Blazers Take Season Series On Second Night Of Back-To-Back Versus Houston

by Casey Holdahl
Follow @chold

PORTLAND -- The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t able to hold a first-half lead in their loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Friday night in the first game of a back-to-back.

On the same court less than 24 hours later, they made up for it against another of the West’s hottest teams.

The Trail Blazers finished the first half on a 13-0 run and were able to hold that lead for the rest of the game on the way to defeating the Houston Rockets 110-101 in front of a sellout crowd of 19,577 Saturday night at the Moda Center.

"It was a good bounce-back win after last night's game," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. "It was a really good win against a really good team."

Portland is now 23-17 overall and 15-7 at home this season. With the win, the Trail Blazers have secured the season series 2-1, their first season series advantage versus Houston since the 2014-15 season. The loss breaks an six-game winning streak for Houston, though they’ve won 12 of their last 14.

Despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Trail Blazers matched the Rockets’ energy early. Portland center Jusuf Nurkić, who has played the best basketball of his career over the past two weeks, was especially effective in the early going, scoring Portland’s first six points.

"I thought Nurk got us off to a great start," said Stotts. "We were able to take advantage of him inside with their switching."

But for as good as Nurkić was, Rockets guard Austin Rivers was even better, going 4-of-4 from three for 12 points in the first five minutes.

Rivers would go on to score 14 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field in the first quarter, but with Nurkić, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum all scoring six points and Zach Collins pitching in five, the Blazers and Rockets went into the second quarter tied 30-30.

Portland went scoreless for nearly three minutes early in the second quarter, which allowed Houston to go on a 10-2 run did give the road team a 40-36 lead with just over six minutes to play in the half.

But the Trail Blazers would answer forcefully, going on a 20-3 run in the final 4:26 of the first half to take a 59-46 lead into the intermission.

After holding James Harden to nine points in the first half, the MVP guard put up 20 points in the third quarter to cut the lead to nine points going into the fourth quarter.

But the Trail Blazers have yet to lose when going into the fourth quarter with a lead, and that streak would continue Saturday night. The Rockets got within five points after a reverse dunk by Gerald Green with 9:08 to play in regulation, but the Trail Blazers answered with five straight points to put the lead to 93-83 with 6:43 to play.

Behind the play of Nurkić, McCollum and Evan Turner, whose defense on Harden was crucial in keeping the 2018 MVP from scoring 40 points for the first time in his last six games, the Trail Blazers were able to get enough stops to come away with the nine-point victory.

"Just had to be aggressive and try to limit what he likes to do," said Turner. "He's an amazing offensive player, he's been on a hell of a run and obviously he's the head of the snake. So I was trying to pick him up, wear him down, tire him out and not try and get any cheap fouls. Just contest his shot, make sure I don't foul when I contest and that's pretty much it."

TOP PERFORMERS

Jusuf Nurkic finished with team highs of 25 points (11-18 FG, 3-6 FT) and 15 rebounds to go with three assists. It was the fifth time in the last six games that Nurkic scored 20-plus points and it was his 20th double-double of the season.

CJ McCollum scored 24 points (9-21 FG, 3-8 3-PT, 3-4 FT) to go with four rebounds and four assists. It was his 19th game of 20-plus points this season. Damian Lillard recorded 17 points (5-15 FG, 2-5 3-PT, 5-6 FT), five rebounds, a season-high 12 assists and two steals for his fourth double-double of the season.

In his second start of the season, Evan Turner recorded 14 points (6-11 FG, 2-2 FT), three rebounds, four assists, one steal and one block. It was the 14th time this season he has scored in double figures. Al-Farouq Aminu registered seven points (3-6 FG, 1-2 3-PT), eight rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Jake Layman scored nine points on 3-of-7 shooting (1-4 3-PT, 2-2 FT) to go with two rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench.

James Harden scored a game-high 38 points on 13-of-35 shooting (5-17 3-PT, 7-7 FT) to go with five rebounds, seven assists, one steal and one block. Clint Capela finished with 13 points (5-8 FG, 3-4 FT) and a game-high 21 rebounds.

LISTEN UP

NOTABLE

• With the victory, Portland claimed the season series over the Rockets, 2-1. It is the first time the Trail Blazers have won the season series over the Rockets since 2014-15.

• The Trail Blazers outrebounded the Rockets, 47-40, and outscored them in the paint, 54-44.

• Portland had 27 assists on 43 field goals while the Rockets recorded 13 assists on 39 field goals.

• The Trail Blazers committed a season-low 11 personal fouls. The Rockets committed 22 personal fouls. Portland attempted 20 free throws while Houston had 12 free throw attempts.

• Portland had 17 offensive rebounds leading to 21 second chance points while the Rockets scored seven second chance points off of 10 offensive boards.

• The Trail Blazers turned the ball over just nine times and forced Houston into 12 turnovers.

• Portland’s reserves outscored the Houston bench, 23-22.

QUOTABLE

"Well, we held (Harden) to under 40, so I guess that's a win." -- Terry Stotts

NEXT UP

After splitting an all-home back-to-back, the Trail Blazers continue a five-game homestand by hosting the New York Knicks Monday night in their only visit to the Moda Center this season. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

NEXT UP:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter