The Blazers were led by LaMarcus Aldridge's 30 points, 13 rebounds and 2 assists, and Damian Lillard's 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and one franchise-changing three-pointer at the buzzer.
Portland jumped out to a 7-0 lead to force a Rockets timeout. They responded quickly with two steals to easily tie the game. Harden hit back to back three-pointers to put Houston ahead, and Howard pushed the lead to 4, and another three-pointer made it 5. Yet another three-pointer made it an 8 point lead, as the Rockets simply couldn't miss. Then they started walking to the free throw line, and the lead reached 10. But Portland's defense tightened, and a Lillard four-point play cut the deficit to 2. Howard nailed a dunk, and as the clock ran down, Lillard stepped back for three. Swish. He scored the last night points for Portland, who cut the 10 point deficit to 1 by the end of the first quarter.
Portland tied the game in the opening minutes of the second quarter, which led to the teams swapping the lead. But at the halfway point, the Rockets got hot from three again, and took a 6 point lead. Behind Aldridge, Portland quickly cut it to 1, and he drew the third foul on both Omer Asik and Dwight Howard on back to back plays. They wasted possessions, but Portland took the lead on a steal and Matthews layup. Lillard got open for three, swish and a 4 point lead. But Wesley missed two open three-pointers, then a layup, then committed a foul and Houston easily scored 8 straight points lead by 4.A late Mo Williams jumper kept the game within 2 at halftime.
After halftime, a number of fans surprisingly slowly and lazily got back to their seats. They arrived to a quick run from the Rockets to take control. Portland called timeout, down 8 yet again. Harden was hot, hitting all over the court and getting to the line to keep the Rockets ahead. Portland stayed close but blew chances to get even. Houston still led by 4 with four minutes left in the third. A Lillard three finally cut the lead to 1, and the teams played to a standstill down the stretch. Houston led by 1 heading into the deciding quarter.
A Nicolas Batum three gave the Blazers the lead to open the quarter, and a monster Robinson dunk pushed their lead to 4. But Portland came up empty, and Howard tied the game inside with 7 minutes left. The teams played mismatches over the next few minutes, and Lopez' FT's gave Portland a 4 point lead with five minutes left. But the Rockets wouldn't go away quietly, as Howard hit two FT's to tie the game with just over 3 minutes left, when Howard's layup gave them the lead. Lopez had a great tip-in to give the Blazers the lead with 2:10 left, but a lucky ball went to Howard for three-point play that gave Houston control again. Matthews missed again, and Howard went back to the line. He missed both, but Portland just couldn't hit anything. Houston still led by 2 with 48 seconds left.
Out of a timeout, Batum got a mismatch on Howard, and took a fadeaway. Swish. Tie game with 40 seconds left. The Rockets missed, but Lillard was out of bounds, so the Rockets got a second shot with 28 seconds left and a fresh shot clock. They missed, but the ball fell into Chandler Parsons' hands right under the hoop, and a layup gave the Rockets the lead with 0.9 seconds left, as the crowd groaned.
Portland had one last shot. They went to Damian Lillard, who took the "Brandon Roy shot".
Swish. The crowd explodes.
In one of the great moments in Trail Blazer history, Damian Lillard sends the Blazers to the second round!
[Courtesy YouTube User Watchnba201415]
A few days off! The Mavericks won Game 6 against San Antonio, so they play Sunday in the home of the Alamo. The winner of that series plays Portland next week for a trip to the Conference Finals.
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