Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis

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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis
USA TODAY Sports

In what may have been the best game of the NBA playoffs' opening weekend, the Portland Trail Blazers pulled off an insane comeback to beat the Houston Rockets 122-120 in overtime Sunday at the Toyota Center.

LaMarcus Aldridge was dominant throughout, and Damian Lillard came up huge down the stretch. The two combined for 77 points and 27 rebounds.

Aldridge's 46 was a franchise record for a playoff game.

The Rockets were led by James Harden and Dwight Howard, who each scored 27 points. Chandler Parsons added 24.

They had a 14-point lead in the second half, but their defense failed them, as Lillard took over in the fourth quarter and overtime.

 

Key Player Grades

James Harden, Houston Rockets, Shooting Guard

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Harden got off to a terrible start to the game and never could quite get himself out of the hole he had dug. But he still hit a few big shots on the way to 27 points on 8-of-28 from the field.

He also did a solid job of setting up his teammates, as he dished out six assists.

We shouldn't expect Harden to shoot this poorly throughout the series, so the biggest question mark for him in this one and throughout Houston's playoff run is defense. As usual, he looked lethargic at best on that end, and Portland was more than willing to attack every chance it could.

It's nice to have an eraser such as Howard behind you, but the big guys need help too. It would really benefit the Rockets defense if Harden could keep his man away from the paint just a few times a game.

Grade: D+

 

Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, Center

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It looked like Howard wasn't going to have a huge game, as he struggled with foul trouble and physical D from Robin Lopez for three quarters. But he did come through in the fourth, helping to trigger a Houston run from the post and, believe it or not, the free-throw line.

He finished the game with 27 points and 15 rebounds, and hit two crucial free throws with 32 seconds left in the game.

His final stat line was just shy of TNT analyst Shaquille O'Neal's expectations.

Twitter was abuzz after O'Neal harshly criticized Howard during halftime. Most came to the defense of Howard, but Shaq has a point.

At least in terms of offense, Howard's underachieved during his career. His first playoff run with the Rockets would be as good a time as any for Howard to show some fire on that end.

Grade: A-

 

Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets, Small Forward

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As the duo of Harden and Howard struggled throughout the first half, Parsons carried the Rockets offensively, scoring 17 points in the first two quarters alone.

He wound up with 24 points on 10-of-21 shooting and showed why many were confident in his ability to be an X-factor for Houston in the postseason.

If he can remain consistent as the third option, the Rockets will be extremely tough to defend.

Grade: B+

 

Terrence Jones, Houston Rockets, Power Forward

Bill Baptist/Getty Images

Speaking of X-factors, how about Terrence Jones?

While Howard struggled with fouls early in the game, Jones was a beast on the boards. He finished the game with 13 boards to go along with 12 points.

Unfortunately, he couldn't do anything to slow down Aldridge during his record-setting night and will need to do a much better job defensively in Game 2

Grade: C+

 

Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets, Point Guard

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Beverley may not be a great scorer or distributor, but Houston's starting point guard can mess with the opposition's heads as well as anyone.

He's more than happy to play the role of pest on defense, and he generally does so at around 1,000 miles per hour.

He had what could have been an enormous play in overtime. While face-guarding Lillard, Beverley drew a moving screen call that fouled Aldridge out.

A few plays later, he fouled himself out while giving up a critical three-point play to Lillard.

Beverley finished the game with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. But his impact doesn't show up in conventional stats.

Grade: C+

 

Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets, Point Guard

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As Beverley's backup, Lin comes off the bench and provides the offense Beverley typically can't. That just wasn't the case Sunday—at least not until overtime.

He finished the game with 14 points on 5-of-11 shooting, scoring nine in the extra time.

Grade: C+

 

Bench, Houston Rockets

Omer Asik and Francisco Garcia were the only other Rockets to come off the bench. Neither had much of an impact on offense or defense.

Combined, they shot 2-of-6 from the field and scored seven points.

Asik came in for defensive purposes, as coach Kevin McHale was looking to slow down LaMarcus Aldridge. When it became clear no one was going to get that done, he went back to Jones.

Grade: D

 

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers, Power Forward

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Aldridge was dominant in this game, taking advantage of both the undersized Jones and the heavy-footed Asik. He scored 46 points on 17-of-31 shooting and hauled in 18 rebounds.

On a night filled with great plays, a fadeaway three that hit nothing but net in a critical situation might've been Aldridge's best shot.

He'll be a nightmare of a matchup for Houston throughout this series because of his ability to score in the post or from the mid-range.

Grade: A+++

 

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Point Guard

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Lillard looked frustrated for stretches of the game against the defense of Beverley, but his numbers didn't suffer, and he absolutely blew up late in the game after figuring out how to attack his matchup.

He wound up with 31 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but it was somehow a quiet performance until some late heroics. He was able to get to the line throughout the game and eventually generated some momentum for Portland with outside shooting and electrifying drives.

After Aldridge fouled out in overtime, Lillard officially assumed all responsibility for closing the game and hit what would prove to be the game-winning free throws.

Grade: A+

 

Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, Small Forward

David J. Phillip

Batum played 45 minutes, but there were long stretches of the game when you might have forgotten he was even out there.

He made a small imprint on the game on offense, finishing with 14 points on 6-of-10 shooting. But Parsons took advantage of him on defense several times.

He'll need to do a better job in that matchup going forward.

Grade: B-

 

Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers, Shooting Guard

David J. Phillip

The Blazers wanted to take advantage of Harden's defense early and often, as they posted Matthews on him several times in the first half.

It worked pretty well before Matthews cooled off. He ended up with 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting.

Where he made his biggest impact was on defense. Yes, Harden scored 27 points, but it took him a whopping 28 shots to get there.

Grade: B-

 

Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers, Center

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It looked like Lopez was going to be able to pester Howard into a bad game early, but Houston's big man adjusted.

Lopez finished the game with six points on 2-of-7 shooting in 32 minutes. He also fouled out trying to slow Howard down.

Grade: C

 

Mo Williams, Portland Trail Blazers, Point Guard/Shooting Guard

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Portland's sixth man really struggled to provide any kind of a spark in this game. Whether he was running the offense or playing off the ball alongside Lillard, Williams just couldn't find a rhythm.

He shot just 1-of-6 from the field on the way to three points.

Grade: F

 

Bench, Portland Trail Blazers

The Trail Blazers matched the Rockets' eight-man rotation, as only two other players got any real time off the bench.

Thomas Robinson provided a little energy and grabbed six boards in his first stint, but struggled to finish around the rim. Dorrell Wright made a big-time defensive play on a chase-down block, but that was about it.

Together, they shot 1-of-7 from the field for three points.

Grade: D

 

What's Next?

Bob Levey/Getty Images

Portland can win this series if it carries out this game plan throughout. Houston doesn't have anyone who can stop Aldridge, and Lillard now knows he can get Beverley out of the game by attacking the rim.

The Rockets will need to make more adjustments. Less isolation for Harden and better ball movement will be critical going forward.

Game 2 will be Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET at the Toyota Center.

 

Andy Bailey covers the NBA for Bleacher Report.

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