Blazers Look To Extend Win Streak In Second Game Of Back-To-Back In Houston

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers, coming off their best win of the season Tuesday night in Oklahoma City, play the second game of a back-to-back and their second game of a four-game trip Wednesday night versus the Rockets in Houston. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.

After going 16-25 on the road last season, the 2017-18 Trail Blazers are one of three teams in the Western Conference with a winning record away from home this season. Portland improved that record with their twelve road victory Tuesday night by beating the Thunder 117-106 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in a game that wasn't as close in the second half as the final score would indication.

“Needless to say, this is a very good win for us because of how good Oklahoma City is," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "I didn’t think that we played very well in the first half and we managed to have a lead. That third quarter was really good on both ends, with CJ (McCollum)'s shot-making and then Nurkic. Getting down early and then coming back, that could’ve gone either way and we did a nice job of fighting back."

Despite playing without Damian Lillard, who sat out his seven game of the season with a right leg injury, the Trail Blazers built a 21-point lead in the second half versus the Thunder thanks in large part to CJ McCollum, Shabazz Napier and Jusuf Nurkić all scoring at least 20 points and the team as a whole shooting better than 50 percent for the third consecutive game.

"When we come on a road trip like this and Dame is hurt, it’s like we aren’t supposed to win," said McCollum, who scored a game-high 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field, seven assists and three rebounds in 33 minutes. "I think everyone plays a little bit looser understanding that we are playing against an upper Western Conference talent in OKC and then the Houston Rockets. Execution has been big for us, as well as playing the right way while being comfortable making aggressive mistakes and moving on."

The play of Portland's bench was also integral to Tuesday's victory, with Pat Connaughton (10 points, four rebounds), Maurice Harkless (nine points, two rebounds, two assists) and Zach Collins (nine points, five rebounds) all making significant contributions, especially in the second half.

While the Trail Blazers have managed just fine without their all-star guard, the Rockets have had a more difficult go of playing without James Harden, who has missed Houston's last four games with a left hamstring strain and is out for Wednesday's game versus Portland. The Rockets have gone 2-2 with Harden sidelined, though they weren't playing all that well prior to absence, losing five-straight before getting off the schneid with a 148-142 victory versus the Lakers on New Year's Eve.

Despite whatever recent issues they've encountered, the Rocket took the first meeting versus the Trail Blazers and Portland and still sit in second place in the Western Conference after beating the Bulls 116-107 Monday night in Chicago. Five Houston players scored in double figures in the win led by 24 points apiece from Chris Paul and Eric Gordon. Both guards each finished with nine assists, while center Clint Capela put up a double-double of 15 points and 16 rebounds.

Wednesday night's game can be seen locally on NBC Sports Northwest with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Scott Lynn, filling in for Brian Wheeler, and Casey Holdahl will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all of the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.