Thunder aim to polish off Rockets

9:56 AM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - The Oklahoma City Thunder once again have a chance to advance in the Western Conference playoffs Friday night, but they'll have to contend with the pesky Houston Rockets at the Toyota Center

The Thunder built a 3-0 lead, but the Rockets clawed back with wins in Games 4 and 5. On Wednesday, the Rockets stole a rare win in Oklahoma City to keep the series alive.

"Even when we were down 0-3 this team never quits," Chandler Parsons said Thursday afternoon. "We're resilient, we never hang our heads, we never argue and we stick together. We're just a tough team that wants to win."

Houston led by 11 after three quarters of Game 5 and won 107-100.

"We gave up too many points in the third quarter," acknowledged OKC coach Scott Brooks.

The Rockets went small in Game 5 with Francisco Garcia and Parsons starting at the forwards. Houston had a well-balanced attack with six players in double figures.

James Harden led the way with 31 points, followed by 21 from Omer Asik, who added 11 rebounds and handled OKC's strategy of fouling him to try and extend the game. Asik went 13-for-18 from the free-throw line.

Garcia chipped in 18, Patrick Beverley added 14 and Parsons and Aaron Brooks both had 10.

Starting point guard Jeremy Lin missed another game with a bruised chest. Harden was diagnosed with strep throat on Thursday, but will play Friday. Key bench figure Carlos Delfino has some foot issues and his availability is in question.

"He's got bone spurs, he's got a little fracture of a bone spur, he's got a lot of different stuff going on," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale. "He hasn't said a word about it."

The Thunder won't cry for the Rockets on the injury front.

Russell Westbrook, an perennial All-Star, tore his meniscus, underwent surgery and is done for the postseason.

Kevin Durant has still been sensational for the Thunder. On Wednesday, he scored 36 points, pulled seven rebounds and handed out seven assists.

Reggie Jackson has done an admirable job replacing Westbrook. He scored 20 points in Game 5 and Serge Ibaka, who had 14, was the only other Thunder player in double figures.

But defense has been the problem in Oklahoma City's losses. The 107 points the Rockets posted on Wednesday established a new series best and the 37 points allowed in the third quarter was unacceptable.

The Thunder are not the same team without Westbrook. They are sputtering with back-to-back losses, but aren't worried just yet.

"I'd rather be up 3-2, than down 3-2," Brooks said on Thursday. "We feel confident. We didn't play well last night. We have to play better basketball. We still feel pretty good."

If Houston wins on Friday, Game 7 will be Sunday in Oklahoma City.

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