With starting point guard Patrick Beverley suffering from a serious fever, Lin had to step up from his abysmal play in the series' first four games, and he did just that, scoring 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting. He did most of his damage in the second half, holding off a barrage of three-pointers from Portland's Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum.
After Lin did his work, Dwight Howard and James Harden stepped in with key baskets down the stretch and lockdown defense on LaMarcus Aldridge. When the Rockets went up by nine points with just over a minute left in the game, Blazers coach Terry Stotts decided to play another day and pulled his starters off the court.
The Rockets came out of the gate like they should have: playing with their backs against the wall. They blitzed the Blazers, forcing them into nine first half turnovers -- although they committed nine of their own, they were mostly unforced -- and managing to shoot the ball 49 times in one half.
The Rockets would have been up far more than eight points if not for Lillard. The stellar point guard had 18 points, 6 rebounds, four assists and three steals in the half, leading the Blazers in each of those categories. Howard got his third foul with more than eight minutes left in the half, but, instead of folding like the Rockets did in the previous games when Howard hit the bench, they went on a run, sparked by Chandler Parsons and Lin.
After halftime, most of the Rockets' lead evaporated until Lin started going off. Matthews was enormous, shooting 5-for-9 on three-pointers, playing stupendous defense on Harden and finishing with 27 points. Lillard was quiet in the second half, but still finished with an impressive 26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Howard had his best two-way game from start to finish of the series, scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. It was his defense late in the game, however, that proved why the Rockets spent $100 million in the offseason to build their team around him. Omer Asik, who got the start and the assignment on Aldridge, played his typical stout defense and cataclysmic (for the Rockets) offense, but finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
Game 6 will be on Friday night in Portland. The Moda Center will be absolutely electric as the Blazers have a chance to clinch their first playoff series victory in years in front of some of the best fans in the league.