Trail Blazers vs Rockets Saturday, 11/03/12 AT 05:00PM

Huge Second Half, Overtime Helps Rally Trail Blazers Past Rockets 95-85

11/03/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 4.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    The Trail Blazers won their first road game of the season in overtime against the Houston Rockets 95-85.  The Trail Blazers now go to 2-1 and gave Houston their first loss of the year as they fall to 2-1. Houston was the league's most talked about team coming into the game but a couple of big plays by the Trail Blazers would help them steal the win and the attention shifted to Portland's rookie point guard, adding another great game to his historic start.

    LaMarcus Aldridge led the way the 27 points and 11 rebounds but it was the rookie Damian Lillard who pulled it together in the clutch with eight points in overtime as he finished with 20 points and 9 assists.

    Lillard did not have an easy night. He shot poorly from three to start, missing his first three. However, in the fourth quarter and overtime he hit his final three, three pointers. Lillard also had six rebounds on the night. It was another historic performance for Lillard as he becomes only the second rookie in NBA history to start his career off with three consecutive games of 20+ points and 7+ assists since Oscar Robertson did it in 1960. Lillard is also the first rookie to score at least 20 points in his first three performances since Grant Hill did it in 1994.  

    Although Lillard was spectacular, the Trail Blazers undoubtedly won the game with a collective effort from their starters and got enough of a boost from their bench to get the win.

    The game between the Trail Blazers and Rockets was a tale of two halves. The first half was rough for the Trail Blazers. Their starters couldn’t get anything going as they began the game 1-6. After the first quarter they were 8-23 from the field and found themselves having only scored 17 points but somehow only down by two. Will Barton surprisingly led the Trail Blazers in scoring in that first quarter with 5 points.  Barton would finish with a line of five points, four rebounds, one steal, one block and one assist in 15 minutes. Barton played in his first extended action of his NBA career as Sasha Pavlovic was ruled inactive before the game.

    Although the Trail Blazers were struggling from the field, JJ Hickson kept the fight alive. Hickson was instrumental in helping Portland minimize Houston’s rebounding strength, especially in the first half. Hickson had nine rebounds in the first half and would finish with 12 on the night. Hickson has had double-digit rebounds in each of the Trail Blazers' first three games.  Hickson’s hustle and fight every night has been huge for them in this young season.

    Hickson kept the Trail Blazers in it on the glass but it was LaMarcus Aldridge doing it from the field that kept the score close. The Trail Blazers were struggling the entire second quarter but Aldridge finished with a flurry of points. He scored nine of Portland’s final 11 points in the half. He did a lot of work in the paint and that opened up wide-open 16-19 foot jumpers throughout. Aldridge carried the team offensively in the early going as Nicolas Batum was again quiet offensively, missing his first four shots. Damian Lillard, too, was quiet in the first half shooting wise, but he was still effective in facilitating for his teammates. The Trail Blazers found themselves down 45-37 at half.

    When the second half came around, it was like the Trail Blazers were a different team. They finally started getting more shots at the rim and it seemed that the whole team was playing on their toes as opposed to playing on their heels as they started the third quarter on a 10-4 run. It was a game of runs throughout.

    More than anything, it was the impact of Nicolas Batum that changed the complexion of the game in the third quarter. Batum was hitting the glass and getting into the passing lanes, even more than he was against the Lakers on opening night. He started hitting threes off screens and found a rhythm offensively, even making plays for his teammates. Batum finished the game with a monster line of 17 points, nine rebounds, six steals, four assists and two beautiful, chase-down blocks.

    “You know, what he did with his energy and his anticipation was kind of what fueled us during that period,” said Stotts about Batum’s play.

    It wasn’t just Batum who played huge minutes in the third but the whole Trail Blazers team played excellent defensively when it came to protecting the rim as they finished with eight blocks on the night and four in the third quarter. It was not easy for any players to attack the rim as LaMarcus Aldridge and Meyers Leonard each had two blocks as well. Will Barton and JJ Hickson split the other two. Leonard played his best game of the season thus far off the bench even if the stats do not reflect it. He only had two rebounds but he was going toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best rebounder’s Omer Asik during his stint, boxing him out well and did a great job of spelling the hardworking Hickson.

    The Trail Blazers would ride the defense and a much more efficient offense to a one-point lead heading into the fourth. It also helped that James Harden, who started the game off well started to cool off considerably. After averaging 41 points over his first two games, Harden finished with 24 points on eight of 24 shooting.

    With Portland making their run in the third, Houston made theirs in the fourth quarter. They made an 11-0 run after Portland scored the first four points of the fourth quarter. The game, even though it was low scoring was high on intensity. With 4:53 left in the game the Trail Blazers found themselves down by three points after a Damian Lillard three-pointer forced Houston to call time.  A couple of buckets by Aldridge and Hickson kept the game close. With under a minute left out of a time-out, Wesley Matthews hit a huge three to tie the game at 81, but that would not be Matthews' biggest contribution to the drama.

    After a steal by Batum, the Trail Blazers failed to capitalize and take the lead giving Houston one last shot to win it in the game’s final seconds.  The Rockets gave the ball to Harden, entrusting their new acquisition to win the game. Matthews never even let him get the shot off as he knocked the ball out of Harden’s hands as he tried to get up the final shot, forcing overtime. Matthews had been on him like glue all night and the final stop was the icing on the cake of his defensive performance. Matthews finished with 16 points, five assists and five steals. A performance that, much like the team's collective one, displayed incredible heart and poise under pressure.

    “Wes is warrior. He took a challenge on James Harden. He was physical, he was tenacious. The last stop was about pride and character,” said Stotts. “Wes brings it and he’s as good a competitor as I’ve been around.”

    The overtime period belonged to Portland, specifically to Damian Lillard. Lillard came into the period with only 12 points and scored eight of Portland’s 14 overtime points, including two big threes. Batum had a big three of his own in overtime to help put the Trail Blazers at arms length. Aldridge hit a dagger and the game was over.  Lillard, as he has shown in his first two games, continued to display extreme poise and calm under pressure. Despite being quiet for much of the game, he turned it on when the game was on the line and came through for his team.

    The Rockets came into the game as the most talked about team with the most talked about back court in the league. In the end, it was the rookie who stole the show adding to the historic start of his NBA career.

    Portland has a day off after their back-to-back before they play in Dallas on Monday night at 5:30 PM.  After the fight they showed tonight, those guys deserve a night of rest. The game will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on the radio on 1190 KEX and 102.3 FM.


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