The Houston Rockets were unable to find an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge over the first two games of this series. Rockets coach Kevin McHale made an adjustment to the lineup in game three, and for the first quarter of basketball, it made all the difference.
McHale inserted Omer Asik into the starting lineup to cover Aldridge. The Rockets were plus-13 with Asik on the court, and he did in fact have the best plus/minus of any Rocket for game three.
The Rockets leaped out to an 11-point lead at the end of the first quarter, and Aldridge was a mere 2-of-6 from the floor.
But the Blazers would begin to come back in the second quarter, keyed by the defensive prowess of Robin Lopez.
Lopez had three blocks and a steal on the night to go with his 11 points and eight boards, but his biggest impact came during Portland’s 19-2 run that opened the second quarter. Most impressively, the Blazers made its run with Aldridge on the bench.
At the half, Aldridge was just 2-of-8 from the floor for four points and the Blazers were negative-12 with him on the court. Still, 2013 Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum were hitting triples and the tandem combined for 29 points and five threes in the first half.
The Rockets also got most of its scoring from the backcourt, as both Patrick Beverley and James Harden had 11 each. But all those points were scored in the first quarter…
The Rockets came out in the third quarter and went on a 17-10 run that forced a Blazers timeout, as the Rockets took a five point lead. But then Aldridge came to life. Portland’s 4-man would go on to score 10 points in the third quarter as the Blazers closed the quarter on a 22-10 run.
The fourth quarter began with Dwight Howard on the bench. The Rockets responded by going on a 9-2 run and James Harden hit his third three of the night, forcing a Blazers timeout with the score 90-80.
A perplexing defensive sequence saw Houston pick up three silly fouls to enter the penalty situation at the 9:13 mark of the quarter, up 92-82. At this juncture, Aldridge still had just 14 shot attempts on the night and the Rockets had amassed an 11-4 run with Howard on the bench.
Damian Lillard was once again dynamite for the Blazers down the stretch though. His layup with 1:59 to go gave Portland a one-point lead, and Lillard and 30 points on 9-of-16 shooting on the night, to go with six boards and six assists.
For all that Patrick Beverley is as a defender, there has been very little he can do with Lillard. It’s really been a matter of Portland’s star point guard missing shots, and tonight in game three, he didn’t. Lillard hit 4-of-8 from three-point range and Batum was 4-of-9.
It was Batum’s three that drove the game to overtime, as he hit a late three in regulation to knot the game at 110.
In overtime it would come to be a shootout of sorts down the stretch. Jeremy Lin (13 points, six assists, four rebounds) missed a three, but it was countered by a missed three from Lillard.
James Harden then turned the ball over, but Jeremy Lin recovered the loose ball in a scramble and flipped it to rookie Troy Daniels who knocked down a triple from the wing to put the Rockets up three.
Daniels hit 3-of-6 from three-point range on the evening, with none bigger than that last. Portland tried to answer back with yet another three by Batum, but it drew back iron.
James Harden closed the game out at the line with two free throws to pull the series to 2-1. Harden finished a wildly inefficient 13-of-35 from the floor and 3-of-11 from three-point range, yet his overall line of 37 points, six assists and nine boards can’t be blown off as unimpressive.
While the Bearded One may or may not have found his shooting touch, he shouldered a huge offensive load and the Rockets did a far better job on Aldridge, especially in the first half. Asik has to be credited with taking Aldridge out of his rhythm and doing a great job defensively.
Game four will be in Portland on Sunday at 9:30 PM EDT.
|Chandler Parsons, SF||34||5-12||1-4||4-4||1||3||4||2||0||1||0||6||-8||15|
|Dwight Howard, C||45||10-16||0-0||4-6||6||8||14||2||0||2||4||4||+2||24|
|Omer Asik, C||27||3-7||0-0||1-1||5||3||8||2||0||1||2||4||+13||7|
|Patrick Beverley, PG||42||6-15||4-6||0-0||4||5||9||1||1||0||0||3||+9||16|
|James Harden, SG||50||13-35||3-11||8-9||1||8||9||6||2||0||1||3||+11||37|
|Terrence Jones, PF||13||0-3||0-0||0-0||2||0||2||1||0||0||0||2||+8||0|
|Jeremy Lin, PG||33||5-11||1-4||2-2||1||3||4||6||0||0||1||3||-10||13|
|Troy Daniels, SG||20||3-6||3-6||0-0||2||1||3||0||1||0||0||3||0||9|
|Josh Powell, PF||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Donatas Motiejunas, PF||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Jordan Hamilton, SF||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Omri Casspi, SF||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Francisco Garcia, SG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
Fast break points: 8
Points in the paint: 56
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers): 9 (13)
|LaMarcus Aldridge, PF||43||8-22||0-1||7-7||1||9||10||3||0||3||0||4||-10||23|
|Nicolas Batum, SF||49||9-20||4-9||4-4||3||6||9||5||3||0||2||2||+4||26|
|Robin Lopez, C||26||5-10||0-0||1-3||6||2||8||0||1||3||0||2||-8||11|
|Damian Lillard, PG||47||9-16||4-8||8-9||0||6||6||6||1||0||2||4||+1||30|
|Wesley Matthews, SG||37||2-7||1-5||0-0||1||1||2||1||0||0||2||6||-15||5|
|Thomas Robinson, PF||4||1-1||0-0||0-0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||-8||2|
|Dorell Wright, SF||18||1-4||0-2||0-0||1||5||6||1||0||3||2||2||+4||2|
|Joel Freeland, C||4||0-0||0-0||0-0||1||1||2||1||0||1||0||0||+3||0|
|Mo Williams, PG||36||6-10||1-2||4-5||0||4||4||4||0||0||2||3||+4||17|
|Meyers Leonard, C||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Earl Watson, PG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|C.J. McCollum, SG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
|Will Barton, SG||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
Fast break points: 23
Points in the paint: 36
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers): 11 (12)