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Rip City Romp

April 06, 2013 5:47 am EDT

Rockets roll to fourth straight win with 116-98 triumph over Portland

PORTLAND, OR - The weather outside the Rose Garden Friday was pure Portlandia. It was cool, wet and gloomy gray; in other words: a quintessential Pacific Northwest evening. But the damp and dreary drizzle of the outdoors had nothing on the thunderstorm taking place inside the arena where the Rockets spent the night raining threes, lighting up the scoreboard and scorching the Blazers 116-98 on the way to recording their fourth straight win.

Houston set the tone right from the outset, with James Harden and Francisco Garcia netting three triples apiece in a wild first quarter that saw Harden and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge performing at the peak of their All-Star powers. But whereas Aldridge was largely left to languish as a one-man show for the better part of the contest, Harden had more than enough help from his teammates to make sure the Rockets rose to a season-best 10 games above .500.

“We did a pretty good job for 48 minutes of getting into the paint and going into attack mode,” said Harden, who finished with a game-high 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists. And “attack mode” seems about as good a description as any of the all-out assault Houston unleashed on the Blazers’ defense Friday night. The Rockets drove into the paint seemingly at will, allowing them to feast on an unending number of layups and open threes. With Harden and Jeremy Lin running the show and going wherever they pleased, Portland was simply powerless to slow Houston’s offensive machine.  The end result: the Rockets racked up 54 paint points while knocking down 12 of their 28 three-point attempts – a potent combination borne of beautiful ball movement and a relentless, punishing pace that kept the Blazers in a double-digit hole for most of the night.

“We felt like they could do a good job on one side of the floor but if we moved it to the second side they would struggle to be able to shift their whole defense and have everyone be in position,” said Lin at the end of an evening that saw him score 22 points to pair with his eight assists. “A lot of times when it got to the weak side everyone just tried to attack the closeout. And (when Portland went to a) zone, a lot of times a big man was closing out on a guard.

“When we build leads, that’s what we do (move ball quickly side-to-side). When we give up leads, that’s what we fail to do. I think it’s pretty clear now, night and day, that for us we can be two different types of teams: one that moves the ball really well and one that doesn’t.”

There was no sign of the Rockets’ Mr. Hyde Friday night. The ball moved swiftly and smartly from start to finish. And when Omer Asik finally managed to put the clamps on Aldridge during the decisive third quarter, Houston was able to pull away from Portland for good. The Blazers’ star went scoreless in the third period after exploding for 24 points in the first half as Asik, clearly feeling he had a point to prove after enduring Aldridge’s early eruption, limited Portland’s All-Star power forward to just a single shot in the quarter.

“(Asik) did a great job in the second half,” said Houston head coach Kevin McHale. “I was really considering coming with a double team (on Aldridge) but the coaching staff said, ‘No, no, just take the temperature in the second half,’ and he cooled down thank goodness because he was on fire. Omer did a great job, he really did. He made him take some tough shots and in the second half he had it going his way.”

And-1s: Jeremy Lin played most of Friday’s game with a sleeve on his right arm after feeling some discomfort and tightness in the forearm area the past couple days. Houston’s point guard said the cause of the issue is unknown but he deemed it “nothing major” and certainly his production and play against Portland provided a strong argument to that effect.

“I woke up this morning and I couldn’t grip anything,” he said when asked what prompted him to put on the sleeve. “It was some muscle in my forearm. It was really weird. It hurt last game but it didn’t hurt as bad. Then just today it was really bothering me. (The training staff) did some crazy stuff and it worked really well and then I put this compression (sleeve) on just to keep it warm and it felt way better. Nothing major. (Trainer) Jason Biles did a great job … It’s just really tight along my shoulder and all the way down my triceps. This one spot is extra tight so we’re working on loosening everything up.”

Chandler Parsons, meanwhile, missed the contest due to a strained right calf he suffered during Wednesday night's game against Sacramento. Parsons is listed as day-to-day going forward.

QUOTES

KEVIN MCHALE

I thought we got into the paint a lot. (Lin and Harden) were very aggressive; they had a lot of dump offs for Greg and our bigs. I thought they did a nice job of getting in there and breaking down the defense.

If we just get three-happy without getting into the paint first, sometimes those end up being bad shots for us. But if we can get the ball into the paint first and then get it out it will be a much better three for us.

