Chandler Parsons stood on the court and said, “It’s unbelievable.”
Moments ago, Serge Ibaka laid on the same court court and covered his eyes with both hands before making his body limp as two of his teammates tried to pick him. A few feet away, Reggie Jackson, knocked to the ground, sat up and reached across his body to smack the floor softly. Derek Fisher crouched down and then landed flat on his stomach. Thabo Sefolosha threw up his arms. Kevin Durant licked his lips and stared straight ahead.
Certainly, those Thunder players also found it unbelievable.
But here is the most unbelievable part of the Rockets’ 105-103 Game 4 win over Oklahoma City tonight: Houston’s plan failed.
The Thunder made the first move with Russell Westbrook out, running all their offense through Durant in Game 3. He took 30 shots and scored 41 points.
The Rockets countered by double-, triple- and even quadruple-teaming Durant. Initially, they were successful. Durant forced opportunities, and Oklahoma City’s offense struggled as a result. But eventually Durant became more patient, and Thunder’s scoring took off.
The Rockets kept focusing on Durant, though, throwing a physical defense at him. Durant committed seven turnovers, including two two charges, but he also drew 13 fouls. That seemed to be just how Houston wanted it.
But the plan did not work. Yes, the Rockets held Durant to 16 shots, but he scored 38 points. Durant also had six assists, and his teammates made 9-of-17 3-pointers with him on the floor.
So how did the Rockets win?
It wasn’t because of James Harden, who had more turnovers (10) than field goals (4), rebounds (1) and assists (3) combined.
Again, how did the Rockets win?
Their complementary players – led by Parsons (27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists) – were awesome.
Carlos Delinfo made 3-of-5 3-pointers and dunked on Durant. Omer Asik had 17 points and 14 rebounds. Francisco Garcia made 3-of-7, Patrick Beverly 2-of-4 and Aaron Brookes 1-of-1 from beyond the arc. Houston’s bench players had so much swagger tonight, they could send the excess to the early-season Clippers, who lacked confidence in comparison.
Parsons especially picked a heck of a time for the best game of his career. He scored inside (7-of-9 in the restricted area) and out (3-of-6 on 3-pointers), drove and spotted up, dished and boarded. He was just incredible.
But, despite all the focus on him, so was Durant.
Even Durant playing within himself still meant plenty of shots that wouldn’t be reasonable for other players.
Down seven points in the final two minutes, Durant pulled up for a 3-pointer. Thunder down four with 1:42 left.
On Oklahoma City’s next possession, Durant crossed over Parsons and Brooks on the perimeter, drove and dunked over Asik and Delfino. Thunder down two with 1:13 left.
But Durant stayed true to Oklahoma City’s adjusted gameplan. Even on the game’s final play, when he ran out of space, Durant passed to Reggie Jackson. Jackson drove to the rim and was probably fouled by Asik, but it wasn’t called, and Serge Ibaka’s putback just missed as the buzzer sounded.
Durant’s last five points were the only five scored by either team in the final two minutes. He wasn’t the hero tonight, but the stage is set for him to fill that role soon.