[Hi all! I'm covering for Dave tonight, whose DVR ate the recording of this game]
The Short Version
The Blazers come back from a 13 point fourth quarter deficit, capping an up-and-down performance with a few clutch shots for a 103-100 win over the Rockets. Kevin Martin did everything he could, scoring 45 points, but the Rockets had no answer for LaMarcus Aldridge down the stretch.
The Long Version
Portland started the game playing inspired basketball after their previous night's loss. In the first, they quickly looked inside, trying to score all easy points they could against Houston's short-staffed front line. But they weren't simply feeding the ball to LaMarcus: 7 Blazers scored in the first, including all 5 starters. Houston could not simply shut down one player and hope to keep Portland from scoring. However, Portland discovered a big problem at the other end. Kevin Martin, who had struggled for weeks, was suddenly finding his shot. He scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers.
The Blazers' balanced scoring attack shined in the second. The Rockets defense gave Portland easy buckets, but the Blazers could not shut the Rockets down either. For the first 6 minutes, neither team could gain an advantage. Suddenly, the Blazers went to work. In quick succession, Marcus Camby hits two free throws, then Aldridge finds his range for 6 points. A 5-point Blazer lead ballooned to 13, and the dejected Rockets call a timeout. Houston regroups behind Kevin Martin to stay within shouting distance at halftime, 55-47.
If you're planning to watch this on your DVR (sorry Dave!), just skip the third quarter. The Blazers come out of the locker room like they were each given a few Benadryls while listening to the halftime speech. Andre Miller uncharacteristically tried to force shots against double and triple teams. Batum misses a jumper. LMA misses a jumper. LMA with a bad pass. Batum misses a jumper. LMA with a bad pass. Detecting a pattern? Clearly, so was Houston's defense. Meanwhile, the Rockets offense came alive and ran a clinic against the lethargic Blazers D. With 4 minutes gone, Portland was already down by 3 points. From there, Aldridge and Miller helped right the ship, until Mt. St. Kevin Martin exploded. Doing his best NBA Jam impression, Martin's ball caught fire. He scored 19 points in the third quarter, and Houston led by 6 heading to the fourth.
Nate McMillan chose to give one lineup a chance: Mills, Rudy, Batum, Dante, and LMA. Nobody else would be seen from the start of the fourth, until there are 13 seconds left. This lineup would either win the game or lose it, all on their own.
Early in the fourth, the decision didn't look good. The Blazers looked like they were trying to injure the rim with the basketball. By the time Chase Budinger hit a three, the Blazers trailed by 13 points. Portland seemed ready to pack it in, all the signs were there: Shooting jumpers, bad body language, walking slowly after whistles. Then something funny happened: Those jumpers started falling. Patty hits a jumper. Rudy for three. Nic for three. Their lead shrunk to 5, Houston tried to stop the bleeding with a timeout, but Brad Miller earned a technical foul, giving the Blazers an extra point after the timeout. Portland quickly finished a 13-0 run to tie the game. After some back-and-forth play, both teams were looking for a hero.
Down one with less than a minute left, a hero came from an unlikely location: The struggling Rudy Fernandez. With the shot clock running down, and everyone covered, Rudy jumps sideways, adjusts in mid-air and flings a jumper. Swish. Kevin Martin cannot answer, and the Blazers get the ball to LaMarcus, who fools the defender for an easy two in the paint. After a few free throws, Houston made it interesting with a three pointer, but it would go down as a road W for the Blazers.
LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers (again!) with 27 points and 13 rebounds. Houston found no success defending against him inside.
The rest of the starters all scored between 9 and 11 points in a balanced effort. Wesley Matthews noticeably struggled again tonight (4-12 FG, 9 points).
From the bench, Patty Mills hit a few big threes to end with 14 points. Dante Cunningham gave the Rockets fits, finishing with 10 points and 5 rebounds. And despite shooting 3-11, Rudy Fernandez tallied 12 points, 5 assists, and one big jumper.
Conspicuously absent during most of the fourth quarter were Andre Miller and Marcus Camby, who played 19 and 25 minutes respectively. There were no signs of injury, they were simply spectators for the Blazer comeback.
Kevin Martin's final line: 45 points off of 18 shots, 6-8 from three and 13-15 FT's. Wow. He pulled out both the "sweep your arms up into the defender's arms" and "get the defender to jump, then lean in" moves for free throws. At one point, he took a three on the break as a heat-check. Swish.
Portland had only 21 assists on the 41 buckets, and were out-rebounded, 43-34. On another night, we could easily be frowning after a tough loss. But after the Dallas game, it looks like we were due for some good luck and a few timely shots.
The Blazers get a day off, and play Friday night in Minnesota. Win there, and Portland can head home with a winning road trip.
Commiserate about injuries with the understanding folks at the Dream Shake.
Here's the Jersey Contest Scoreboard, and the form for Friday night's game is not live yet.