Game Three between the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder was one of the best basketball games of 2016-17.
James Harden scored 44 points, grabbed six rebounds and dished six assists (along with seven turnovers), but it wasn’t enough. Russell Westbrook tallied 32 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists as the Thunder held on for a 115-113 win.
Harden had one last look for Houston in the closing seconds thanks to three missed free throws from Westbrook over the final minute but came up short on a potential game-winning 3-pointer.
Westbrook was at his best for much of the night; trusting his teammates, disrupting the Rockets offense, and driving to the rim instead of settling for jumpers. In fact, he didn’t attempt a 3-pointer until there were 35 seconds left in regulation. He missed, but Steven Adams was there for the putback.
The duel between two of the top MVP candidates was the second straight nail-biter in the series, as the Rockets posted a 115-111 win on Wednesday. Westbrook set a record in that Game Two with the first 50-point triple-double in NBA history.
Harden was the one to receive criticism on Friday night, as he took that last three-pointer with time on the clock and a possible path to the basket. However, with the Rockets on the road and Patrick Beverley fouled out, taking the chances on the three was probably a better play than trying to win in overtime.
Rockets: Harden had five assists and four turnovers in the first quarter. He had one assist the rest of the game. Houston shot 50 percent in the first half but committed 10 turnovers, which led to 16 points for the Thunder. G Patrick Beverley finished with one point on 0-for-6 shooting and fouled out.
Thunder: Oklahoma City opened the game with an 11-2 lead. Gibson was called for a technical foul with 1:22 left in the first half. G Semaj Christon, who played 21 minutes combined in the first two games, was inactive.
Game Four will be played Sunday afternoon in Oklahoma City.
Friday’s other NBA results:
Boston Celtics 104-87 Chicago Bulls
Los Angeles Clippers 111-106 Utah Jazz