The youthful Rockets may be on the verge of playoff elimination, but it’s not for lack of effort by their oldest players on the court.

Francisco Garcia, 32, and Carlos Delfino, 30, had 18 and 11 points, respectively, to spark a second-half Rockets rally that fell short by the margin of Kevin Durant’s seeing-eye 3-pointer, the critical blow of Oklahoma City’s Game 3 victory Saturday night.

With Jeremy Lin rendered ineffective by his bruised chest, Rockets coach Kevin McHale’s frequently tweaked rotation came down in the second half to heavy doses of Garcia, who played 32 minutes, and Delfino, who nursed his aching elbow through 22:07.

Each did enough, absent Durant’s final 3-pointer plus the 38 points that preceded it, to get the Rockets back in the game and avoid a 3-0 deficit that in NBA history is tantamount to playoff elimination.

“We played so hard in the second half,” Garcia said. “I’m proud of my guys.”

Garcia helped keep the struggling Rockets within hailing distance with 10 second-quarter points. Lin started the third period, but Garcia re-entered the game for good with seven minutes left in the third quarter and the Rockets trailing 73-58.

He had five points in the quarter, including a 3-pointer in the final minute, and perhaps more importantly harried Durant, who had just two points in the period.


Delfino, scoreless through three quarters, picked up the slack in the fourth, scoring all 11 of his points with a pair of 3-pointers that kept the game a one-possession affair and a third long-distance shot that gave the Rockets a 94-93 lead with 3:45 to play.

The Thunder retook the lead, but Garcia gave the Rockets their final lead with a 25-footer on which James Harden drove to the basket, kicked the ball to Delfino in the right corner and Delfino dished to Garcia for the basket.

Both lived up to their role as the Rockets’ veteran presence. Garcia came to the Rockets as part of the Thomas Robinson trade in February and played a significant role in the season’s final month, with five double-figure totals in the last 10 games of the regular season.