Rockets Bounce Back, Beat Blazers In Game 5
Story by: Jason Friedman
Lin leads huge night from Rockets' reserves as Houston secures 108-98 victory
HOUSTON - Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin carried the Rockets to another fourth quarter lead. Befitting the script that's played out throughout this nip-and-tuck series, the Blazers fought back and continued to nip at Houston's heels. But presented with that haunting, familiar territory and armed with the knowledge that their season was squarely on the line, the Rockets faced down their demons and delivered the goods as James Harden shook off a slow start and went on a scoring binge in the final four minutes, helping Houston claw its way back in the series with a 108-98 win over Portland in Game 5 of their best-of-7 matchup.
Facing a 3-1 series hole and their first genuinely must-win moment of the playoffs, the Rockets responded just as one would expect in the opening half, diving for loose balls and doing all of the little things typically associated with being the more desperate team. Houston’s defense was also the best it’s been so far in the postseason, with the club’s swarming D stymieing LaMarcus Aldridge during a first half that saw him deliver just six points on 2-of-6 shooting from the field – this despite the fact Dwight Howard was limited to just 10 minutes due to foul trouble.
The Rockets’ scrambling and locked-in effort on that end of the floor also allowed them to take advantage of an increased number of transition opportunities which led to a pair of crowd pleasing dunks from Chandler Parsons and a triple from Troy Daniels which capped a 14-0 second quarter run that nearly blew the roof off Toyota Center. Daniels’ 3 was part of a monstrous first half effort from Houston’s bench which outscored the Blazers’ reserves by a resounding 21-5 margin.
And no member of the Rockets’ bench mob was bigger during that time than was Jeremy Lin, who bounced back from his rough Game 4 in a most emphatic way, setting the tone early with his aggressive, attacking rim runs that led to a series of delicious dishes as he racked up four assists in the opening period alone. Then Lin let his scoring do the majority of the talking in the second quarter as he knocked down a pair of 3s in the period to stave off multiple Portland rallies.
Yes, the Blazers conceded nothing in the opening two periods despite facing the most significant deficit of the series. Damian Lillard, in particular, proved to be a one-man wrecking crew as he did just about everything for Portland in the first half, compiling 18 points, six rebounds and four assists in that time. Due in large part to his singular brilliance, the Blazers stayed within striking distance by the break, trailing 56-48.
The third quarter saw the difference between the two teams further tighten thanks to the flame throwing of Portland’s Wes Matthews, who went berserk behind the 3-point line, sinking four triples in the period en route to racking 18 points in the frame. Houston began the quarter brightly enough, with Kevin McHale’s decision to leave Omer Asik in the game after he had picked up his fourth foul early in the period looming large particularly large as the big man continued to play suffocating defense on Aldridge while devouring nearly every board in sight. Still, Matthews’ deadeye sharpshooting allowed Portland to inch ever closer as the quarter drew to a close, and only another outstanding showing from Lin kept Houston in front by five heading into the final period of play.
Once there, the 25-year-old continued to mesmerize with the kind of play that transformed him into an international phenomenon two years ago. Feeding off the confidence and rhythm found within the confines of his scoring binge, Lin carried Houston’s offense in the early stages of the fourth quarter – an absolute necessity due to the fact that James Harden had up to that part largely languished through a miserable contest, having tallied just nine points on 3-of-11 shooting.
But sometime around the four-minute mark, with the Blazers breathing hot and heavy on Houston’s neck and down just a pair, the Rockets’ All-Star shooting guard awoke from his slumber, snapping his slump with a reverse layup along the baseline before knocking down a triple that at long last gave his club some crunch time breathing room. Three free throws and a Terrence Jones layup later, the Rockets were ready to start securing their charter flight and hotel rooms for a return trip to Portland.
All told, Harden delivered eight of his 17 points in the final frame – all of which were scored in the game’s final four minutes. Dwight Howard, meanwhile, was terrific on both ends once again, dominating the paint to the tune of 22 points and 14 rebounds while teaming up with Asik to limit Aldridge to a mere eight points on 3-of-12 shooting - unfathomable figures given that Portland's All-Star power forward had poured in more than 40 points during his two previous visits to Toyota Center. Chandler Parsons came through with 20 points as well. And Jeremy Lin led a Rockets’ bench that outscored Portland’s reserves by a 34-5 margin, scoring 21 points to go along with four assists and three rebounds.
Game 6 will take place Friday night in Portland.
ROCKETS HEAD COACH KEVIN MCHALE
(On team's play down the stretch) “Dwight was good down the stretch for us. He got the ball inside. We were able to play inside and out a little bit. Our spacing got better. They (Blazers) started running around a little bit, trying to overcompensate. If they didn't...Dwight was pretty solid. He was really good in the post. He was making good decisions. He ended up with two assists but he really moved the ball well and got some of the hockey assists we've been looking for. We got some stops. They (Blazers) had a home run there in the third quarter where they were making a lot of 3's.”
