Houston came out aggressive immediately, with Howard scoring the first 13 points of the game, while Robin Lopez picked up his first foul in front of a howling crowd. However, led by Aldridge, the Blazers stayed right with them early, leading by 2 going into the first break. Houston jumped ahead afterward, but as the bench arrived, the Blazers stayed within three into the next timeout. But afterward, the unforced errors reappeared for Portland, and Houston took advantage with aggressive shooting and rebounding. They led by 8 after the first quarter, as Howard rung up the Blazers for 19 points.
The Blazers' bench fought back to start the second quarter, as they quickly closed the gap to 3 on Dorell Wright's free throws. They couldn't get any closer, as mental mistakes and poor shot selection prevented them from tying the game. A couple more lapses led to an 8 point Houston lead in front of a boisterous crowd. But Portland would not go away meekly, as Aldridge led the Blazers to close the gap to 4 with three minutes left, then Batum cut it to 3 with two minutes left. As Houston struggled to score, Aldridge cut it to 1 with a free throws at the one minute mark. As the clock wound down to halftime, Matthews nailed a three-pointer to put the Blazers ahead, but Patrick Beverley tied it with a fadeaway at the buzzer. Nothing was settled at halftime.
Aldridge gave the Blazers the lead coming out of the locker room, followed by a Lopez tip-in for a 4 point lead. An Aldridge jumper pushed it to 7 in the opening minutes, then another made it a 9 point lead! But two quick fouls went on Lopez to force him to the bench, as every foul suddenly went against the Blazers. Combined with some Blazer misses, the Rockets went on an immediate run, tying the score in a few short minutes. Out of the timeout, Howard picked up his fourth foul, and Aldridge gave the Blazers the lead again. After a Houston turnover, Lillard nailed a three to push the lead back to 5 with five minutes left. But Houston closed the gap quickly, and took the lead on a Lillard turnover. The teams fought back and forth for the rest of the quarter, but Aldridge took over, and combined with a Wright three-pointer, the Blazers led by 6 at the end of the third.
After taking a third quarter lead, Joel Freeland picked up four fouls in the first 75 seconds of the fourth quarter. Mo picked up the fourth team foul with 9:30 left in the quarter, putting Houston in the bonus. As the Rockets started to close the gap, the Blazers nailed back to back three-pointers to push the lead to 8 points. Houston called timeout. As the fourth quarter hit the halfway point, Lillard's drive forced Howard's fifth foul. He hit one free throw to give Portland a 9 point lead. The teams exchanged points for agonizing minutes, and as the clock ticked under 4 minutes, Portland maintained a 9 point lead. Aldridge got an offensive rebound and layup to maintain the lead with 3 minutes left. Houston cut the lead to 8 with a free throw, but Houston gave up an unexpected 24-second violation with 2:20 left. Batum missed a three with 2 minutes left, but an ugly Blazer turnover on the break led to a Rockets layup to cut the lead to 6 with 90 seconds left. Aldridge missed a fadeaway, and Harden's layup cut it to a 4 point lead with 1:08 left. Portland called timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Blazers almost turned the ball over. Aldridge missed a jumper, but Lillard grabbed the offensive board and was fouled. He hit both for a 6 point lead with 43 seconds left. Out of another timeout, Houston quickly went to Howard, who was immediately fouled by Lopez. He hit both to cut the lead to 4. But the Rockets forgot to cover the back court, and Matthews was left alone for a layup with 33 seconds left! The crowds was shocked into silence! However, Harden nailed a three, and the Rockets fouled Lillard with 28 seconds left. He calmly hit both free throws again for a 5 point lead. The Rockets struggled to get off a shot, and Harden pushed off.. and was called for an offensive foul, fouling out with 21 seconds left! Houston had nothing left, and Portland pulled off another shocking victory on the road to go up 2-0 in the first round!
The Blazers were led by another MVP-caliber night from LaMarcus Aldridge who scored 43 points with 8 rebounds, with help from Damian Lillard (18 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds), Dorell Wright (15 points on 3-4 three-pointers) and Mo Williams (13 points).
A full day off for travel, and the two teams are back at it for Game 3, Friday night in Portland.
In the meantime, stay tuned for Dave's analysis of tonight's game, and plenty of coverage of the aftermath.
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