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Houston Rockets 121, Portland Trail Blazers 116 - Portland leads series, 2-1
It took overtime, but the Houston Rockets finally got their first win of the series, topping the Portland Trail Blazers in a 121-116 thriller Friday night at the Moda Center.
The Rockets got off to a quick start, taking a 9-0 lead in the hostile environment. By the end of the first quarter, Houston was up 35-24 behind 11 points apiece from James Harden and Patrick Beverley. Beverley drained all three of his three-point tries over the first 12 minutes, setting the tone early.
The Blazers would respond like they have all series, though. Portland embarked on a 16-0 run in the second period, taking a 42-38 edge. The two ballclubs would trade blows for the remainder of the half, with the Blazers eventually taking a 55-54 advantage into the locker room thanks to 16 first-half points from Damian Lillard.
The third quarter featured more of the same, with punches being thrown from both sides (figuratively, of course). Harden, who went scoreless in the second quarter, added 11 more in the third, scoring in transition and getting to the cup in the halfcourt set. Houston held Lillard in check, but LaMarcus Aldridge put in 10 points over those 12 minutes after posting only four in the first half.
The Rockets led 81-78 heading into the fourth quarter and started the final frame on a 13-5 run, stretching their lead to 11. Sound familiar?
Just when it looked like Houston might be ready to secure its first win of the series, Portland rallied, going on a 27-16 run to send the game into overtime. Lillard scored nine points in the quarter, including an incredible circus shot that resulted in a three-point play. Both Lillard and Harden had chances to win the game at the end of regulation, but Lillard misfired on a jumper with four seconds left and Harden couldn't connect on a half-court heave as time expired.
You could tell the players were gassed in the extra session. The Blazers took a 116-112 lead with 3:08 to go, but they didn't score for the remainder of the game. Houston closed on a 9-0 run, taking a 119-116 lead with 11 seconds left on a go-ahead three-pointer by rookie Troy Daniels, who only played in five games all season. Talk about a story.
On the next Portland possession, Nicolas Batum had an open look from downtown, but he misfired. Harden was fouled after the rebound and hit two free throws to seal a thrilling 121-116 win for the Rockets.
- James Harden, Rockets: 37 PTS, 9 REB, 6 AST
Dwight Howard, Rockets: 24 PTS, 14 REB, 2 BLK
- Patrick Beverley, Rockets: 16 PTS, 9 REB
- Damian Lillard, Blazers: 30 PTS, 6 REB, 6 AST
- Nicolas Batum, Blazers: 26 PTS, 9 REB, 5 AST
- LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers: 23 PTS, 10 REB, 3 BLK
The Rockets dodged one heck of a bullet to avoid falling into the dreaded 3-0 hole, a deficit that no team in NBA history has ever climbed out of. Now, they'll have a chance to even up the series in Game 4, which is Sunday on TNT at 9:30 p.m. ET. The game will be played at the Moda Center.
Most people expected this to be a close, hard-fought series throughout, and that is what we have gotten. Two of the contests have been decided in overtime, and the other was a slim seven-point margin. Should we anticipate anything less in Game 4? Probably not.
Can Harden and Howard send this series back to Houston tied up? Or will Lillard, Aldridge and company take a commanding 3-1 lead heading into Game 5?
It should be one heck of a battle. Don't miss it.