(On resolve of the Rockets) “They've played well. The games have all been close. Our guys came out and battled. I thought they would. I didn't think that they would not battle. They wanted to get back to Portland and get another shot at them. Of course, our season was hanging on tonight and now our season hangs on Friday night.”
(On defense on LaMarcus Aldridge) “He's a tough cover. We're just trying to keep bigger bodies on him and try to make him shoot over the top. He didn't get as many shots. (Wesley) Matthews got really hot there. (Damian) Lillard was killing in the first half and Matthews had a huge third quarter. It didn't seem like the ball found LaMarcus as much as it has in the past.”
(On Jeremy Lin's play) “Jeremy’s had some very, very good games for us. We needed him. He had a great stretch there where he was able to break people down. They were trying to pressure him all over and he broke the pressure down, got in the paint, made a couple floaters. When they’re putting that much pressure on, it’s hard running an offense; you’ve got to break people down.”
(On Beverley) "Patrick gave us 21 gritty, hard minutes. He’s got 101 temperature right now. He’s getting IVs. The kid’s tough as nails. He’s been a rag doll all day long, but the thing about that kid is he’s tough. Tonight he played on heart alone – he had nothing. He said, ‘I’ll give you what I’ve got.’ That’s why I like him."
I just tried to be aggressive. I felt like I need to be more of a spark for the team. I hadn’t done a great job of that in this series so I just tried to come out as aggressive as I can be.
Game 4 was definitely a rough one. I didn’t really sleep much that night. Over the last couple days I just tried to keep reminding myself to stay faithful and trust in God’s perfect plan. It doesn’t always go your way, but tonight my mindset was I was going to go out there and play for Him and play as hard as I can. I had the same mindset in Game 4 but tonight was just a better result.
(On him stepping up in addition to Dwight Howard stepping up) “Dwight carried us the entire game. We ran him down a little bit and someone else had to make a play. Chandler was playing well. Jeremy made some big shots. I really hadn't done anything the first two quarters so it was time to step up and make plays.”
(On the offensive performance tonight) “We did a pretty good job of helping each other out. LaMarcus (Aldridge) couldn't get into a rhythm the entire game. Credit to our bigs but it was just basically helping each other out and having each other's back.”
(On how getting in the lane helped the Rockets get into a rhythm late in the 4th.) “It helps a lot just to be aggressive. Our team was making big plays throughout the first three and a half quarters it was time for me to step up and make plays. So, I just had confidence in my shot and attacking abilities.”
(On how he is feeling) “Fever is still a little high. I'm just happy we got the win. Go back home and get some rest and get ready for our upcoming game.”
(On if he feels we won because of team defense) “Yeah. I think we got stops. They missed some shots that they normally make. We rebounded. Dwight and Omer did a great job of rebounds. They (Blazers) started making a comeback in the fourth but we withstood it but like you said we got good stops at the end.”
(On the crucial win tonight) “We feel like we let a few of these games slip away and we showed growth tonight by not letting that happen. They (Portland) are a good team. They're going to continue to fight. They're resilient no matter how far they get down. They're going to keep attacking you and they've got guys who are capable of hitting some tough shots. It was a big win for us tonight. Our season is on the line so we are not trying to go home and we've just got to continue to battle and take it one game at a time.”
(On playing better down the stretch tonight) “We’ve learned the hard way this series. We’ve had multiple leads that we’ve given up. They’re a tough team. They’re not going to ever throw in the towel. They’re going to keep coming at you and they’ve got guys who can hit tough shots so the biggest thing for us tonight was to learn from our mistakes. Every game has been so close this series and it’s so evenly matched that it’s going to be a dogfight from here on out. No one wants their season to end. So with that understanding, we’ve got to grow our leads and can’t let anything get in the way. We’ve got to stay together and continue to believe in each other, and just continue to do what we did tonight.
"We’re confident going back to Portland. We felt like we let (Game 4) slip away there. We’re not hanging our heads at all. We believe in each other and in that entire locker room nobody thinks this series is over. We have a chance to do something special here and we’ve got to continue to do that and take it one game at a time. It’s going to be a dogfight Friday night, it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be an awesome environment. We’ve got to go out there and execute. By now the scouting report is out the window. You just have to go out there and get it done."
(On the Rockets making enough plays to get the win) “We've got to continue to focus on what we need to do and how we are playing. There were some frustrating things tonight. We missed a lot of open shots. I missed multiple bunnies in the lane that usually finish but we stayed together, we stayed positive and we believe that we can win this series and our fans were great. The crowd was unbelievable and we look forward to another dog fight Friday in Portland.”
