Notebook: Trail Blazers 95, Rockets 85



Posted Nov 3, 2012 11:55 PM

By Matt Miller, for NBA.com

THE FACTS: James Harden received plenty of praise for his outstanding performance over the season's first two games. After going into an offensive funk and making a critical defensive error that arguably cost his team a victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, Harden will likely hear a different form of feedback.

LaMarcus Aldridge scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, Nicolas Batum netted all 17 of his points, collected five steals and blocked two shots after halftime and rookie Damian Lillard added 20 points, nine assists and six boards as the Blazers (2-1) spoiled Harden and Jeremy Lin's Toyota Center debut with a 95-85 overtime victory. Harden led Houston (2-1) with 24 points on 8-for-24 shooting, while Lin finished with 13 points, seven assists and three steals.

QUOTABLE: "I like every challenge. Defense is where I hang my hat. ... I look at it as an opportunity to show [what I can do]. Every time I'm not on the All-Defensive team that pisses me off. I'm checking the best player every night ... and I feel like I'm not getting credit for it."
-- Wesley Matthews on what motivates him to defend the opponent's best player on a regular basis.

THE STAT: Portland let the Rockets score 13 points off its nine turnovers in the first half, but its transition defense improved greatly in the second half. With Houston only able to generate two points off seven Blazer turnovers after halftime, Portland found an effective formula for slowing the game's tempo and the Rockets' offense.

TURNING POINT: The Blazers found the range from the perimeter at the beginning of overtime, building an 87-81 lead after Batum and Lillard drained 3-pointers. Lillard added another trey later in the extra session, a figurative dagger that stretched Portland's advantage to 93-85 with 1:25 remaining.

BAD MOVE: Harden left Matthews wide open for a game-tying 3-pointer in the final minute of regulation after he helped Patrick Patterson guard Aldridge on the low block. Aldridge had a distinct advantage on the play, but Harden should not have rotated off Matthews, considering the Rockets would have maintained a one-point edge had Aldridge scored an easy bucket.

NOT: After quickly netting 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, Harden finally showed signs of regression by missing six consecutive shots. Harden continued to create great opportunities at the rim when he drove into the lane, but his finishes simply did not drop. Those misfires certainly affected the fourth-year guard, who struggled mightily from that point while dealing with a strong defensive effort from Matthews.

QUOTABLE II: "Wes is a warrior. He took a challenge on James Harden and was physical and tenacious. ... He's as good a competitor as I've been around."

-- Blazers coach Terry Stotts on Matthews' value to the team.

HOT: The rookie Lillard handled the pressure-packed fourth and overtime periods like a savvy veteran, pouring in 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with three assists and only one turnover.

GOOD MOVE: Portland gained control of the game by cranking up the intensity on the defensive end after halftime. With more emphasis on neutralizing the Rockets' ball movement, as well as Harden and Lin's penetration, the Blazers made Houston look helpless on the offensive end for most of the third quarter. Portland forced seven turnovers and limited the Rockets to 7-for-21 shooting from the field in that period.

NOTABLE: Lillard has matched Geoff Petrie's franchise record for most consecutive 20-point performances to begin a season (3). He will look to claim sole possession of this record in Monday's meeting with Dallas. ... With the win, the Blazers snapped a four game losing streak against Houston.

UP NEXT: For the Blazers, Monday @ Dallas, Thursday vs. L.A. Clippers (TNT), Saturday vs. San Antonio. For the Rockets, Wednesday vs. Denver, Friday @ Memphis (NBA TV), Saturday vs. Detroit.