The game opened with a memorable introduction sequence in front of a red-hot crowd, as captured by YouTube user Watchnba201415:
The Rockets jumped out to a 9-0 lead that none of the country saw because the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls were exchanging dumb fouls for 15 minutes.But Portland quickly pulled back into the game with a few stops and timely jumpers. Aldridge tied it up at 13 with a jumper at the halfway point of the quarter. But Patrick Beverley hit 3 first quarter three-pointers to keep Houston ahead. As the calls went against Portland during the second half of the quarter, Houston jumped ahead. After erasing a Blazer three-pointer due to a moving screen, the refs ignored a moving screen for Houston, opening James Harden for a three-pointer to give the Rockets an 11 point lead at the buzzer.
Houston pushed the lead to 12, but with Aldridge on the bench, Lillard took over, scoring 7 straight to contribute to a 16 point Blazer run, leaving the Rockets shocked and headed to a timeout. Behind Lopez' defense and Batum creating on offense (and Lillard going crazy all over the court), Portland's lead reached 5. As Houston quickly closed the gap, Aldridge returned with 5 minutes left in the quarter. Houston's pick and roll worked like magic, keeping them ahead as the quarter wound down. But a loose-ball foul by Patrick Beverley on an offensive rebound gave the Blazers a one-point halftime lead.
It took a minute for the Rockets to regain the lead in the second half, then the teams exchanged leads. But back-to-back three-pointers in transition pushed the Houston lead to six, forcing a Portland timeout. They cut the lead to three, but struggled to get back to even ground against a desperate Rockets team. Houston stuck with their classic offense (minus Chandler Parsons, who had 4 fouls), and Portland had a few lapses in defense, but thanks to some timely Aldridge work, they only trailed by three at the end of the quarter.
The fourth quarter didn't start out well, as Matthews was blocked, then Houston hit a three, then Mo missed, and Houston got a three-point play. Ouch. In one minute, Portland had a 3 point deficit balloon to 9. Harden's three pushed the lead to 10, forcing a Blazer timeout. Aldridge cut the deficit to 8, but Harden restored it. Houston's defense picked up and took Portland out of their game, but a Mo Williams four-point play pulled Portland within 7, then followed it with a jumper to force a Houston timeout. Unfortunately, a Harden block was called as an offensive foul, canceling out a Lillard three-point play, which helped Houston maintain their lead.
After a timeout, Aldridge completed a three-point play to cut the deficit to 6. As the clock rolled under 5, Hack-A-Howard started. He hit one of two. Lillard was fouled and hit both for a 5 point deficit. With the same deficit, Lillard barreled into the lane, was fouled and threw it up... swish! The free throw cut the deficit to 2. And Dwight to the line again, and he hit both. Houston led by 4 with 4 minutes left. Aldridge missed, but Houston committed a 24 second violation, helped by some nice defense. Batum burned Parsons at the other end for a layup and a two point deficit. They fouled Howard again, and he hit one for a 3 point lead. Mo was fouled on the drive, and hit both to cut the deficit to 1 with 2:30 left. Harden missed, and Lillard drove by him at the other end for a layup and the lead with 2 minutes left! Houston called timeout as the crowd erupted.
Out of the timeout, Harden was fouled on a jumper and gave Houston back the lead. Aldridge missed, and the refs called another foul for Harden. The Rockets lead was three with 1 minute left. Matthews missed a three, but the Rockets missed a layup in transition. Which led to Batum for three... SWISH! The game was tied! Harden missed and Portland took control with 30 seconds left. They went to Lillard, but he missed a jumper, and Houston got control of the ball with 3 seconds left, with the score tied. They went to Harden from half-court... no. The teams headed to overtime for the second time in three games!
Houston missed to open overtime, and Batum swooped in for a layup and the lead. But the Rockets tied it on free throws. Aldridge was fouled on the drive, which forced Parsons to the bench for the night. His free throws gave Portland a 2 point lead again, and he denied Howard at the other end. Lillard took it to the hole, and in a marvel of body control, nailed a reverse layup for a 4 point Blazer lead at the 3:08 mark. Houston called timeout to reset.
The Rockets went to Harden, who missed, but Howard was fouled on the rebound. Getting another chance, they cut it to 2 with a jumper. Aldridge missed at the other end, and Matthews fouled out on the rebound. With two minutes left, Harden nailed a step-back jumper to tie the game again. Batum had an open three, but just missed it, and Houston had a chance to take the lead, but turned it over with 1:17 left.
Out of a timeout, Portland went to Aldridge, who was forced to shoot a jumper but missed. Houston missed a three, and the Blazers took control with 45 left. Lillard went 2-for-1 and missed a three-pointer. Houston lost the ball, but it bounced to their rookie Troy Daniels, who hit a three-point with 11 seconds. The Blazers went to Batum, who missed a three, and Houston held on for the win.
The Blazers spread the scoring across the team tonight, with 6 players in double figures.
Both teams have a day off in Portland tomorrow, and the series picks up Sunday night for Game 4.
But stay put, there is tons of coverage coming of tonight's game, including Dave's analysis and Ben's onsite Media Row Report.
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