(On what the Rockets did differently against LaMarcus Aldridge) “I think we've been guarding him as a team. We've been playing a lot of team defense and everybody has been showing up.”
(On the Rockets defense being a key to the win) “I think we got stops when we needed to and that's what got us the win tonight.”
(On the game) “We did a pretty good job of not thinking so much, just playing. There are still some areas that we need to go at, especially when we have leads against this team. We've had double digit leads all series long and when we get those leads, we tend to stop doing what we did to get us those leads. So, we've got to learn as a team to value each possession. It's very important that we value the ball and get a good shot every time. That's something that we have to learn and we have to learn it fast.”
(On what the Rockets mindset was tonight) “I don't want to go on vacation. I want to win. I want to give everything I've got. Every night, put my heart into it and sacrifice my body and do whatever I can to help this team win. It's not going to be easy.”
(On what Rockets did differently in defending LaMarcus Aldridge) “We tried to make him take tough shots.”
PORTLAND COACH TERRY STOTTS
(On the game): “It was another hard fought game. Obviously, we got down early in the first half, and I didn’t think we played the way we’ve been playing the series. We turned the ball over too much and were a little out of sorts defensively, but we made a good run in the second half. It was just another hard fought game and so we look forward to playing them on Friday.”
(On seeing a more intense effort from the Rockets): “I think both teams have been playing with a high intensity all series. I didn’t necessarily notice it one way or another because all the games have been at a high level of intensity and effort. I think you’ll see the same thing on Friday.”
(On the Rockets shutting down LaMarcus Aldridge): “He goes three-for-twelve and missed a couple of free throws and maybe his foul trouble got him out of his rhythm. Out team is constructed where we have to take advantage of the opportunities that are there. Obviously, LA (LaMarcus Aldridge) didn’t score, but we still scored 98 and we had some opportunities in the last three minutes. Obviously, LA (LaMarcus Aldridge) has had better games in the series, but I don’t know if it was necessarily their defense, but give Houston credit they played hard and we’ll look at the video and see here we can get better.”
(On Jeremy Lin): “He hit two big shots as the shot clock was coming down in both halves and those were big momentum plays. Those were his only two 3’s or, I’m sorry, one was a two, those were two big momentum plays for them and kind of took a little bit out of us. Both those plays we had a good defensive stand and then he throws it up at the end. His penetrations hurt us, particularly in the second half. We know he is very capable of doing that for them. For him to have 21 off the bench gave them a lot of big points.”
(On what happened in the fourth quarter ): “They made plays. We had opportunities to make shots. We didn’t make certain shots that we needed. We didn’t get the big stops down the stretch and I think they definitely played well down the stretch and we didn’t and I thought that was the biggest keys in going down the stretch.”
(On Houston defending him differently): “No, that was just how the game went (only 12 field goal attempts). The ball didn’t come to me as much tonight. Our guys were making shots and we were playing off them and that’s how the game went. It wasn’t about how Dwight (Howard) guarded me or anything like that.”
(On the Trail Blazers position): “they came home and they took care of their home court and now we’ll go home back to Portland and we’ll try and do the same thing. We’ve been good at home all year, and now we’ll go back home and take care of business.”
(On what happened down the stretch): “They made plays. You have to give them credit. They played with a sense of urgency, desperation, that we knew they would. It seemed like Jeremy Lin hit big shot after big shot. We got stops and still gave ourselves an opportunity. They made plays when it came down to it.”
(On his play and eighteen points in the third quarter): “I felt good, but I was just playing basketball. I don’t think I went into that quarter thinking that I had to be aggressive, but it was in the flow of the game and my teammates were finding me and my shots were falling.”
(On the Trail Blazers confidence in the third quarter): “There is no question that we thought we were going to win that game. In a 82 game season, you play in every kind of game and we have been a resilient team all year. We’ve been in deficits that we’ve allowed ourselves to get into, but we’ve been able to pull them out. There was no question that we were going to fight and we got it to a one point game, but we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
(On Jeremy Lin): “He made plays. I remember two tough 3’s at the end of the shot clock, so that is six points right there that easily could have went either way, but credit him, he made plays, he was attacking the rim, aggressive and 21 points off the bench is huge.”
(On if the Trail Blazers have lost the edge): “No, I don’t know it was that. I think we may have underestimated how desperate they were going to come out. I’m excited for Game 6 and I know that they will come out with a greater level of intensity and confidence and we will have to try and match it overcome it.”
(On the difference in tonight’s game): “I think it was just the energy in the first half. I don’t know if Houston did anything different. They just came out very desperately."