With the win, Portland improves its record to 2-1 in the restart and stays alive in the race for the playoffs.
Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum finished with 21 and 20 points, respectively, while the defense held Houston’s duo of James Harden and Russell Westbrook to just 38 points.
Finding separation early
Against the Celtics, Portland started well, but quickly faltered as Boston hit three-pointer after three-pointer to build a 19-point halftime advantage.
On Tuesday, the Blazers built their own sizable first-half lead against the Rockets. Part of that success just came down to hitting shots while Houston didn’t shoot as well as Boston did on Sunday.
Building and sustaining a lead allowed Portland the luxury of slowing the game down and playing at their own tempo. When they can do that, it makes it easier for players like Carmelo Anthony and Jusuf Nurkic to grow into a game and do what they do best: isolate the defense and score.
Some things never change
After six games in Orlando, we can begin to decipher some patterns in the Blazers’ play.
Once again, Zach Collins struggled with some first-half foul trouble. He picked up his second foul with 3:30 to go in the first quarter and his third right before halftime. The Blazers need him in the game, and while some calls are tacky, he has to find a way to control his foul numbers as his defense impacts games for Portland.
And what about Gary Trent Jr.?
Trent continued his coming out party against the Rockets. He led team with 13 first-half points and finished with 16. His first-half contributions were key, helping the Blazers go into halftime with a lead despite Lillard finishing with just four points in the opening 24 minutes.
Closing it out
The Blazers’ first two “regular season” games in the bubble came down to the wire and Tuesday night’s game was no exception.
Portland led for most of the night, even by as many as 13, but Houston tested the “home” team’s resolve in the final minutes.
There were some missed free throws and turnovers down the stretch that nearly cost Portland the game, but unlike against Boston, the Blazers were able to close this one out thanks to some timely shots.
The Blazers need every win that they can get, and finding a way past a talented Houston Rockets team is massive as the postseason looms.
Portland hits the court again on Thursday when they take on Northwest Division rival, the Denver Nuggets, at 5 p.m. PT on Thursday.