NBA: Harden block clinches series for Houston Rockets, sets up Lakers clash

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MIAMI – James ’s shooting touch deserted him, but the Houston star came up big on the defensive end in the Rockets’ 104-102 -clinching win over Oklahoma City in the playoffs on Wednesday (Sept 2).

Harden leapt to a potential game-winning three-point attempt by Thunder rookie Luguentz Dort with 4.8 seconds remaining as the Rockets held on through a frantic finish to win the best-of-seven Western Conference series four games to three and book a second-round showdown with LeBron James and the Los Angeles .

In a closely contested game, Houston took the lead for good, 103-102, on PJ Tucker’s driving basket with 1:25 remaining.

The ball changed hands several times before the Thunder got it into the hands of the red-hot Dort, whose dream night was ended by Harden’s big block.

Houston’s Robert Covington drained a free throw with 1.4 seconds left to make it 104-102.

Then Harden was called for a foul on Danilo Gallinari before the ball was inbounded, giving the Thunder a free throw and the ball.

Gallinari missed from the foul line and the Thunder turned the ball over on the final inbounds pass.

“I couldn’t make a shot, turning the ball over, just everything that was not supposed to happen,” said Harden, the NBA’s leading scorer who had just 17 points on four-of-15 shooting.

“But I just kept sticking with it,” he said. “Defensively I had to make a play.”

Covington and Eric Gordon scored 21 points apiece for the Rockets. Covington also pulled down 10 rebounds and Russell Westbrook added 20 points for Houston against his former team.

Dort, a 21-year-old undrafted Canadian, scored a career-best 30 points for the Thunder and Chris Paul, who was traded for Westbrook prior to the season, added a triple-double of 19 points 12 assists and 11 rebounds for Oklahoma City.

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