Harden, Ömer stun Thunder

Harden, Ömer stun Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY - Agence France-Presse
Harden, Ömer stun Thunder

Houston Rockets’ Turkish center Ömer Aşık goes for a basket over Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder during the first half of Game Five of the NBA Western Conference playoff game. AFP photo

James Harden scored 31 points and Turkish center Ömer Aşık added 21 as Houston kept its NBA first-round play-off hopes alive with a 107-100 win over Oklahoma City in game five on May 1.

Playing against his former Thunder teammates, Harden drained his first seven three-point attempts for the youthful Rockets who now trail the best-of-seven series three games to two.

“The guys are battling,” said Houston coach Kevin McHale. “You got to go out there and fight every single night.”

Harden, who helped lead the Thunder to the NBA finals last season where they lost to the Miami Heat, shot just four-of-25 from three-point range in the first four games against Oklahoma City.

Houston played without injured guard Jeremy Lin.

But the Thunder missed all-star point guard Russell Westbrook even more on game five. Westbrook tore his lateral meniscus, underwent surgery and is done for the season.

The teams head back to Houston for game six of the Western Conference series tonight. The Rockets will be trying to make history in this series as no NBA team has ever come back from being down 3-0 to win a best-of-seven series.

“We got another opportunity at home and we are going to take advantage of it,” Harden said.
“Tomorrow we will watch some film and get ready for game six.”

Aşık’s biggest impact came on the free-throw line down the stretch.

A player who has never shot better than 55.3 percent from the line, Aşık made 13-of-18 free throws as he helped keep Houston in control late in the fourth quarter with the Thunder looking to foul him at every opportunity.

“He hit his free throws,” said Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. “He stepped up. Give him credit because he hit his shots. It is a strategy we don’t use very often.”

It backfired against Houston which shot 47 percent from the floor, made 14 three-pointers and had six players score in double figures.

“He was great. He made most of them and that is all that matters,” Harden said of Aşık. The Thunder made just eight-of-33 from beyond the arc, losing for the second-consecutive game after winning the first three.

Meanwhile, Kevin Garnett finished with 16 points and 18 rebounds and Jason Terry had 17 points as the Boston Celtics staved off elimination with a 92-86 win over New York in game five.

Heart of a champion

Paul Pierce scored 16 points and Terry went five-of-nine from beyond the arc for the Celtics, who now trail in the best-of-seven first round playoff series three games to two.

“We have got the heart of a champion,” Terry said. “We are not going to lay down. Every game is a game seven for us. What do we really have to lose?”

Game six is set for tonight. Boston also hopes to make a 4-3 comeback series win.

“It’s definitely on us still,” Boston coach Doc Rivers said. “It’s another game seven for us. That’s the way we’ve been viewing it. It’s still a ton of pressure on us. We have to be really good defensively.” After their sluggish start, the Celtics got their act together, making half of their 22 three-point tries and nailing all 17 of their free throws.

“In games one, two, three and four we always had one quarter that set us back. We talked before this game about winning every quarter,” Terry said, vowing to have a bigger say in the outcome of this series. “I am a 14-year veteran. If you don’t know who I am by now you will by the end of this,” he said.

In the other Eastern Conference game on May 1, David West had 24 points, while Paul George finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in the Indiana Pacers routed the Atlanta Hawks 106-83 to take a 3-2 series lead.