Trail Blazers vs Rockets Friday, 11/16/12 AT 07:00PM

Batum, Aldridge And Lillard Help Trail Blazers Win Overtime Thriller 119-117

11/17/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    With Nicolas Batum tying a career-high of 35 points and 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime from Damian Lillard helped Portland comeback from down double-digits to defeat the Houston Rockets 119-117.  Lillard would finish with 27 points and five assists. Their All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge was also huge in pulling out the win, scoring 29 points.

    It was the first time three Trail Blazers have scored 27-plus points since Isaiah Rider, Brian Grant and Arvydas Sabonis did it in 1997. Batum's performance was also historic as he was the first player to record at least 35 points and a career-high five blocks since Dwyane Wade in March of 2011. Lillard also added another footnote to the start to his rookie season, becoming the first player to have at least 20 points in six of his first nine games since Allen Iverson.

    "He's not scared. That's only the ninth game of his career. He played like this was his fifth or sixth year," said Batum about the rookie point guard.

    The Trail Blazers let their habit of bad first halves get the best of them at the beginning.  The Rockets (James Harden, Patrick Patterson and Chandler Parsons) were getting anything they wanted. They had at least four dunks in the first quarter alone but managed to they fell behind by as much as 16 and were down 15 with three minutes left in the first half. They cut the lead to seven before halftime which set the stage for one of Portland's big third quarter runs, something that has been somewhat of a hallmark of the team in this young season. Batum and Aldridge had 14 points a piece and Batum had three blocks as well. They were helping Portland hold on, but they needed major help and some stops on defense, too.

    It was Batum who led the charge in the third quarter, as it seems he does every time the Trail Blazers get on one of those runs. He was scoring on post-ups, pick and rolls, in transition, you name it, he was doing it. He had 14 of his 35 points in the third quarter.

    "Nic had a roll going-that stretch where everything was going in and then he came back in and he stayed hot. The shots that he made were not easy but he made it look easy," said Terry Stotts.

    In addition to Batum's hot streak, the Trail Blazers had to play some defense, too. After Aldridge went to the bench for rest, Jared Jeffries came in and the defensive difference for the Trail Blazers was "night and day". For the second straight game, Jeffries presence helped the Trail Blazers turn things around defensively. He drew a charge and the Trail Blazers went from down 10 points at the 5:23 mark of the third quarter to only down one by quarter's end.

    The run was punctuated by a thunderous alley-oop dunk by Meyers Leonard from Damian Lillard as well as a beautiful finger roll by Lillard to end the quarter. Lillard, who had five assists in that third quarter, was just getting started.

    As the fourth quarter carried on, it seemed that fatigue was starting to set in. Aldridge scored six points in the early going of the fourth quarter but was quiet the rest of the period. Batum tied his career high with 35 points with a few buckets but his legs started to leave him on a few jumpers and Portland it seemed had nowhere to turn.

    Two substitutions helped swing the game Portland's way: Damian Lillard came in for Ronnie Price at the seven minute mark of the fourth quarter and Meyers Leonard entered the game for JJ Hickson with 5:29 left.

    "It was huge," said Lillard on Leonard's defensive contribution. Lillard also said that Jeffries and Aldridge did a much better job at protecting the rim, something that he says, Stotts had been preaching the past few days.

    Lillard carried the team offensively in the final four minutes. Aldridge and Batum were incredibly drained on the offensive end. JJ Hickson wasn't having his best night defensively and Leonard came in to help protect the rim. Coach Stotts turned to a Lillard-Batum pick and roll to set up mismatches for the Trail Blazers down the stretch. Lillard hit a pair of free-throws and a three-pointer, and Meyers Leonard hit two huge free-throws after getting fouled. A Lillard steal which led to two free-throws helped get Portland to within one point.

    A Lillard lay-up gave Portland a one point lead after an offensive foul on Omer Asik. The biggest of Batum's five blocks followed on the ensuing possession with an impressive one on Asik as he was trying to dunk the ball.  Lillard, showing incredible poise came back with a beautiful pull-up to put Portland up by three after an offensive rebound from Meyers Leonard got them the ball back with under forty seconds left. A huge three by Marcus Morris, who had hit three straight shots, set up by James Harden sent the game to overtime. Lillard was not able to end the game in regulation.

    Lillard scored the first five Trail Blazers points in overtime and the game was still tight. Houston's hulking center Omer Asik fouled out of the game and accordingly, Portland went back to their All-Star to close out the game as Aldridge hit a free-throw and a big turnaround jumper to put Portland ahead by three with 36 seconds left. Houston had no answer and Portland had outlasted them in overtime yet again.

    "We kind of make it interesting, but I think one thing that's been evident with our team so far this year is that we compete until the end," said Stotts after the game.

    That they did and behind the play of Batum, Aldridge, Lillard and some great team defense down the stretch, they were able to do what they haven't been able to do since they played Houston the last time and that was win late. Portland has another tough one on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls (5-3) at 6PM. That game will be on CSNNW and on the radio on 1190 KEX and 102.3 FM.

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