Both teams came out with the energy you'd expect in a closeout game, with both sides attempting to wrest control early, but eventually only holding serve. Aldridge picked up his second foul halfway into the quarter and headed to the bench. But minutes later, Dorell Wright drew Dwight Howard's second foul in turn. Behind Chandler Parsons, the Rockets went on a small run to take control, but Mo kept the Blazers close. Portland went cold late though, and Houston took a 3 point lead into the second quarter.
The Rockets picked up their defense and energy to open the second, and Portland was caught unprepared, giving up 11 straight points to fall behind by 14 in the opening minutes. Portland looked lost, giving up lazy turnovers and allowing the Rockets to do whatever they want. And the Rockets looked inspired. Portland responded with 7 straight points, but James Harden settled down the Rockets, who restored their 14 point lead in minutes, then increased it to 17. A Portland run was inevitable, and they quickly cut the deficit to 5 while Howard was on the bench. But a late Rockets three kept them ahead by 8 at halftime.
Portland scored the first four points of the second half, but the Rockets quickly restored a double-digit lead. The teams pinballed the lead all quarter, including a flagrant foul against Lopez on Howard. The Rockets had a number of lucky breaks go their way down the stretch, while the Blazers (specifically Wesley Matthews) got hot from three. In the end, Houston held down a 5 point lead heading into the deciding quarter.
The Rockets got a big three from Parsons to stay ahead early, and held down a 9 point lead to force a Blazer timeout with just over 9 minutes left. But with Howard and Harden on the bench, Batum led Portland to 6 quick points and a 3 point deficit, and Asik picked up his fifth foul. Portland cut the deficit to 1 with 7 minutes left, but Houston rode Howard to keep the lead. Asik fouled out with Houston leading by 2 at the five minute mark. Neither team could score until Harden's layup put Houston ahead by 4. Lillard's layup cut it to 2, but Harden replied with a three-pointer to give Houston a 5 point lead with three minutes left. Portland struggled to hit shots, and Terrence Jones got an offensive rebound and layup to put Houston ahead by 7 with 2 minutes left. Portland couldn't make any breaks down the stretch, and Houston pulled away for a victory they desperately needed.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard's 26 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. Wesley Matthews added 27 points and 3 blocks, Nicolas Batum contributed 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and Robin Lopez finished 17 points and 8 rebounds. LaMarcus Aldridge struggled all night, tallying just 8 points and rebounds.
Get ready, the Blazers and Rockets return to Portland on Friday night for a gigantic Game 6, at 7:30pm on ESPN and KGW. But stay tuned, plenty more from Ben and Dave later tonight. The Blazers gave details in a press release:
PORTLAND, Ore. (April 30, 2014) – Game Six of the First Round series between the Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets will start at 7:30 p.m. (Pacific) on Friday, May 2. The game will be carried locally on KGW NewsChannel 8, and also broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Every seat inside the Moda Center for Game Six will feature a Rip City rally towel, presented by Les Schwab Tires. Additionally, red LED glow sticks will be handed out to fans during ingress.
Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by visiting trailblazers.com or calling 844-RIP-CITY. Fans can access current season ticket holder pricing on playoff tickets, which is more than 50 percent off the retail price, by purchasing 2014-15 season tickets.
The NBA Playoffs have brought an increase in ticket fraud on the secondary market. Fans are encouraged to protect themselves by purchasing tickets directly from the team website or box office.
The Trail Blazers lead the best-of-seven series 3-2, heading back to Portland for Game Six (Home Game 3). If necessary, Game Seven will be played in Houston on Sunday, May 4.
Gameday Thread Comments of the Night!
Thanks to all who hung out in our nonstop Gameday Thread tonight. It was about as crazy as you'd expect on a night like this. Here were some highlights, based on the number of recs from their fellow fans: