As a fan of entertaining basketball (if not defense), I don’t want this series to end — Portland and Houston are evenly matched and an interesting contrast in styles that leads to thrilling games. Rockets GM Daryl Morey on twitter called this game four games in this series “coin flips.”
Yet it all could end Wednesday.
For three quarters Sunday Houston was an offensive force — they shot 52.6 percent overall and hit 9-of-19 from three, they put up 84 points, and everything Chandler Parsons threw up went in (11-of-15 shooting in the first three). The Rockets led the way pretty much in the entire way as Portland just did . They seemed in control.
But in the third the LaMarcus Aldridge got it going with 13 points — despite Omer Asik and a parade of longer defenders on him h. Then Damian Lillard ended the quarter with a three. Suddenly it was just a five-point game going into the fourth and the fans in Portland were into it and loud.
In the fourth quarter the Blazers got stops — Portland shot 36.8 percent, Dwight Howard and James Harden combined to shot 5-of-12. Portland wasn’t an offensive juggernaut but thanks to 8 points from Nicolas Batum (who was “guarded” by Harden) it was a tied game and we had overtime. Again.
There Batum kept scoring (5 points) and Portland hit four of the five shots they took. Houston made some shots too, but the Blazers were hitting their shots and their free throws.
When the final buzzer eventually sounded it was 123-120 Portland.
The Trail Blazers have a 3-1 lead and a can put the series away with a win Wednesday in Houston.
Portland did it with balance — LaMarcus Aldridge’s 29 points led the way (he was 6-of-11 from the midrange, killing the Rockets from there) but four Blazers had 20 or more: Damian Lillard had 23 points and 8 assists, Wesley Matthews scored 21 points, and Nicolas Batum added 25.
The Rockets had 28 points from James Harden (his most efficient outing of the playoffs taking just 21 shots), 26 from Chandler Parsons and 23 from Dwight Howard (who also had 14 rebounds). Those three made plays late in the fourth quarter, when Portland had taken the lead — Houston got stops on three straight possessions thanks to a couple blocks from Howard. They just couldn’t get stops consistently all night.
Their big story again was Troy Daniels, the rookie out o VCU who spent most of the season in the D-League — he had 17 points and was 4-of-5 from deep. He is playing well enough that he’s gotten under Mo Williams’ skin.
But it wasn’t enough to save the Rockets.
Now Houston has its backs against the wall as they keep learning the hard lessons of the playoffs — about working together as a team, about doing the little things — that if they don’t master by Wednesday could be the end of their season.