THE FACTS: This time, a hot-shooting James Harden and the Houston Rockets were determined to avoid squandering another double-digit lead over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Harden finished with 35 points on 13-for-16 shooting, 11 assists and seven rebounds to lead Houston to a 118-103 victory over the Blazers on Friday at Toyota Center. Chandler Parsons scored 20 points and collected two steals, and Patrick Patterson added 16 points and six boards for the Rockets (28-24), who have won six of their last eight games overall and four straight at home.
LaMarcus Aldridge paced Portland (25-25), which has lost three of its last five contests overall and six of seven on the road, with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Nicolas Batum chipped in with 24 points on 7-for-12 shooting, while Damian Lillard poured in 18 points and dished out six assists as the Blazers blew an opportunity to record three straight victories over the Rockets in the same season since 2002-03.
QUOTABLE: "That's as efficient a night as you'll see."
-- Portland coach Terry Stotts on Harden, who has scored 215 points on only 112 field-goal attempts over his last eight outings.
THE STAT: Portland overcame a deficit of at least 12 points in its first two meetings with Houston this season, but the Rockets pounced on the Blazers early and never trailed in Friday's matchup. Houston recorded only its second wire-to-wire win of the season.
TURNING POINT: Houston scored on eight of nine possessions while limiting Portland to 2-for-7 shooting and two turnovers during a 15-5 Rockets run that extended their 62-57 lead to a 77-62 edge. The Blazers' deficit never dipped below double digits after that spurt.
QUOTABLE II: "It was huge. We owed them a couple. We let two slip away in overtime, and going into All-Star break we need all these wins against teams that are right in the [playoff] hunt with us."
-- Chandler Parsons
HOT: Harden worked his way to the rim repeatedly over the first two periods, pouring in 20 points on a perfect 8-for-8 effort from the field before halftime. Harden's ability to attract so much attention from Blazer defenders, coupled with some crisp ball movement and excellent floor spacing, helped Houston post an eye-popping effective field-goal percentage of 75.7 during the first half.
NOT: After missing 17 of their final 19 3-point attempts in Wednesday's loss at Dallas, the Blazers' perimeter shooting slump continued in Houston. Portland has connected on only 10 of its last 45 attempts (22.2 percent) from behind the arc after Friday's 8-for-26 performance.
GOOD MOVE: The Rockets were content with allowing Aldridge and Lillard to wreak havoc on the offensive end, as they shifted their focus to limiting the production of Portland's role players. Although Aldridge terrorized Houston for the third time this season, the Blazers were unable to generate the effective inside-out game that put them over the top in their previous two games against the Rockets.
BAD MOVE: Portland did not take the aggressive defensive approach needed to disrupt the Rockets' offensive rhythm. The lack of pressure the Blazers applied on Houston's ball-handlers, along with the inability to cut off passing lanes and turn risky decisions into turnovers, allowed Harden and the Rockets to operate freely.
NOTABLE: Lillard is the first player in NBA history to score at least 900 points and bury at least 100 3-point attempts in the first 50 games of his career. ... Houston guard Toney Douglas left the game in the first quarter and did not return after suffering a left hip pointer when he was inadvertently elbowed by Wesley Matthews. The team labeled his status as day-to-day. ... Portland forward Nicolas Batum wore a new black brace on his sore right wrist, which has bothered him since he injured it during a Jan. 19 practice. ... Former Rocket center Yao Ming watched from a courtside seat. .... Houston netted 62 points on a season-high 64.9 percent shooting in the first half to record its 21st 60-point half of the season. Houston also shot a season-best 59.5 percent for the game. ... Aldridge, who set a career high with his seventh consecutive double-double Friday, has totaled 87 points and 28 rebounds in three matchups with the Rockets this season. He has also reached 20 points in each of his last 10 visits to Toyota Center. ... Houston improved to 12-3 this season when Harden scores at least 30 points and 13-3 when they make at least 40.0 percent of their 3-point attempts. ... The Rockets have scored at least 107 points in 15 of their last 20 home tilts, scoring an average of 114.8 during this stretch. ... Houston center Omer Asik blocked a season-high four shots.
UP NEXT: For the Blazers: Sunday @ Orlando, Tuesday @ Miami, Wednesday @ New Orleans. For the Rockets: Sunday @ Sacramento, Tuesday @ Golden State, Wednesday @ L.A. Clippers.