PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers made up for a bad loss in New Orleans on their most recent road trip by defeating the Pelicans on Friday. They likely had designs on a similar outcome when they hosted the Rockets, a team that beat them by 17 on that same road trip, Sunday night in Portland. Unfortunately, James Harden and Eric Gordon had other plans. Houston’s guard duo combined to score 64 points to lead the Rockets to a 130-114 victory versus the Trail Blazers in front of a sellout crowd of 19,393 at the Moda Center.
"It was disappointing to give up over 30 in every quarter," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "Tried some different things as opposed to last game (against Houston), tried some traps, tried some switching, tried picking Harden up full-court. They're a difficult team to guard. I think James does a great job of playing the game and figuring out what needs to be done, but the run that they went on when Harden was out of the game was tough for us, Eric Gordon got it going."
The Trail Blazers have now lost six of their last eight games, are 9-10 overall and 5-4 at home this season. With the win, the Rockets have taken the season series versus the Trail Blazers with the last of their three contests this season scheduled for March 30. Heading into the third quarter, it looked as though the Trail Blazers were in good position to even the season series versus the Rockets. While Houston managed to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter, Portland answered back with a 10-0 run to tie the game midway through the third. The Rockets would ultimately take a three-point lead into the fourth, which seemed like a reasonable deficit to overcome in the final 12 minutes. But the game would go the other way, as the Rockets would outscore the Trail Blazers 34-21 in the fourth to come away with the 16-point victory.
“I think when you’re playing against a team like that that can be so explosive offensively," said Damian Lillard. "They go out there and they play the passing lanes – three turnovers or three bad offensive possessions could turn right into nine points. It’s kind of like the Golden State thing with how quick they can just hit shots and they can score points in bunches. We were right there, right in the game and it was a game, and then I think we could have executed well, especially myself, I turned the ball over. They got their hands on a number of my passes and that led to three pointers and fouls and putting ourselves in a tough situation. Doing that too much down the stretch, they were just able to pull away.”
The Trail Blazers were led by CJ McCollum, who finished with 28 points on 9-of-19 shooting, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals in 37 minutes. Lillard went 11-of-13 from the free throw line on the way to scoring 27 points while adding five assists and five rebounds in just under 38 minutes. Maurice Harkless added 18 points while Evan Turner added 15 points and six rebounds off the bench.
“Guys are getting involved, guys are knocking down shots," said Harden. "I think we shot 40 something from three tonight, again. The second unit has done great, Eric (Gordon) is playing well. He does a great job of taking his shots when they’re there, tonight he got hot and we just rode that wave for the fourth quarter.”
Both Trevor Ariza and Ryan Anderson also finished in double figures as the Rockets shot 56 percent from the field as a team.
"Right now we’re not getting it done on the defensive end," said Lillard. "I think that’s what it comes to. You look at the Cleveland game, we scored 120-something points and we lose. That’s a lot of points to score and not win the game. Tonight we had 114 and we lose. Obviously we’re capable of scoring, we’re going to put points on the board, but we’ve got to find a way to get better at coming up with more stops and being more consistent."
Next up, the Trail Blazers have two days off before hosting the Pacers on Wednesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 pm.