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Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks reacts to a call in the second quarter of Game 5 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Durant, Thunder struggling to close out Rockets
NBA » Oklahoma City finds life difficult without Westbrook at the point.
First Published May 02 2013 11:44 am • Last Updated May 03 2013 12:19 am

Oklahoma City • Without All-Star Russell Westbrook running the point, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder are struggling to close out the Houston Rockets.

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So much for a sweep. This is suddenly a series.

James Harden scored 31 points and sank seven 3-pointers while fighting flu-like symptoms, and the Rockets beat Oklahoma City 107-100 Wednesday night to pull within 3-2 in their first-round playoff series.

Harden made the first seven 3s he tried and Houston led by as many as 16 to win its second straight, getting halfway to becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-0 series deficit.

"We just came out here and played pressure free. Go out there and just hoop, that was our mindset going into the game," Harden said. "The same thing back at home: just go out there and hoop. We’re an eighth seed. Nobody’s expecting us to win. So just give it what we’ve got. Simple."

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The Rockets have made it look much easier since Westbrook was lost for the rest of the playoffs to knee surgery before Game 3. With back-to-back wins, Houston had Durant blaming himself for just about anything that went wrong for the Thunder even though he scored 36 points and almost single-handedly kept his team in the game.

When asked about how first-time starter Reggie Jackson has done filling in for the injured Westbrook, Durant faulted himself for demanding the ball too often from the young point guard. When questioned about Kevin Martin’s awful three-point performance on 1-for-10 shooting, Durant offered that he needed to be more encouraging to the sixth man.

Try as he might, Durant can’t do it all.

"They don’t really care about anybody else on the team," the three-time NBA scoring champion said. "So, when I have the ball, there’s like four guys guarding me sometimes and I’ve just got to make the pass. Tonight, we didn’t make some shots, but I trust that we’re going to make those wide-open ones. I’ve got faith that we’re going to make those shots."

Harden could hardly miss. Had he stopped after his first seven attempts, he would have tied Robert Horry’s NBA record for most 3-pointers without a miss in the playoffs.

"I just tried to go out there and give it all I had," said Harden, who left Houston’s morning shoot-around because of a lack of energy and then slept all day.

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