(Omer on Aldridge in the second half) He did a great job in the second half. I was really considering coming with a double team but the coaching staff said, ‘No, no, just take the temperature in the second half,’ and he cooled down thank goodness because he was on fire. Omer did a great job, he really did. He made him take some tough shots and in the second half he had it going his way. But LaMarcus put on a show there for awhile. He was making tough shot after tough shot.

JEREMY LIN

We felt like they could do a good job on one side of the floor but if we moved it to the second side they would struggle to be able to shift their whole defense and have everyone be in position. A lot of times when it got to the weak side everyone just tried to attack the closeout. And then that zone, a lot of times a big man was closing out on a guard.

When we build leads, that’s what we do (move ball quickly side-to-side). When we give up leads, that’s what we fail to do. I think it’s pretty clear now, night and day, that for us we can be two different types of teams: one that moves the ball really well and one that doesn’t.

I woke up this morning and I couldn’t grip anything. It was some muscle in my forearm. It was really weird. It hurt last game but it didn’t hurt as bad. Then just today it was really bothering me. (The training staff) did some crazy stuff and it worked really well and then I put this compression (sleeve) on just to keep it warm and it felt way better. Nothing major. (Trainer) Jason Biles did a great job … It’s just really tight along my shoulder and all the way down my triceps. This one spot is extra tight so we’re working on loosening everything up.

JAMES HARDEN

We did a pretty good job for 48 minutes of getting into the paint and going into attack mode and that allowed us to kick it out for threes as well. Overall it was a good offensive and defensive game.

The guards really helped us out. Myself, Jeremy, Francisco – we all rebounded the basketball and that kind of gave us a little advantage in transition.

(think the two games off helped) Yeah, I kind of got myself going as well with my body. That allows me to move the basketball and be in attack mode for basically the entire game, not even holding the ball and just trying to make plays.

(brought back the Eurostep – a sign the foot’s feeling better?) I’m feeling a little bit better. It felt good to actually make it

BLAZERS HEAD COACH TERRY STOTTS

On Harden’s performance:

“He showed why he’s an All Star and why he’s made a big difference in the franchise. He can score in a lot of different ways. He’s a tough guard – he can shoot threes, get to the free throw line. When they get the threes going, it makes it especially difficult”

What bothered you about game?

“It’s in general – it’s not just one thing. You hate to come away with a loss. You hate to give up 63 points in the first half. You hate to have mental breakdowns at the end of the third quarter. You can’t have mental mistakes. I think we should be past some of these things.”

On effort and some boos near the end of the game:

“I thought we played hard. I don’t think it was necessarily a lack of effort, I didn’t think we necessarily played well. Sometimes I think people confuse lack of effort and not playing well as the same thing. When you give up layups in transition, it’s as much a mental mistake when a guy takes a shot, then one or two guys have to get back. You’ve got to go after balls and get loose balls. That’s part of it. We’ve got a lot of young guys and they’re out there playing. LA played very well. Damian was getting beat up. Fans have a right to do what they want, but I can’t say I was displeased with necessarily the effort.”

On Aldridge returning from injury:

“I was glad to see it and I was glad to have him. He showed why he’s so important to our team. I was glad he didn’t show any ill effects from the ankle and I was very pleased that not only he came back but played as well as he did.”

On mentality late in season with 7 game losing streak:

“It’s definitely a downer. To have a losing streak at this time of the year and playing against playoff teams, it’s a difficult task. In general, I’ve found that most players bounce back pretty well and we’ll bounce back Sunday.”

LAMARCUS ALDRIDGE

On ankle: “I felt good, a little tender but for the most part I felt okay. At the end, I finally jumped off it at the end and it was a little tender, but other than that, I felt good.”

Any concern over effort of the team?

“I think the effort was there, we just have to play smarter. We had a lot of brain farts tonight, we had a lot of miscommunication. We had a lot of moments where we had it down and then we have a turnover or we make a boneheaded play. They always capitalized really well off of our turnovers and things like that.”

“Guys are trying to play hard, guys just have to play harder. I don’t think tonight I question any one playing hard. I definitely want guys to play a lot smarter out there. We made some mistakes tonight that they didn’t and they won the game.”

On Harden: “He’s great. He’s really good in pick and rolls and he’s good in transition. He makes that team go. What makes him so good is that he loves to pass the ball. Him and LeBron – I’m not trying to say he’s LeBron, but I think those two guys in the pick and roll with their teams, they’re just hard to guard because they love to pass the ball.”