Portland Trail Blazers 122, Houston Rockets 120, OT - Portland leads series, 1-0
Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge sunk a pair of ridiculously clutch shots to send Sunday night's game into overtime, where the Portland Trail Blazers held on to beat the Houston Rockets in one of the wildest games in recent playoff history.
The first quarter was a real chess match, as Rockets coach Kevin McHale and Blazers coach Terry Stotts tried out interesting schemes on both ends of the court.
Portland made a concerted effort to attack James Harden on offense in the early going, pushing the ball to his mark, Wesley Matthews, in the post. McHale responded by trying out Harden on Nicolas Batum for stretches, and matching Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge/Robin Lopez front court by bringing in center Omer Asik to play along Dwight Howard.
Nobody could guard Aldridge in the first frame, however, as he put up 12 points, eight rebounds and two blocks.
The Rockets heated up in the second quarter, as Chandler Parsons put in 10 points while Howard got more active on defense. In the span of about eight minutes, Houston turned a seven-point deficit into an 11-point lead. But the Blazers stormed right back to take a two-point lead in the waning seconds. Harden sank a clutch three at the end of the half to give Houston a 49-48 advantage.
Portland did a good job of keeping the Rockets within reach in the second half, but Houston appeared to have the game well in hand with 4:30 remaining. Then Portland went to the "hack-a-Dwight" strategy," fouling Howard every time down the court. Howard missed four of his six free throws, and Portland stormed back with an 11-0 run to tie the game.
And just when the game couldn't get any more strange, Portland sent Howard to the line with 32 seconds left...and Howard hit both, giving Houston a three-point lead.
Lillard responded with a three to tie, and, after Harden hit a pair off free throws, Aldridge knocked in a put-back bucket to send the game into OT.
The extra period turned into a war of attrition, as Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Howard and Beverley all fouled out. In the end, it was Lillard who hit an and-one layup to give Portland a one-point lead they would not relinquish.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers: 46 PTS, 18 REB
Damian Lillard, Blazers: 31 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
James Harden, Rockets: 27 PTS, 5 REB, 6 AST
Dwight Howard, Rockets: 27 PTS, 15 REB
Chandler Parson, Rockets: 24 PTS, 6 REB
The Rockets will host Portland for Game 2 on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will be televised nationally on TNT.
The Rockets will be looking to bounce back from a massively disappointing loss. They had three or four chances to put Portland away, but didn't. Look for Houston to come out angry in Game 2.
The Blazers will have to learn to ignore the antics of Pat Beverley, who really seemed to get into his opponents' heads in the second half. Mo Williams hit Beverley on a drive and was assessed a technical foul, as Beverley skipped away laughing.
Beverley is a pest; his job is not only to defend, but to psych out his opponents. If the Blazers can keep their heads, they will have a chance to go back to Portland up 2-0.