In yet another crazy overtime affair, the Portland Trail Blazers prevailed 123-120 against the Houston Rockets on Sunday night to take a 3-1 series lead. The Blazers sealed the game after Wesley Matthews came up with a theft of Patrick Beverley in the final seconds.
After a back-and-forth start to the overtime period, the Blazers used a 7-0 run to take control, only to see the Rockets storm back to within two in the final minute. Following an empty Portland possession, Houston had a chance to tie or take the lead, but James Harden missed a desperation three at the end of the shot clock and Dwight Howard was whistled for a loose ball foul.
Damian Lillard knocked down a pair of free throws to put the Blazers up four, and the game looked over when Chandler Parsons missed a three-pointer. However, LaMarcus Aldridge missed a pair of free throws and Troy Daniels knocked down three free throws on the other end after a silly foul by Dorell Wright. Mo Williams buried two free throws to put Portland back up three before Matthews sealed the game with his steal.
It was actually the Rockets who appeared to be in good shape early in the fourth quarter, going up by eight points. But, the Blazers came back thanks to some hot shooting and some inept Houston offense. Nicolas Batum led an 18-5 charge to give Portland a five-point advantage with less than three minutes left.
Then it was the Blazers' turn to struggle offensively, and Howard was a big part of that, coming up with two crucial blocks. Howard also came up big at the free-throw line, knocking down 3-of-4 down the stretch. Harden gave the Rockets a two-point lead with some free throws of his own, but then Williams gave the Blazers the lead with a three off a chaotic scramble started by a bad turnover by Jeremy Lin:
Aldridge came up with a key block of Harden on the ensuing possession, however, Wright only split a pair of free throws. Howard tied the game up with 3.6 seconds left on a dunk off a nice find from Harden, and Williams missed a potential game-winning three, sending the game to overtime.
Aldridge led the Blazers with 29 points and 10 rebounds. Batum added 25 points, while Lillard had 23 points and Matthews 21 points. Harden had 28 points to lead the Rockets, who find themselves on the brink of elimination. Parsons had 26 points, and Howard poured in 25 points to go along with 14 rebounds.
The game was exciting from the opening tip, with both teams trading baskets early. Houston led by one late in the first quarter before creating a bit of separation behind two three-pointers from Daniels, taking a 29-23 lead into the second.
Daniels knocked down his third triple of the first half at the start of the second quarter to put the Rockets up nine, and they held a comfortable lead for the remainder of the half. The closest the Blazers got in the second quarter was five despite some hot shooting, as Houston's offense remained in high gear as well. The Rockets led 61-51 at the break behind 19 points from Parsons.
The scoring continued to start the second half, with both teams trading buckets. The action got sloppy for a couple minute stretch after the Rockets went up by 11 on a Parsons three, and the Blazers stayed within striking distance thanks to some strong play from Aldridge. Things began to get chippy, with Williams and Terrence Jones called for double technical fouls late in the quarter for some extracurricular activities after the whistle.
Like the second quarter, Portland never got closer than five in the third, which happened on several occasions. Houston appeared on the verge of taking an eight-point lead to the fourth quarter before Lillard buried a corner three at the buzzer to again cut the deficit to five, setting up the exciting finish.
The Blazers will attempt to eliminate the Rockets on Wednesday night in Houston.