OKLAHOMA CITY — James Harden scored 31 points and sank seven 3-pointers while fighting through flu-like symptoms, and the Houston Rockets beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 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 before fending off a rally that Oklahoma City helped stymie with its own strategy.
The Thunder, apparently doubting they could overcome an eight-point lead on their home court without Russell Westbrook, resorted to intentionally fouling Omer Asik — a 54 percent career foul shooter — with 5:33 to play. Asik went 8 for 12 from the line, extending Houston's lead to 101-92 with 3:53 remaining before Oklahoma City gave up the tactic.
Kevin Durant finished with 36 points for Oklahoma City, which must now travel to Houston for Game 6 on Friday night.
The Rockets played without starting point guard Jeremy Lin for the second straight game because of a bruised chest muscle. Key reserve Carlos Delfino didn't play in the second half because of a sore left foot.
They still had plenty of offense to earn their second straight win, getting 21 points and 11 rebounds from Asik and 18 points and five 3-pointers from Francisco Garcia. Patrick Beverley scored 14 and Aaron Brooks and Chandler Parsons chipped in 10 apiece.
Reggie Jackson contributed 20 points for the Thunder, who leaned heavily on Durant for a third straight game with Westbrook out for the playoffs with a right knee injury. But Durant did not score in the fourth quarter after helping Oklahoma City cut the 16-point deficit in half late in the third quarter.
Durant picked up a technical foul with 22 seconds left for complaining to official Bill Spooner.
Kevin Martin, Oklahoma City's sixth man who was acquired in a preseason trade for Harden, missed his first nine shots before making a jumper in the fourth quarter to finish with three points.
The Rockets made a series-high 14 3-pointers on 35 attempts, making up for getting outscored in the paint, in second-chance points and on the fast break. Oklahoma City made just 8 of 33 from 3-point range, missing 14 of its first 15 attempts.
Beverley, who made a lunging attempt at a steal in Game 2 that resulted in the knee injury that knocked out Westbrook, received a hearty boo during pregame introductions, then got booed again each time he touched the ball.
Undeterred, he drove against Jackson for the first basket of the game and the Rockets got out to a strong start. Beverley was called for a technical foul for thrusting his left forearm into Jackson after the Thunder guard made a steal attempt similar to the one that ended up with Westbrook getting hurt.
Durant hit the ensuing free throw to complete a string of eight straight Oklahoma City points and put the Thunder up 17-16. But Houston responded with its own 8-0 run and wouldn't trail again.
Harden's 3-pointer — his fourth in as many attempts in the first half — with 9.4 seconds left put the Rockets up 50-43 at halftime.
NOTES: Westbrook watched the game from a suite. He was unable to be on the bench because his leg needed to be extended. ... With the clock running down at the end of the game, Rockets coach Kevin McHale told Harden to "go ahead and shoot it if you like," but Harden opted to take the shot-clock violation. Derek Fisher popped in a 3-pointer for Oklahoma City at the final buzzer.