The Trail Blazers hosted the Houston Rockets last night for game two of a burly double header. Friday night the Oklahoma City Thunder were in town, and the Blazers lost a tight one, 111-109. Paul George and Russell Westbrook proved tough to contain and put up 68 points combined. It’s hard to compete when opposing players are doing that kind of damage. But, the Blazers needed to shake off the loss, because if the they thought the Thunder were a rough go, the Rockets was gonna show them James freakin’ Harden.
In the Rockets’ win against the Warriors on Thursday, Harden logged a triple-double with a 44 point cap on it. In fact, Harden has put up over forty points in his last three contests. Granted, at least 20 of those points from each game likely came from the free throw line, but the man truly knows how to get the ball in the hole. If the Blazers could figure out how to lock him up, they had a decent chance of defusing the Rockets. Either that, or the refs needed to enlist a “no blood, no foul” rule.
Harden’s foul traps didn’t snare too many Blazers, and he didn’t get his 40 points. He did put up 38, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Blazers dazzling offense. Blazers win, 110-101!
Nurk quickly piled in 6 points to start the first quarter. He has certainly began to prove himself as a viable Blazers and all-star quality big man in the last few games. He wasn’t too effective for the rest of the first, but the game wasn’t over yet.
Austin Rivers drove the Rockets’ offense and drained four threes in the first quarter. Of course Harden got up to his foul-drawing shenanigans straight out of the gate. The Blazers were clearly doing there best to not reach and fall for his tricks - playing him not too tight, but just tight enough. The Blazers were able to hold him to only six points for the quarter. Harden also got himself into a little trouble when he mouthed off a little too much to an official after an out of bounds call he didn’t like. He got slapped with a technical foul with three minutes left in the quarter. That was good for the Blazers. Harden had to keep his trap shut for the rest of the game and not complain about any more no calls or risk getting tossed.
The Blazers offense worked well, and kept up with the Rockets. The score was tied at the end of the first at 30. It was looking like it was gonna be a high-scoring, shoot-out kinda night, and the Blazers needed to stay on target.
The Blazers’ offense continued to shine in the second. Every play was executed smoothly and methodically. Even Turner tossed a fantastic alley-oop pass to Al-Farouq Aminu for a rim rattling dunk. After that the Blazers took off and got their highest lead of the game at six.
With less than a minute left in the half, Nenè and Nurk got tied up under the hoop fighting for a rebound. Nenè swung around and gave Nurk a little forearm chin music, he dropped to the floor, and bounced his head off the court. The air got sucked out of the arena when it took Nurk some time to get back up. Thankfully he did, and showed he wasn't too dazed by crushing in a dunk, and helping the Blazers gain a lead of 13 going into the second half. Plus, they had held Harden to only nine points for the half. There was plenty of time for him to go off, but things were looking up.
The third opened up with the Blazers continuing to find the bottom of the net. They kept their lead in double digits with ease playing team ball. They had twice as many assist as the Rockets for most of the quarter. CJ McCollum, Nurk, and Dame’s offense rolled over the Rockets on roughly every approach. Nurk gained a double-double (his 20th for the season) with just over six minutes left - 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Harden was able to turn on the juice a little bit and bump his point column up to 29 before the third quarter was over, but the Blazers were still able to hold a nine point lead going into the final quarter. They had a good handle, but nine points wasn't a big enough buffer. They were gonna have to tighten their grip to make it through last 12 minutes of the game.
The Blazers flexed to start the final quarter and kept at it. The CJ and Nurk continued to dominate on the offensive side. Nurk ended up being the Blazers high scorer with 25, followed by CJ and his 24. The Blazers as a whole put the screws in the Rockets on the defensive side, as well. There was definitely one team on both ends of the court that was determined to walk off with the win. Thankfully, it was the Blazers. Solid team play creates solid team wins.