Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press
OKLAHOMA CITY — Russell Westbrook relishes the moments when an opponent challenges him and his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates and it becomes time to respond.
Rookie Patrick Beverley showed a willingness to go toe-to-toe with the Thunder's All-Star point guard, and the Houston Rockets didn't back down despite a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
Then it was up to Westbrook and the Thunder to come up with an answer.
Westbrook and Kevin Durant each scored 29 points, and Oklahoma City recovered after squandering its big lead to beat Houston 105-102 on Wednesday night and take a 2-0 series lead.
"It's fun. During this time of the year, as a team we've got one goal and we can't let nobody get in the way," Westbrook said. "That's how I feel and that's how I want my team to respond as well."
Durant hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:28 to play after the Rockets had turned a 15-point deficit into a four-point lead, and the Thunder didn't relinquish the lead. Durant missed a free throw with 1 second left, but Houston was out of timeouts and Carlos Delfino couldn't connect on a desperation shot at the final buzzer.
"It's frustrating and it hurts really bad right now," said Chandler Parsons, who scored 17 points for Houston. "But you've got to take some positives out of it. It's a long series."
Game 3 is Saturday night in Houston.
The Thunder's big lead melted away with nine straight empty possessions as the Rockets mixed in a zone defense. James Harden spearheaded a 21-2 Houston comeback by getting into the lane to create his own opportunities, and he also kicked the ball out to set up two 3-pointers by Delfino. His second 3, from the right wing, provided a 95-91 lead with 3:27 to go.
But the Rockets couldn't keep it up.
Oklahoma City came back to tie it before Harden knifed to the basket for a layup to give Houston its last lead at 97-95 with 2:42 to play. Durant answered right away with a deep 3 from the left wing at the opposite end, and the Thunder came up with back-to-back stops before Thabo Sefolosha's 3 provided a little breathing room at 101-97.
Serge Ibaka added a long jumper to make it 103-98 after Durant was forced to give up the ball. Durant and Kevin Martin, both in the top 5 in the league in free-throw percentage, both went 1 for 2 at the foul line in the final 12 seconds to give the Rockets one last chance.
"We all stuck together," Westbrook said. "They made a run when we weren't able to make shots, but I thought everybody had a big role toward the end of the game and we came up with the win."
Harden ended up with 36 points and 11 rebounds, and Beverley had 16 points, 12 rebounds and six assists for Houston. The Rockets made up for a 40 percent shooting mark with a 57-40 advantage on the boards and a 50-30 scoring edge in the paint, engineering a massive turnaround after getting blown out 120-91 in Game 1.
And they did it without starting point guard Jeremy Lin, who didn't play in the second half because of a muscle contusion in his chest.
"Our team is a young team and we're not a perfect team by any stretch of the imagination, but they'll fight," coach Kevin McHale said. "They're a bunch of scrappers. They'll go out and fight you for it. So, I knew our team would play well today. That's who they are."
Beverley moved into the starting lineup as Houston went with a three-guard unit, and it didn't take long for the rookie to get under Westbrook's thin skin. Beverley lunged for a steal as Westbrook stopped to call a timeout after Houston took a 42-41 lead midway through the second quarter, with his hip slamming into Westbrook's right knee.
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