The Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Houston Rockets in overtime 123-120 to take a 3-1 series lead. In other news, doctors all across the Pacific Northwest are working round the clock to treat hypertension. Three of the four games in this series have gone into overtime and the margin of victory has never exceeded 7 points.
Led on the scoreboard by LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points), the Trail Blazers put forth a balanced effort with four of five starters breaking the 20-point seal. The offense appeared haphazard more often than not, but the confection of desperation and excitement was palpable for the Rockets as well. It made for one hell of a game.
Portland trailed 51-61 at the half after being convincingly outplayed in the first two quarters, but closed the gap through a variety of mini-runs in the third and fourth. With seconds remaining in regulation, Dorell Wright split a pair of free throws, opening the door for Houston to force overtime with a Dwight Howard dunk.
Overtime Drill Down
Just 35 seconds into the extra period, Chandler Parsons committed a flagrant 1 on Aldridge, giving the Trail Blazers an early advantage. Aldridge capitalized and it didn’t take long for Portland to build a lead that extended to 7 points at its peak.
Yet, just when we thought Houston could be down and out, rookie Troy Daniels (who iced the shot that put Portland away in game 3) drilled a 3-pointer that was immediately followed by a Damian Lillard turnover and a James Harden step-back from the right baseline. It was back to a one possession game with a minute to play.
Portland extended their lead with some timely free throws, but gave Daniels three of his own when Wright fouled him with 8.9 seconds remaining. I have to hand it to this kid; these were Daniels’ first free throws of his NBA career and he drained all three without batting an eye. Talk about grace under pressure.
Houston called a timeout, out of which Patrick Beverley immediately fouled Mo Williams. Williams knocked down the pair to put Portland’s lead back to three. Beverley brought the ball up the floor for one last attempt, but Wesley Matthews gambled on a steal and put the nail in Houston’s coffin. It was his fourth of the game.
The series will head back to Houston for game 5 on Wednesday night.
It is equally comforting and disconcerting to know that Troy Daniels’ game winner on Friday was not just a fluke. He shot 5-7 from the field (4-5 from deep) for 17 points in 21 minutes.
James Harden played his best game of the series and the Trail Blazers still won. Popular speculation concluded that if Harden was on Portland would lose. This pleases me.
Side note – Don’t let anyone tell you Harden’s last game was better. Taking 35 shots to score 37 points on 37 percent shooting is a crime against basketball.
Robin Lopez fouled out in regulation. That’s worth noting, since the Trail Blazers were able to keep Howard to a passable 6 points in the extra period, two of which came from the free throw line.
Aldridge came up big on defense, guarding Howard for long stretches of the game and tallying an uncharacteristically high 4 blocks for his efforts.