The Houston Rockets had seemingly found an answer for LaMarcus Aldridge in game three. Rockets coach Kevin McHale countered with Omer Asik in the starting lineup, adding size, and it helped the Rockets pull the series to 2-1.
Aldridge didn’t have as much trouble with the Rockets’ D on Monday night, scoring 29 points to help guide the Blazers to a 123-120 Overtime win in game four.
For the first quarter of basketball, the Rockets defensive plan worked well. Aldridge did not get a lot of touches, and Asik kept him in front of him defensively. Portland’s star forward attempted just four shots in the first quarter, making two, for four points.
And Chandler Parsons started out on fire. Parsons had 12 points in the first quarter and 19 in the first half. James Harden picked up his second foul early in the first quarter, but the Rockets closed the period on an 11-6 run with Beard on the bench. Troy Daniels was instrumental in the run, knocking down a couple threes (more on the sensational rookie later!).
Daniels continued his assault in the second quarter, hitting another three, as Houston started the quarter on a 9-6 run and built its lead to nine points. The Blazers called a timeout at the 9:04 mark, and Harden checked back into the game. The Rockets would add one more point to its lead before the half, and Kevin McHale’s team led comfortably 61-51 at the intermission.
But there was the sleeping beast that was LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge would come out in the third quarter and score 13 points, connecting on 5-of-10 from the floor, mostly with Howard covering him. The Blazers were starting to thrive on the energy of its crowd, and the Rocket lead dwindled to just five points with a period to go.
The fourth quarter began with both Aldridge and Howard on the bench. The Rockets started the quarter on an 8-5 run before a Blazer timeout at the 8:44 mark. Both big men checked in at the timeout, and the Rockets led by eight. Asik sat on the pine with five fouls, and McHale opted never to put the Turk back in the lineup.
While Howard may clearly be the more imposing shot blocker and weak side defender, Asik has fared far better in one-on-one situations against Aldridge. It may even be that Aldridge knows in the back of his mind that beating Asik off the dribble or spinning baseline will be met with Howard contesting the shot. Whatever the case, the Rockets were just negative-2 with Asik on the court, and that was the best plus/minus of any Rocket starter.
The Blazers starting five played exceptional basketball, and both teams shot well from three-point range. The Rockets and Blazers both hit 11-of-28 (39 percent) from behind the arc. But it was the Blazers that seemingly hit the threes when it was most crucial. Nicolas Batum (2-of-7 from three) hit the go-ahead three that gave the Blazers a 99-97 lead.
Kevin McHale burned a timeout following that Batum triple at the 4:31 mark of the fourth quarter, but the Rockets would never reclaim the lead. In fact, the Rockets would fail to score a field goal for the next four-plus minutes…
Following a haphazard sequence that ended in a Mo Williams three-pointer, James Harden isolated at the top of the key and got into the paint but his layup was rejected by Aldridge. Aldridge then missed two free throws, which set up a final isolation play for Harden.
Harden beat Wes Matthews off the dribble and shoveled it off to Howard who emphatically dunked the ball, and the Blazers made no attempt to cuff him and send him to the line. Another tough three by Mo Williams drew back iron and the game headed to overtime.
Portland began the additional period on a 9-4 run, and the Rockets called timeout with 2:34 remaining.
Troy Daniels wasn’t done, though. Daniels scored 17 points on the night on just seven field goal attempts, and his three-pointer following the timeout was then followed by a Harden step-back and the Rockets pulled within two points. Damian Lillard hit two free throws to give the Blazers a 121-117 lead with 17 seconds to go.
Chandler Parsons, who hadn’t scored since the third quarter, took a fadeaway three and the Blazers got the rebound. Aldridge was sent to the line, but missed both free throws, leaving the door open for the Blazers.
Who else but Troy Daniels to have the final play drawn up for? Daniels drew a foul on a three-pointer and proceeded to knock down all three free throws. Following two more made free throws from Mo Williams, the Rockets had its last chance, but no timeouts.
Inbounding the ball with about eight seconds remaining, Patrick Beverley brought the ball up the court where he was promptly stripped by Wes Matthews, who had four steals on the night.
But Rockets fans surely could have done without that last one. Matthews’ quick hands prevented the Rockets from getting off a final three, and it gives Portland a 3-1 edge as the series shifts back to Houston for game five on Wednesday (Apr 30) at 9:30 PM EDT.
|Chandler Parsons, SF||45||11-18||4-6||0-2||0||8||8||2||1||1||2||5||-3||26|
|Dwight Howard, C||44||7-14||0-0||11-17||3||11||14||2||2||2||3||2||-10||25|
|Omer Asik, C||33||3-5||0-0||0-0||2||6||8||0||0||1||1||5||-2||6|
|Patrick Beverley, PG||37||2-7||0-4||2-2||1||0||1||1||0||0||2||4||-7||6|
|James Harden, SG||42||9-21||3-11||7-8||1||3||4||6||1||0||5||4||-6||28|
|Terrence Jones, PF||22||3-6||0-0||2-4||4||2||6||1||1||0||0||2||+4||8|
|Jeremy Lin, PG||21||1-6||0-2||2-2||2||3||5||4||0||0||3||2||0||4|
|Troy Daniels, SG||21||5-7||4-5||3-3||1||2||3||0||0||0||0||3||+9||17|
|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: 6
Points in the paint: 44
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers): 16 (23)
|LaMarcus Aldridge, PF||44||12-23||0-0||5-8||3||7||10||2||2||4||1||3||+14||29|
|Nicolas Batum, SF||45||11-23||2-7||1-2||1||5||6||6||0||0||0||0||+1||25|
|Robin Lopez, C||32||3-3||0-0||0-0||3||8||11||2||1||1||2||6||+4||6|
|Damian Lillard, PG||47||6-13||5-7||6-7||1||0||1||8||0||0||2||4||+1||23|
|Wesley Matthews, SG||42||8-15||2-6||3-4||0||4||4||3||4||0||2||3||+11||21|
|Thomas Robinson, PF||6||1-1||0-0||0-0||2||1||3||1||1||1||2||2||+3||2|
|Dorell Wright, SF||18||1-2||1-2||5-7||0||4||4||0||0||2||0||1||-14||8|
|Joel Freeland, C||7||0-0||0-0||0-0||1||1||2||0||1||0||2||3||-4||0|
|Mo Williams, PG||24||3-11||1-6||2-2||0||3||3||3||1||0||0||2||-1||9|
|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: 13
Points in the paint: 44
Total Team Turnovers (Points off turnovers): 11 (9)