Nene gives Rockets a lift in place of hampered Harden

OKLAHOMA CITY • With James Harden battling an injured ankle, and unable to attack the rim the way he had in the first three games of the series, the Houston Rockets needed someone else to be a force near the basket in Game Four.

That was Nene.

The Rockets' reserve centre had 28 points and 10 rebounds, making all 12 of his field-goal tries, in their 113-109 win over Oklahoma City at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday.

"It was kind of a man's game, and he's a man," Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni said. "He was unbelievable in all facets. That's Nene."

The Rockets lead the best-of-seven series 3-1 heading into Game Five today in Houston.

Nene's 12-for-12 performance tied the NBA play-off record for most field goals without a miss.

Harden had 16 points and shot five-of-16 from the floor, missing all seven of his three-point attempts.

"That's what a team is for," he said. "I believe and trust in these guys all year long. We say every game that it's not just going to be one guy that wins us games.

"Different nights, different guys step up, and that was the case tonight."

While Houston were able to find a way to thrive with their star limited, the Thunder could not find a way to produce when their own star player headed to the bench or when he needed support.

Russell Westbrook finished with 35 points, 14 rebounds and 14 assists for his third consecutive triple-double in the series.

The Thunder were outscored by 17 points without Westbrook on the floor, but, after the game, he shot down a question to team-mate Steven Adams about his team's ineffectiveness once he heads to the bench.

"I don't want nobody to try to split us up. We're all one team," Westbrook said.

"If I go to the bench and Steven's on the floor and I'm off the floor, we're in this together.

"Don't try to split us up, try to make us go against each other, try to make it Russell and the rest of the guys, Russell against Houston. I don't want to hear that."

Houston's bench outscored Oklahoma City's reserves 64-22.

At Salt Lake City, Joe Johnson scored 13 of his game-high 28 points over the final seven minutes on Sunday to lead the Utah Jazz to a 105-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game Four of their Western Conference first-round series.

Utah evened the best-of-seven series at two games apiece. It was the first home play-off win for the Jazz in seven years.

Game Five is scheduled for today in Los Angeles.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2017, with the headline 'Nene gives Rockets a lift in place of hampered Harden'. Print Edition | Subscribe