After getting clobbered by these same Blazers just four days ago, the Houston Rockets were coming off a loss to the Golden State Warriors last night, a game in which they actually participated in before the Warriors entered their phone booth and became the Warriors and promptly dispatched the Rockets.
Tonight was not the blow-out of Saturday's standards, but the Blazers use a balanced attack offensively while hounding the Rockets defensively leading to 20 Houston turnovers. Damian Lillard moved past Brandon Roy on the Blazers all-time scoring list and the Blazers head into the All-Star break at 27-27.
The Blazers were led by Damian Lillard with 31 points and 9 assists and eight other contributors. The Rockets were led by James Harden with 34 points and 10 assists and Dwight Howard with 28 points and 13 rebounds.
It was Turn Back the Clock Night for Dwight Howard, circa 2007-2008, as the Rockets went to him early and often. Even when the inside game was working so well for Houston, Howard had 11 points early on 5-for-5 field goals, James Harden would have no more of it and the offense quickly shifted back to a Harden-centric flow by mid-quarter. The Blazers used a balanced attack, led by Damian Lillard, to counter Houston's 1-2 punch of Harden and Howard. If you want to know the difference in how these two teams play, look no further than the first quarter. The Blazers used seven different players to score while the Rockets had only three, and that was only after Corey Brewer hit a last second three to tie it up after one.
End of First: Portland 29 , Houston 29
Patrick Beverley thrives on getting inside opponents heads, it's a part of his defensive tactics and what makes him exhausting to play against. That being said, maybe he shouldn't try those tactics on Damian Lillard anymore. Fast forward to the 5 minute mark and things escalated really fast. With the Blazers up only by 2, Beverley got a little too close defensively on Lillard, politely shoving him out of bounds for no other reason than it was Patrick Beverley. That seemed to incense Lillard and the rest of the Blazers as they went on a 17-4 run to end the half, most of it coming after the tussle between Lillard and Beverley. The Blazers continued their balanced attack while Houston continued to diminish anything Howard got going inside as it remained a two-man show for the Rockets. The Blazers continually got their hands on many of Houston's possessions leading to 12 fast break points off a handful of Rockets turnovers. This half was everything we expect a Blazers-Rockets match-up to be; it was chippy, talkative and highly entertaining. Bring on the second half.
Halftime: Portland 57, Houston 46
The Blazers continued to hound the Rockets defensively, with Harden being a victimized unmercifully. His seventh turnover of the game led to another Blazers' fast-break bucket and before you knew it, Portland led 84-65. Other than a few miscues on transition defense, Portland's defense seemed Broncos-like inspired while Myers Leonard looked as locked in tonight as he's been in a while, providing a nice quarter for the Blazers. After Portland took a 21-point lead, Harden led a late surge for Houston, along that with a lazy inbounds turnover by the Blazers near the end, the Rockets cut the lead going into the fourth quarter.
End of Third: Portland 92, Houston 81
The Rockets sliced the lead to five with 9:30 to go and shades of early season big-lead giveaways were haunting the Moda Center. Ironically, the Rockets are not known to be rocket scientists. Just as they were gaining more momentum, Houston committed a careless turnover followed by a careless foul and the Blazers upped the lead back to 10. Damian Lillard hit a three to put Portland back up by 13 while also moving past Brandon Roy on the Blazers all-time scoring list. The Rockets threw in the towel late in the quarter and the Blazers move to .500 entering the All-Star Break.
The Blazers have eight days off, maybe just enough time to plan for their next game against the Golden State Warriors on Friday, February 19th at the Moda Center. Tip off is at 7 p.m. Stay tuned to Blazer's Edge tonight, for extended analysis of this game from Dave Deckard.