Live from the Moda Center as the Portland Trail Blazers host the Houston Rockets.
Another night, another national TV game. This one makes sense, as it is the first time the Rockets have been back to the Moda Center since Damian Lillard dumped them from last year’s playoffs. Get ready to see The Shot repeated and referenced all night long.
Also, tonight marks the first time the Blazers will take their home court since losing Wesley Matthe....oh, I can’t even finish that sentence. It hurts too much. Of course Portland’s first home game without Matthews has to be against the Rockets. Watching James Harden play basketball is just the worst, but watching him flail all around the court without Matthews draped on him is going to be downright depressing.
Ah well, suck it Rockets. You may win tonight behind fifty free throws from Harden, but we’ll always have Game Six.
I still can’t get over the Wesley Matthews news. Dude was having an unbelievable season, was set to get paid all the money in the off season, and the Blazers were clicking to the point where it seemed like they might have a chance to contend for a championship. Then...boom, a ruptured Achilles. Not only does it hurt Portland’s chances to make a run, it will likely cost Matthews tens of millions of dollars. So brutal. It doesn't ease the sting at all, but good for the Blazers for wearing “With Wes” shirts pre-game.
Arron Afflalo is going to be able to replicate roughly 85% of what Wesley provided. With Nicolas Batum finally playing like a professional basketball player again, the starting lineup should be fine. It’s when the Blazers have to dip into their bench that there will be trouble. CJ McCollum is the best reliable wing option, and as much as I love CJ, the dropoff between him and Afflalo is gigantic. The championship parade may have to be put on hold.
Tonight is going to have a serious playoff atmosphere, as the game has huge implications on the postseason picture. The season series between these two is split 1-1, and tonight’s victor will get the edge should they end up tied after the regular season. With both teams only separated by a game in the standings, this tiebreaker is huge.
Oh, and one last time for good measure—James Harden is still the worst.
11:45 - This is about as loud as the crowd has been all season—the pre-game intros felt like they could have come in the playoffs. And the Blazers reward the energy by...giving up a corner three to Donatas Motiejunas. 3-0 Rockets.
10:23 - LaMarcus Aldridge three-point alert! He caught a long offensive rebound off of an Afflalo miss and drained the triple with ease. Even better, Harden threw it into the crowd on Houston's next possession. 5-4 Blazers.
8:24 - Eh, Aldridge's eyes got a little big on that three. Dame had a clear shot at the rim, but decided to pass it back out to LA. Aldridge missed the triple by about four feet. 9-6 Blazers.
6:51 - Dame had another wide open lane to the basket and opted to shoot it that time—the right play. Unfortunately, instead of an easy dunk he lost the ball on the way up and it bounced off the top of the backboard. 11-10 Blazers.
6:16 - You want to hear a Portland crowd get loud? Have James Harden get called for traveling. 13-10 Blazers.
4:52 - Strange. CJ McCollum was the fist sub off the bench, but Terry Stotts yanked him for Alonzo Gee after about thirty seconds of game action. 16-15 Rockets.
4:08 - He wouldn't be James Harden without picking up a three-point shooting foul on a bogus rip-through move. Gee was the unlucky recipient of the foul call, and the crowd wants blood. 18-15 Rockets.
1:48 - This game just got frantic and frenzied. Neither team can keep a hand on the ball, but after James Harden missed a point-blank layup (which the crowd loved), Jason Terry drilled a corner three to give Houston the largest lead of the game. 25-19 Rockets.
0:00 - Portland could have held for the last shot but Aldridge went a hair too early there. He nailed the jumper, giving him eleven early points, but Houston was able to drive the length of the court in three seconds to give Corey Brewer an easy three. 30-26 Rockets.
10:47 - Oh, goodness. Josh Smith threw down a nasty one-handed dunk on Chris Kaman. That had the Houston bench up and losing their minds. 33-26 Rockets.
9:08 - After a couple of poor defensive possessions and a missed bunny at the rim, Chris Kaman finally got his by securing an offensive rebound and nailing the put-back. 35-31 Rockets.
8:19 - Five straight for Lillard, including a pullup three! Timeout Houston. 38-36 Rockets.
7:02 - Go figure, Harden hit the bench and the Blazers have rattled off a 9-0 run. 40-38 Blazers.
5:42 - He's no Matthews, but Afflalo is going to do just fine. After missing a corner three, he tracked down his own rebound and hit a reverse layup. The crowd let him know they appreciated that hustle. 43-40 Blazers.
3:29 - Afflalo stood up Harden on two straight possession. That'll do. 47-47- Tie.
2:54 - The crowd is booing an injured James Harden. As much as I dislike the dude, that's...that's not a good look. He got punched in the balls by LaMarcus Aldridge's errant left hand, and you can't kick a guy when he's already down. 47-47 Tie.
1:08 - Batum for three! This game is all kinds of fun. 54-49 Blazers.
0:00 - The Blazers were so focused on stopping Harden on Houston's final possession that they left Terrence Jones wide open in the corner. Jones waited for the defense to collapse and drove to the basket for the easiest dunk of the night. After going down by seven earlier in the quarter, Portland responded well to take a halftime lead. 54-53 Blazers.
11:22 - Motiejunas flopped, picking up his second charging foul on Aldridge tonight. LA is clearly unhappy with that one, especially since the Rockets have the clear foul advantage. 54-53 Blazers.
10:31 - Well, that was three quick fouls on Aldridge this quarter, all drawn by D-Mo. Ugh. Meyers Leonard is getting his first run of the night, as LA has to sit with four fouls. 54-53 Blazers.
