HOUSTON — The Portland Trail Blazers gave up a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter Sunday night in Houston, eventually losing 118-113 in overtime to fall to 42-21 on the season.
The Trail Blazers were outscored 33-21 in the fourth quarter and went scoreless in the final 2:15 of overtime to drop their second-straight game in heartbreaking fashion.
“That was a tough loss,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts. “A game that, I thought we did a good job of controlling it for a good part of it. We had our opportunities to win it. They made some tough shots. I thought we we overcame some adversity and still put ourselves in a position to win, but we didn’t close it out.”
After getting off to a terrible start in Friday night’s road loss to the Mavericks, the Trail Blazers flipped the proverbial script versus the Rockets, getting off to a 10-0.
But like most good teams do, the Rockets looked to one of their superstars, in this case, James Harden, to settle the team down. Harden shot just 2 of 7 from the field in the first but made all six of his free throws to finish the quarter with 11 points while helping Houston pull to within two points by the end of the first quarter despite Dwight Howard having to sit after picking up two early fouls. Portland also helped Houston’s cause by turning the ball over seven times, which the Rockets turned into 11 points.
Portland would find their rhythm again in the second quarter. Through a combination of cutting down their turnovers and holding Houston to 32 percent shooting from the field, the Trail Blazers outscored the Rockets 24-19 in the second to take a 54-47 lead into the halftime intermission.
The Trail Blazers were able to build on their lead in the third quarter, thanks in large part to 11 points from Wesley Matthews, who shot 4 of 6 from the field and 3 of 4 from three while playing the entire quarter. Robin Lopez went 3 of 3 from the field and 2 of 2 from the line in the third for eight points, which helped Portland outscore Houston 31-26 to take a 12-point lead into the final quarter.
But that 13-point lead wouldn’t be enough. As was the case Friday night in Dallas, the Trail Blazers went through long stretches, particularly late in the fourth, in which they were unable to get shots to fall. Propelled almost entirely by the play of Harden, who shot 6 of 10 from the field and 4 of 5 from three in the final 12 minutes of regulation, the Rockets were able to steadily cut into Portland’s lead.
“They just made a great comeback,” said Damian Lillard. “James Harden made a bunch of tough shots and we missed a few free throws, turnovers. We were still in position to win the game. We had our opportunities. They just kept coming and they found a way to get it done.”
The Trail Blazers would go for over six minutes in the fourth without a field goal, though they did earn four trips to the free throw line during that stretch, Unfortunately, they shot 5 of 8 from the line during that stretch, opening the door up just enough for the Rockets to take their first lead of the night after a Jeremy Lin three-pointer with 1:25 to play in regulation put the home team up 102-101.
Lillard would score on the ensuing possession. Matthews would be the next player to score, hitting two free throws with 19 seconds to play in regulation to put Portland up three.
Lin would then earn a trip to the line, hitting one of two, to cut Portland’s lead to two. Matthews was fouled by Patrick Beverley on the ensuing possession, sending Matthews to the line with 12 seconds to play and a chance to make it a two-possession game. But Matthews would miss his only free throw of the night on the second attempt, which left the door open for the Rockets to tied.
And Houston did just that. Despite great defense from Matthews, Harden was able to connect on a three-pointer from the corner in front of Portland’s bench to tied the game with eight seconds to play.
Portland had one more chance to win the game in regulation after calling a timeout to advance the ball to halfcourt. Batum tried to find Lillard for a lob, but Lin made a play on the ball for the steal.
“Damian was coming wide open,” said Stotts of Portland’s last offensive play of regulation. “Jeremy Lin made a really good read, he left Mo open in the corner. Damian broke open, it was just Jeremy Lin made a really good read on it.”
After the steal, Lin got the ball to Beverley, whose last-second attempt rimmed out to send the game to overtime.
The Trail Blazers would draw first blood in the overtime on a Lillard three-pointer, but Portland would net just one more field goal in the overtime period while the Rockets get buckets from Lin, Harden and Chandler Parson to take the lead and eventually the game.
“We definitely had looks at the end,”said LaMarcus Aldridge, who finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, “but I think at times we try to play too fast and Houston made us play a little faster and at times we definitely fell into their trap. For the most part, we had looks and we just missed them.”
Portland was led by Matthews, who finished the night with 26 points, four rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block in 41 minutes. Robin Lopez had a double-double of 11 points, 11 rebounds while also blocking five shots. Lillard, who fouled out early in the overtime period, had 21 points, four assists and four rebounds but also turned the ball over seven times in 33 minutes.
Harden led all scorers with 41 points while also adding 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals.
“(Harden) played well,” said Matthews. “We know what he’s going to do with pick-and-rolls, and going to his left, and they were going to call fouls for him. He’s going to hit free throws. It’s easy to get a rhythm when you shoot a lot of free throws and he was able to do that. He hit a big shot from the corner to tie the game up. He’s playing good basketball.”
Next up, the Trail Blazers travel to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 PM.