Finally, the ball did not bounce 12 feet in the air and stab the Rockets in the heart. Kevin Durant did not get the last shot. The Rockets held on.

After consecutive games in which the Rockets did everything but close out a win, they held their breath as a pair of final, last-chance Oklahoma City shots went up and held on as they came up short. When Reggie Jackson’s runner and Serge Ibaka put-back missed, the Rockets escaped, 105-103, sending the first-round series back to Oklahoma City with the Thunder leading 3-1, but giving the Rockets their first playoff win since 2009.

“We know we can play with these guys,” said Chandler Parsons, who led the Rockets with 27 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. “We know we can beat these guys. We were in the situation the last two games. No way we were going to give it up.”

They had clearly earned it, coming back from a 13-point deficit and making just enough stops with the game on the line to extend the season.

“Great win by us,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “It was a gutsy win. I told our guys before the game, ‘One thing about our team, we’re not going to lay down.’ They fought all year long. We had different lineups. We’ve had different kinds of stuff happen. The one constant has been their willingness to go out and scrap and fight. I said, ‘There’s no way we’re going to lay an egg tonight.’ We went out and we fought hard.”

The Rockets won when they made the defensive plays to make the last bits of their eight-point fourth quarter cushion just enough. After a five-minute stretch in which the Rockets made just 1 of 6 shots with four turnovers, two on James Harden offensive fouls that sent him to the bench with five fouls and 10 turnovers, the Rockets surged to a six-point lead on consecutive slick drives by Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley. Parsons added a free throw and the Rockets led by seven with just 2:20 left.

They never scored again. After a Parsons turnover, Durant rushed the Thunder to within two, first with a 3-pointer then with a drive through the Rockets defense and slam with 1:13 left. For the next three possessions, Harden isolated outside, ran down the shot clock and misses jumpers, the first two from beyond the 3-point arc with the second failing to catch a piece of the rim.

“We wanted to attack the paint,” McHale said. “We set up a play where I thought we had an overload situation where we could drive quick and kick out. The jump shots at the end are all or nothing shots. We got to get that thing in the paint.”