Butler, Miami take Game 1 against Milwaukee, 115-104

CHRIS PAUL scored a team-high 28 points and carried the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 104-100 victory over the Houston Rockets on Monday near Orlando, forcing a decisive seventh game in the teams’ Western Conference first-round playoff series.

Game 7 is scheduled for Wednesday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, with the winner advancing to oppose the Los Angeles Lakers in the conference semifinals.

Paul tallied 15 points in the fourth quarter and drilled back-to-back 3-pointers that pulled the Thunder even at 98-98 with 2:57 remaining. His two free throws with 13.1 seconds left provided the winning margin for the Thunder.

Paul added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals in 40 turnover-free minutes. The Rockets, conversely, committed 22 turnovers, including seven from Russell Westbrook, whose errant pass following the Paul free throws sealed the defeat for the mistake-prone Rockets.

James Harden paced the Rockets with 32 points and also had eight rebounds and seven assists but committed five turnovers. Robert Covington added 18 points, five steals and three blocks for Houston but was the defender on both Paul treys and committed the foul that placed Paul at the line late.

There were 14 lead changes and 11 ties. The Thunder surged back into contention with a 16-3 run that bridged the final two periods, pushing to an 85-78 lead in the process.

Danilo Gallinari chipped in 25 points for Oklahoma City and Luguentz Dort, who shot 0-for-nine from behind the arc in Game 5, hit two 3-pointers as part of the run that lifted the Thunder back in contention in the third.

Westbrook scored 17 points while Eric Gordon missed nine of 12 shots and had nine points for Houston.

The Rockets and Thunder combined for 10 turnovers and five-for-22 3-point shooting in what was a ragged first quarter, but Harden provided the Rockets a bit of stability in the second. He amassed 17 points, four rebounds and four assists prior to the intermission, and his length-of-the-court pass to Gordon resulted in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that provided Houston a 51-48 lead at the break.

Jimmy Butler hit three consecutive hoops down the stretch to cap a postseason career-high, 40-point performance Monday night as the fifth-seeded Miami Heat stunned the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks 115-104 in the opener of their Eastern Conference semifinal series in the NBA bubble near Orlando.

Goran Dragic chipped in with 27 points and Bam Adebayo accumulated a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 17 rebounds as the Heat, who won the season series 2-1 from the Bucks, got the jump in the best-of-seven.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was held to 18 points in the loss, which was Milwaukee’s second straight in an opening game. The Bucks dropped Game 1 to Orlando in the first round before rebounding with four consecutive decisive wins.— Reuters