9:16 - The first points of the quarter! For either team! It only took three minutes! 55-54 Rockets.
7:48 - A three-pointer from Trevor Ariza, a three-point opportunity (after the break) for Terrence Jones, and the Blazers need time. Still no points this quarter for the home team... 60-54 Rockets.
7:35 - Leave it Lopez to pick up Portland's first points of the quarter. He and Batum ran the pick and roll to perfection. 61-56 Rockets.
5:38 - He hasn't played for a few games? No problem. Meyers is still money from deep. 65-62 Rockets.
5:08 - Batum for three! That's six quick points for the home team. 65-65 Tie.
4:35 - Meyers for another three? Sure, why not? MVP! MVP! 68-67 Blazers.
3:52 - The Rockets have six personal fouls in this game to Portland's thirteen (and seventeen foul shots to Portland's five), yet still complain on every call. No wonder everyone hates them. 72-72 Tie.
2:02 - The crowd is imploring Meyers to shoot every time he touches the ball beyond the arc. Not a bad strategy, especially since he fumbled that pass out of bounds after passing up a three earlier. 74-72 Blazers.
0:55 - Aldridge is back in with his four fouls to finish the quarter off, and he immediately scored on a turnaround jumper from the right block. 76-74 Blazers.
0:00 - More Aldridge. After Steve Blake missed a three with the game clock winding down, Aldridge came skying in for the rebound and put-back over two Rockets. Portland ended the quarter with a quick 6-0 stamp. Buckle up—the fourth quarter is going to be nuts. 80-74 Blazers.
11:16 - Kaman with a revenge dunk, slamming down a one-hander in the lane. Okay, then. 82-74 Blazers.
9:19 - Both Kaman and Aldridge kept that possession alive with offensive rebounds, and Kaman was able to convert on Portland's third opportunity. This is a rag tag Portland lineup, so every little bit helps. 84-77 Blazers.
8:05 - Aldridge finally got a whistle on D-Mo—LA had been hunting for that call all night. Even better, he converted the leaner in the lane and will have a chance at a three-point play after the timeout. 86-79 Blazers.
8:05 - They just showed an Instagram photo of Matthews recovering on the big screen, and this place went nuts. Get well soon, Wesley. 87-79 Blazers.
7:37 - CJ broke down the defense and dished to a cutting Aldridge for an easy dunk. This place is getting raucous. 89-79 Blazers.
6:54 - James Harden was called for an offensive foul, pushing off on Batum, and this place is just about ready to explode. A timely bucket here... 89-81 Blazers.
6:23 - Nope. The Blazers turned it over, and Patrick Beverley converted a pretty layup in the lane. 89-83 Blazers.
5:20 - The fans are giving this team a standing ovation as we head to a timeout. The reason? You guessed it, they made Harden look silly. Aldridge swatted a Harden layup attempt all the way out past the three-point line. The Rockets got the ball back, but off of a missed three by Jones, Harden was called for an offensive foul on the rebound attempt. 91-83 Blazers.
3:33 - The Rockets had Harden on Aldridge in the post on two straight possessions. Was that intentional? Couldn't be, right? Either way, Aldridge put that last basket in over Harden with ease. 96-85 Blazers.
2:35 - Good time for Afflalo to pick up his second basket (and first three) of the night! He had been 1-11 from the field before that make. 99-88 Blazers.
1:49 - Oh man, the Rockets are going for one last push. They're putting guards on Aldridge to try and mess with Portland's flow, but the problem is LA was there for an easy offensive rebound. Beverley came in and stole the ball from LA, but he flopped as he tried to act like he was pushed out of bounds by LA. Really, he just fell. The refs didn't buy that for a minute. 99-93 Blazers.
0:51 - The Rockets are certainly making it interesting. They are pressing whoever has the ball, aggressively doubling and trying to wreak havoc on the perimeter. It worked and caused one Portland turnover (and transition Houston dunk), but on that last trap they fouled Afflalo. He went to the line and sunk both free throws. 101-95 Blazers.
0:45 - Corey Brewer for a quick three. I think he has fifteen straight for the Rockets. Unreal. 101-98 Blazers.
0:23 - There's a review on the floor as that last rebound attempt went out of bounds. It was called Portland ball...and it will stand! The shot clock is turned off, so the Rockets are going to either have to foul or hope to come up with a steal here late. 101-98 Blazers.
0:15 - The Rockets trapped Dame near mid-court...and, yep, Corey Brewer stole the ball and drove the length of the court for a dunk. On replay, it's unbelievably obvious that Lillard was fouled and hacked, yet there was no call. This crowd is booing with some passion now. 101-100 Blazers.
0:12 - Rockets foul quickly, and it's Afflalo to the line. He sunk the first! He sunk the second! It's a three-point game, timeout Houston. 103-100 Blazers.
0:03 - Corey Brewer's three is up...and it's off! Dude is human after all. The Blazers grabbed the rebound and Dame was fouled. That was an unreal stretch of basketball Brewer just put up, but after Dame sunk both freebies, this one is all but over. 105-100 Blazers.
FINAL: 105-100 Blazers. Whew. Brewer sure did his best to make that one interesting. He almost Tracy McGrady'd the Blazers, but Portland was able to hold on and pick up the win. That will be huge come playoff time as Portland now holds the tiebreaker with Houston. I'd take another series with those pesky Rockets, that's for damn sure. What a game.