The Portland Trail Blazers, making their first playoff appearance in 3 years, played with McMillan-like scrap and gutted out a 122-120 victory over the Rockets in Houston. LaMarcus Aldridge scored a career-high 46 points, which is a franchise playoff record. The Blazers lead the series 1-0.
The first quarter started about as good as Portland could ask for. Aldridge had 12 and 8 with 2 blocks, playing all 12 minutes. Harden and Howard were both shooting poorly. The Blazers were only shooting 37% themselves, but it was good enough for a 27-20 lead.
Then the Rockets took the Blazers’ bench to school, to the store, to the bank, and back home, rumbling to a 24-6 run that put Houston up 44-33 with 4:30 left in the half. Fortunately, the Blazers responded with a run of their own, briefly wrestling back the lead before heading into halftime down by a point, 48-49.
Of note: Mo Williams was disruptive (in the worst sense) on both ends of the court, going 0-3 from deep, 0-4 overall, and allowing Jeremy Lin blow past him like a cool summer breeze. Dwight Howard also had 3 fouls at the half, and a technical after picking up a foul for throwing Robin Lopez to the ground, getting upset, and dropping the ball on the still-on-the-ground Lopez.
The third quarter saw the Rockets gaining confidence even if the lead was only 73-79 going into the fourth. Aldridge started getting active on defense, and even hit a corner three and then a jumper in succession, but the lead was still multiple possessions. The Rockets started getting calls, and the game started getting chippy. The normally placid Robin Lopez got a technical after being elbowed in the stomach by Dwight Howard and failing to draw a foul. Both teams were amped. Unfortunately, the Rockets were up 85-94 with 5 to go.
So the Blazers employed the hack-a-Dwight strategy. Over the course of 2 minutes, he went 2-6, and the Rockets sent him to the bench. Meanwhile, the Blazers were jumping and jiving and fought their way to a 98-98 tie with 2:40 to go.
The see-saw teetered, and the Blazers were down 3 with less than a minute left, missed the shot, but Aldridge drew Howard’s 5th foul, hit both, and the game was at 101-102, with 42 seconds to go. Jeremy Lin drove, missed, and the Blazers apparently got the rebound, but Howard was fouled. Somehow, he hit both. With 32 seconds left, the Blazers had the ball.
And… LILLARD HIT THE THREE IMMEDIATELY to tie it. Unfortunately, with Matthews draping Harden like a curtain shortly after, Harden drew a very, very questionable foul. Like, really, it wasn’t a foul. But it was called, and Harden hit both free throws.
With the Blazers down 104-106, they had the ball with 8 seconds left. Matthews got the quick three, and it rimmed out… but Lillard rebounded the ball for a quick shot attempt that clanked into the finger tips of Aldridge who TIPPED IT IN with 3 seconds left to tie the game at 106.
The Rockets had those 3 seconds to make something happen, they went to Harden, and it rimmed out, and the game went to overtime, the first OT game of the 2014 playoffs.
Dwight Howard drew Aldridge’s 5th foul, and got a 3-point play to start things off. Then Lin got a 3-point play. Then Aldridge got stuffed, and with the shot clock running out… HE HIT A 3 (his second of the game)! This game was just getting goofy, and Aldridge assisted on a Batum three to tie it at 112.
The Blazers got another stop, and Matthews got fouled and hit both to get a brief 114-112 lead before Lin hit a bank shot. Lopez got a follow, then Howard appeared to travel… but instead, Lopez got called for a foul, and a technical, and he fouled out. A very, very tough call… but what’s this? The officials came together, and went to the monitor. They reversed the technical foul… but it didn’t matter. Lopez was gone.
Howard somehow, again, hit both to tie it at 116. Then, as the Blazers went down the court, Aldridge set a screen on Patrick Beverley, and he was called for his 6th, and HE fouled out. With the Blazers still in disbelief, Lin sauntered down the lane for 2, and it was 118-116 Rockets with 53 seconds to go.
Lillard was stuffed by Beverley… then they went to Lillard again, and DREW THE FOUL AND HIT IT, and BEVERLEY fouled out! Lillard hit the free throw, and now it was 119-118, Rockets ball, with 44 seconds to go.
Houston shot… and missed… got the rebound… and shot… and missed… and Garcia maybe traveled, or maybe got tangled up, but instead of a jump ball, a foul was called. He hit one.. then Howard got the miss and was himself fouled, and HE hit one. The Blazers then faced a 119-120 deficit with 24.5 seconds to go and the ball.
Lillard shook… baked… and got to the lane and was fouled. The first rattled in. And the second found its way, too.
Harden took a 3 quickly, missed, and Freeland battled his way into drawing the 6th foul on Howard in the clutchest moment of his life… save for the free throws that came up. He did miss the first… but the second went in to give the Blazers a 122-120 lead, Rockets ball, with 10 seconds left in OT.
Harden got to the lane… and just got stuck. With Batum and Freeland in front of him, Harden looked confused, stopped, and just jacked up a shot that looked decent… BUT IT RIMMED OUT, AND THE BLAZERS TOOK GAME ONE!!!
A full analytic recap will come later, but for now, GO BLAZERS!!!