Lillard's Return Not Enough As Blazers Fall To Rockets

by Cody Sharrett

Damian Lillard returned to the Portland Trail Blazers (22-19) lineup, but it wasn’t enough to top the James Harden-less Houston Rockets (29-11) in front of a sellout crowd of 18,055 at the Toyota Center in Houston on Wednesday night. 

Both sides struggled shooting out of the gate, with the Rockets’ 31% from the field slightly edging the Blazers’ 29% to claim a 25-19 advantage after 12 minutes. Houston extended its lead to double digits at halftime, thanks to 13 points each from guards Chris Paul and Eric Gordon in the half.

The third quarter brought improvement at the offensive end for both teams, who converted over 50% of their attempts in the period. Damian Lillard’s nine points in the quarter, along with a spark at both ends from Ed Davis, brought the Trail Blazers within nine heading into the fourth.  

Things turned started to turn the corner at the 4:52 mark of the fourth quarter as Lillard drew an and-1 on his way to the rack. The play resulted in a technical issued to Paul as Lillard sank both the foul shot and the technical. The Lillard four-point swing was in the middle of a 12-0 Blazer run that closed the gap to three at 103-100 with 3:45 to go. 

While Portland and Houston traded punches in the closing minutes, the Rockets’ high-powered offense led by Gordon and Paul was too much to overcome in the end as the home side claimed the 121-112 victory. 

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In his first game back after missing three games with a right calf strain, Lillard led the Blazers with 29 points on 9-of-16 shooting to go with eight assists and five rebounds. CJ McCollum, who also went 9-of-16, scored 24 points while dishing out four assists and grabbing six rebounds. Evan Turner added 18 points in 32 minutes before fouling out, while Ed Davis recorded a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. 

Paul scored a game-high 37 points while handing out 11 assists for the Rockets. Gordon added 30 points on 11-of-23 shooting, including five threes. Gerald Green and Tarik Black combined for 25 points off Houston’s bench in the win.

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QUOTABLE

"That’s what I told our team: just put ourselves in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter. And we did that, just couldn’t finish it." -- Head Coach Terry Stotts on Portland's fourth quarter run. 

NEXT UP

The Trail Blazers continue their four-game road trip with a stop in New Orleans for a meeting with the Pelicans on Friday night. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m. Pacific on NBC Sports Northwest.