Batum (35 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 5 blocks) and Lillard (27 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) established new career highs in points, while Aldridge (29 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks) took care of business. Wesley Matthews (15 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) helped along the way. And in a substitution change, Meyers Leonard (8 points, 8 rebounds) took over for JJ Hickson in crunch time.
First Quarter: Turnovers were the story early. The Blazers had 4, and it helped jump-start the Rockets break. Despite a nice quarter from Nicolas Batum, Houston's 10 fast break points gave them a 5 point lead. Victor Claver appeared early and joined the starters. In a pleasant surprise, he brought energy to the court and did not look out of place.
Just created an account. This is a whole different world with auto-refresh comments. No more F5 and scrolling down for me.
by BeesAndDees [who joined the site tonight, along with BlazerMeg. Welcome!]
Second Quarter: The Blazers picked up where they left off, with another turnover, and 5 quick Houston points. From there, the Blazers went into comeback mode. Their energy and aggression made up for offensive limitations, but their defensive limitations caused a larger problem. A James Harden three-pointer pushed the lead to 11, and Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts called timeout. It didn't help, as the Rockets soon pushed the lead to 16. However, the Blazer starters initiated a late run, and Houston couldn't respond. They ended on a 9-0 run, leaving a 7 point deficit at the half.
Down to single digits. I’ll take it.
by FPS NorthWest
Third Quarter: Unfortunately, the Blazers could not continue their momentum into the second half. More defensive miscues left the Blazers in a double-digit hole again within minutes. Missed free throws and a few bad luck plays (Rockets in the right place at the right time) pushed the deficit to 15 again. Repeated comeback attempts were betrayed by their poor defense, allowing easy Houston buckets. Then, out of nowhere, Batum caught fire. He scored 12 straight points, personally closing the gap to 5. Then a Lillard to Leonard alley-oop on the break cut it to three. Lillard followed with a beautiful drive in traffic for a layup, cutting the lead to one as the third quarter ended.
Okay Blazer ambush time. Tied by the end of the 3rd
I told you all, Blazer ambush was coming and tied by end of the quarter
by sug [who shouldn't brag so much, he was off by 1 point]
Fourth Quarter: A Matthews layup to finally put the weary Blazers ahead. However, Houston found offense against a strange hybrid of starters and bench players. They led by 4 when Batum returned, and it was seconds before his next three. But the poor Blazer defense continued to give the Rockets opportunities, both inside and from three. Soon, the Rockets lead reached 7. Even though Batum's shooting cooled, the Blazers cut the lead to 3 with less than four minutes left. A Lillard three cut the lead to two shortly after. However, as Batum jumped up and down asking for the ball, Damian shot an open three for the lead, and missed. Lillard made up for it, but Batum missed a three. However, Leonard rebounded, and hit two free throws to tie the game with 2 minutes left.
On Houston's possession, Harden turned the ball over against Matthews' defense, and Jeremy Lin grabbed Lillard at half court with only Blazers waiting for an easy dunk. In a shocking call, the referees did not indicate clear path. Lillard hit free throws, but Houston got the ball, and Harden immediately nailed a three. However, Lillard drove the lane with under a minute left, and again snuck a layup into the hoop for the lead. However, he was hit on the head and down on the sidelines. Houston, playing 5 on 4, got Asik a dunk attempt, only to be blocked by the dominant Batum. And after a timeout, Lillard struck again. With Lin defending, Lillard nailed a step-back jumper with 17.9 seconds left to give the Blazers a 3 point lead. In turn, Houston used Harden as a decoy, giving Marcus Morris an open three, and he hit his fourth of the night to tie the game. Lillard missed a three at the buzzer, and we headed to overtime again.
Overtime: Neither team could score in the first minute. But Harden hit a layup as he was fouled by Matthews to give Houston a 3 point lead. In turn, Damian Lillard nailed a three at the other end. Asik's free throws gave Houston the lead again, but Lillard responded with a heavily-guarded two-pointer with a toe on the three point line. Asik missed, Lillard missed, and Portland stole the ball. Matthews missed a three against the shot clock, but Leonard retried the board with 90 seconds left. Aldridge settled down the offense, and was fouled in the paint, fouling out Asik. He hit one of two free throws. At the other end, Harden drove, but Matthews again stopped him, knocking the ball out off his leg. Aldridge again settled the offense down, scoring inside against the weakened Houston defense, then Batum responded with a monster block on Harden at the other end!
Down by three, Houston had another opportunity with 30 seconds left as the Blazer bench was on their feet in excitement. Morris finally missed a three, and in a wild scrum, Houston re-gained the ball, so the Blazers intentionally fouled Harden to gain possession with 1.7 seconds left. He hit the first, and needed to miss the second to attempt the rebound. However, Houston couldn't gain control, and the crowd headed home delirious after an inspiring win.
I just love seeing a team with guys who want the ball during crunch time. I remember last year nobody wanted to fill Roy’s void of “closing”. Now we’ve got just about everybody on the floor begging for the ball and executing when they need to. What a great change.
The next game is Sunday, at home against the Chicago Bulls. Stay tuned, Dave will have analysis later, then Ben will have a fun Media Row report, I'm sure.
-- Tim (firstname.lastname@example.org)