NBA team ever to win a playoff series after trailing 3-0.
Four days earlier, the Thunder needed just one victory to advance to the second round for the third straight season.
OKC instead lost two straight games with All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook sidelined after having season-ending knee surgery last Saturday.
Many Thunder fans quickly had become restless about being Russ-less after Westbrook suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee in the second quarter of Game 2.
The freakishly athletic Westbrook had never missed a game in his NBA career, snapping the league's longest active streak with 439 straight appearances including the postseason.
The Rockets boldly had narrowed the series deficit to 3-2 and their momentum was felt all the way to Las Vegas, which made Houston a one-point favorite in Game 6 and marked the first time all series the Rockets had been favored.