Houston's three-pointers were falling early, negating Portland's hot shooting start. With the score tied, Lopez picked up his second foul at the halfway point of the first. Joel Freeland took over for him. Chandler Parsons led the first half with 19 points as Houston moved the ball around to success. Late in the half, James Harden seemingly pushed Wesley Matthews to the ground, then calmly shot an open three-pointer. He swished it, and Wesley picked up a technical foul. That gave Houston a 10 point lead at halftime. The half ended with the crowd raining boos to the officials, head referee Ken Mauer reportedly stared at the scoreboard in (possibly mock) response.
Nothing improved in the second half, as the Rockets seemed dialed-in on offense, and Portland struggled to get their shots. They puled within 6 halfway into the quarter. They even closed to 5, but usually a costly mistake, like a missed defensive assignment or turnover, betrayed their chance to tie it up. Houston easily held the Blazers at bay. Lillard took a fadeaway three-pointer at the third quarter buzzer... and it rattled home to a monster cheer. Portland trailed by 5 after three.
Dorell Wright hit a three to close the gap to 2, but the Rockets scored the next 6 points to force a Blazer timeout. Afterward, Portland scored the next 5 points to pull close again. Portland called timeout on a loose ball, and gave it to Lillard for three. Swish. The game was tied at 94. But Harden hit a desperation three at the other end. With less than 5 minutes left, the Blazers were down by 1 and had a chance for the lead. Batum for three... swish! The crowd roared to life and Houston took a timeout. The Blazers held a three point lead with 3:30 left. Houston missed two opportunities, and a great pass from Lillard to a rolling (!) Aldridge led to a layup and a 5 point Blazer lead. The crowd roared as Houston took another timeout.
The Rockets went to Howard, who drew a tough foul on Lopez to force him to the bench for the night. He hit both free throws. After Batum missed a three, Howard went back to the line. He hit one of two to cut the Blazer lead to 2 with two minutes left. Howard blocked a Lillard layup, but Beverley missed a three at the other end. Howard blocked Batum's layup, and Harden was fouled in transition at the other end. The game was tied, after a rough stretch for Blazer fans everywhere. Aldridge missed, and Harden was fouled in transition at the other end. He hit two more free throws to give the Rockets a 2 point lead. Portland called timeout. On the next possession, they blew it. Then blew it again. Then blew it again. Then blew it AGAIN. Then Mo Williams for three... swish. An absolutely insane sequence, as the crowd lost their minds, and Portland led by 1 with 18 seconds left.
But Houston had one more shot. They went to Harden, who drove to the hoop, but was blocked by Aldridge! Wright went to the line with 8 seconds left, and missed the first free throw. He hit the second. Houston took control, down by 2. They went to Harden for a drive, who then dished to Howard for a dunk. The game was tied with 3 seconds left, and Portland had one shot to put the Rockets on the brink. Unfortunately, they were left with a 26-foot Mo jumper, which bricked badly. Overtime.
The overtime opened with Matthews wrestling the ball away from Howard on the ground and calling timeout. The battle was on. Aldridge got free out of the timeout and was fouled hard by Chandler Parsons. He was called for a flagrant one foul. Aldridge hit both, but Wesley turned the ball over on the ensuing possession. Howard tied it up at the other end, and Matthews hit two to restore the Blazer lead with 3:30 left. Howard was fouled and bounced them in to tie the game. Batum worked around him at the other end for a layup and the lead with 3 minutes left. Howard went to the hoop, but Aldridge bounced the ball off him for the turnover. At the other end, Batum for three. Swish. The Blazers again took a 5 point lead late, with 2:34 left this time.
After a timeout, Houston missed at the other end, break for Portland, Batum to Lillard, layup for a 7 point lead. Howard dunked at the other end, but Aldridge restored the lead. Harden airballed a three, but it ended up in Troy Daniels' hands for three, swish. 4 point lead. Lillard turned it over at the other end with 70 seconds left. Harden hit a jumper to cut it to 2 with 50 seconds left. Aldridge missed a fadeaway, and the Rockets had a chance to take the lead. The Blazers defense held, and Howard was called for a (very clear) foul on the rebound. Lillard got free throws with 17 seconds left, still up by 2. He calmly hit both, for a 4 point lead.
After the timeout, Houston needed to find points. Parsons for three... complete brick. Aldridge got the rebound, but aggravatingly missed both free-throws. The Rockets still needed 4 points with 10 seconds left. Daniels went for a three, and the refs called a foul on the shot. He hit all three for a 1 point game. Mo was fouled, and went to the line with 8 seconds left, no Houston timeouts. He hit both, and Matthews stole the ball coming up court! The Blazers win!
[Thanks to YouTube user Watchnba201415]
The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 29 points and 1 rebounds, Damian Lillard's 23 points and 8 assists, Wesley Matthews' 21 points, and Nicolas Batum's 25 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists. Robin Lopez added a playoff career-high for rebounds (11) despite fouling out while battling Howard.
The teams get two days off to travel to Houston, where the series picks up for Game 5 Wednesday night.
In the meantime, Dave Deckard will have extended analysis of tonight's game, Ben Golliver will post his onsite Media Row Report, and we'll have lots of coverage of the aftermath over the next few days.
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night!