Trail Blazers Ride First Quarter Versus Rockets For Stotts' 400th Win

by Casey Holdahl
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PORTLAND -- The Trail Blazers could have made things a bit easier on themselves Monday night versus the Rockets, but it wasn’t all that hard either.

Portland put up 50 points in the first quarter, the most any Trail Blazers team has ever scored in any quarter, while making 12 three-pointers, tying the NBA record for threes in a quarter, before going on to defeat a woefully undermanned Rockets team 140-129 in front of a sellout crowd of 1,939 Monday night at the Moda Center.

“I think it was not surprising, but it would have been nice if we could have built a bigger lead going into the fourth quarter,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “Human nature kind of sneaks up on you, I didn’t think we had a same pop in the third quarter as we did in the first quarter. But in the end, we took care of business and that’s the most important thing.”

The win was also Stotts’ 400th over the course of nine seasons in Portland.

“It’s special, not a lot of coaches are able to be with a franchise long enough to win 400 games,” said Stotts, who was presented with the game ball and a trophy by the team in the post-game locker room. “It’s been a great nine years. Our work’s not done this year, but to get 400 is pretty special. With one franchise, not a lot of coaches get an opportunity to do that.”

The Trail Blazers are now 40-29 overall and 19-16 at home this season. Portland has now won four-straight and eight of their last last nine games. And with three games remaining, the Trail Blazers remain in sixth in the Western Conference, just a half game behind the Mavericks in fifth and 1.5 games up on the Lakers in seventh.

When a team shoots 71 percent from the field and 75 percent from three on the way to scoring 50 points in the first quarter, as the Trail Blazers did Monday night, it’s understandable to assume that the rest of the game is going to be smooth sailing. But even though they set a new franchise record and tied an NBA record for their offense, their defense versus a Rockets team with the worst record in the NBA was not to the level it was in the most recent games versus the Spurs and Lakers.

So even though the Trail Blazers led wire-to-wire, there were times in which it seemed as if the Rockets might overtake the home team. There was an 8-0 Houston run that cut the lead to 67-57 with just under four minutes to play in the half, though Portland would push the advantage back to 16 before the intermission.

The Rockets got the lead down to single digits before the midway point of the third, and even though the Blazers got the advantage back to as many as 15, they’d need a Damian Lillard three with 8.6 seconds to play in the quarter to push the lead back to double-digits before the start of the fourth.

But when Houston went on an 11-4 run early in the fourth to cut the lead to 116-111 with over nine minutes to play, everyone in the arena with any investment whatsoever in Portland’s success this season had to be a bit nervous. A loss in easily their most winnable remaining game, especially after looking dominant in the first quarter, simply would have been too much for many in Rip City to endure.

But fortunately, it never came to that. Portland outscored Houston 14-4 over roughly the next two and a half minutes to push the lead to 130-115 with just under six minutes to play. The two teams would mostly trade baskets for the next two and a half minutes -- an agreement the Blazers could live with up 15 -- before Stotts was able to insert the end of the bench to ride out the last two minutes for the win.

“We had aa couple of stretches where we could have put them away earlier,” said Norman Powell. “They’re a young team, they’re going to play no matter what, be aggressive. They were hitting shots and we kind of let our foot off the gas defensively, allowing them some easy looks at the three-point line. But we locked back in, started executing, doing what we needed to do.”

Damian Lillard went 11-of-20 from the field, 6-of-11 from three and 6-of-6 from the free throw line for 34 points to go with nine rebounds and six assists in 36 minutes.

CJ McCollum scored 21 of his 28 points in the first quarter while also finishing the game with. seven. assists, three rebounds and a steal in. 35 minutes. Powell also finished with 28 points, with 13 of those coming in the first quarter, to go with six rebounds, four assists and a steal in 34 minutes.

Jusuf Nurkic went 10-of-14 for to finish with 22 points, six rebounds, five assists, three steals and a block in 29 minutes. And after not appearing in the last two games, Derrick Jones Jr. put up 11 points, three rebounds and three assists with both Carmelo Anthony (right ankle) and Nassir Little (back spasms) sidelined.

Kelly Olynyk and DJ Augustin each finished with 21 points for the Rockets.

Next up, the Trail Blazers leave Portland to finish up their road schedule with a back-to-back versus the two teams at the top of the Western Conference standings, with the first game scheduled for Wednesday versus the Jazz in Salt Lake City. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.


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