Two huge quarters helped the Houston Rockets pull away from the Portland Trail Blazers and earn a 126-109 win Thursday night.
The Rockets used 41 points in the first quarter and 38 in the third to produce their highest scoring output of the season. The offensive explosion helped them improve to 7-5 on the season, while the Blazers fell to 7-6.
James Harden bounced back from a disappointing showing against the Oklahoma City Thunder, earning his third triple-double of the season with 26 points, 14 assists and 12 rebounds. He also added three steals for good measure.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, that put him on a short list among franchise greats:
His teammates joined the fun, with six players finishing in double figures and two more with nine points. Eric Gordon was valuable off the bench, scoring 16 points, while Patrick Beverley scored 11 in his first game back from a knee injury.
C.J. McCollum did all he could to help the Blazers, totaling 26 points on the night. Damian Lillard added 18 points and five assists, while Maurice Harkless scored 19 points.
However, Portland's defense couldn't contain the Rockets on the perimeter (14-of-32 from three-point range) or on the boards (54-41 rebounding advantage for Houston).
The Rockets were on fire from the opening tipoff, building a 15-point lead and eventually earning a 41-29 advantage in the first quarter.
Harden was the key to an incredible all-around showing right out of the gate, as the Rockets shared:
Even non-basketball experts took notice of the All-Star's performance, such as ESPN's Buster Olney:
The Blazers could barely keep up offensively, with the Rockets doing just about whatever they wanted in the first quarter, although Portland came storming back with a 13-5 run to keep things close in the second.
Jason Quick of CSN Northwest noted an important factor in the comeback:
Portland continued its strong showing in the second quarter, closing on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 62-62 by halftime.
As Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle noted, the shooting that helped the Rockets early seemed to disappear:
Meanwhile, McCollum was a big factor for the Blazers in the first half:
The third quarter looked more like the first for Houston, which started knocking down shots with consistency to build another double-digit lead. While Harden continued his versatile play, he also had help from the rest of his roster.
Clint Capela had a few of the bigger plays for his team:
By the end of the third quarter, the Rockets had built a 100-83 lead.
The rout continued in the fourth quarter, and the Dream Shake noted Beverley's impact on the floor:
After some back-and-forth play early in the fourth quarter, the final few minutes were left to the benches as Houston's role players closed out the 17-point victory.
Thursday's game was the first of a long five-game road trip for Portland. The squad will travel to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night before taking on the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Houston will stay home to face the Utah Jazz on Saturday.
After five wins in six games, the Trail Blazers have now lost two games in a row, neither of which were particularly close. Obviously, this has led to some anger in the locker room.
"We kind of suck right now," Lillard said after the game, per Quick.
The Rockets are certainly in a better mood, especially after watching Harden completely take control of the game. Head coach Mike D'Antoni summed it up, per Calvin Watkins of ESPN:
If he continues to put up numbers like this, Harden could be looking at an MVP season.
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