|Date of game: 4/20/2014
Recap: Houston vs. Portland
Houston, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Damian Lillard knocked down the go-ahead free throws with 17 seconds left to help the Portland Trail Blazers to a 122-120 overtime win over the Houston Rockets in Game 1 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series.
After Francisco Garcia and Dwight Howard both split their respective free throws for a 120-119 edge, Lillard drove to the basket and was fouled by the former.
The 87-percent foul shooter calmly sank both attempts for a 121-120 Blazers edge.
James Harden missed a pull-up 3-pointer on the other end and Howard was whistled for a controversial loose-ball foul on Joel Freeland. The little used Freeland missed his first attempt but knocked down the second for a 122-120 lead.
Harden got stuck near the right elbow with time running out and heaved a tough fadeaway jumper at the buzzer that caught the back of the rim.
"He had a shot late, he's made them before, but it wasn't a smooth running play, wasn't the look that we wanted," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale.
Lillard finished with 31 points, nine rebounds and five assists and LaMarcus Aldridge turned in a monster performance with 46 points and 18 rebounds before fouling out in the extra session. Aldridge's 46 points set a Blazers' franchise record for points in a postseason game.
Harden scored 27 points and Howard finished with 27 points, 15 rebounds and four blocked shots before fouling out later in overtime. Chandler Parsons ended up with 24 in the setback.
A pair of Jeremy Lin free throws with 4:58 left in regulation gave the Rockets a 96-85 lead. Aldridge cut the lead to nine with a layup on the other end.
Portland then turned to the "hack-a-Howard" strategy. The 54.7-percent foul shooter made his first two attempts, but missed the next four as the Blazers rallied with the next 11 points to tie the game on Aldridge's two from the line with 2:46 left.
Harden got a tough jumper to fall just inside the final minute of regulation for a 102-99 lead and Aldridge cut it to one with a pair of free throws 13 seconds later.
Lin missed a runner on the other end, but Howard grabbed the rebound and was fouled. This time, Howard came through for his team and knocked down both free throws for a 104-101 edge.
Lillard, however, buried a game-tying trey. On the inbounds pass, Lillard ran his defender Patrick Beverley into a brutal screen which sent him to the deck. Lillard then got Terrance Jones to bite of a pump fake before knocking down the triple.
After Harden made it 106-104 with seven seconds left, Wesley Matthews attempted a three from the time out, but it drew iron. Lillard was there for the rebound, but his tip-in didn't fall. Aldridge, though, cleaned up that miss and tied the game again with 2.9 seconds left.
Harden couldn't get a tough look from the corner to go as the horn sounded, sending the game into overtime.
The Rockets scored the first six points of the bonus period thanks to three- point plays from Howard and Lin. Aldridge and Nicolas Batum, though, hit back- to-back treys and Matthews knocked down two free throws to give the Blazers their first lead since late in the first half.
The teams traded blows until Lin blew by his defender and got a layup to fall for a 118-116 lead with 53 seconds left. Lillard, however, used a three-point play on the ensuing trip to put Portland in front.
Garcia and Howard split from the stripe before Lillard made the go-ahead free throws.
"That was a tremendous game. Obviously when we fouled Dwight he missed some of the free throws, that was a turning point," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts. "They came out and scored the first six in OT, but we responded. We had to win one here, we did it, but we're not satisfied. Tonight is behind us, we have to keep going."
The Blazers used a 9-4 run early in the first to take a 15-8 lead, Lillard buried a 3-pointer for a 25-17 edge and Portland led 27-20 after 12 minutes following Aldridge's 20-foot jumper in the closing seconds. He finished with 12 points in the frame.
The Rockets took over in the second and used a 24-6 run to go up 44-33 with 4:39 to go in the first half. The Blazers rattled off a 15-2 swing to take the lead back with 22 seconds left, but a Harden step back 3-pointer with two seconds left gave the Rockets a 49-48 edge heading into the break.
Houston's lead continued to hover around two possessions in the third until Harden buried a pull-up trey to spark 10-2 swing. Harden finished with eight points on the flurry as the hosts opened up a 66-53 lead.
Portland chipped away and pulled within four, 73-69, following a Matthews 3- pointer and dunk. The Rockets led 79-73 entering the final frame.Game Notes
Game 2 is Tuesday in Houston ... Matthews added 18 points and Batum scored 14
for the Blazers, which received just seven points from their bench ...
Aldridge was 17-of-31 from the floor and 10-of-13 from the free throw line ...
Jones scored 12 points and pulled down 13 rebounds for Houston ... The Rockets
outscored Portland in the paint 58-52 and 27-25 on second-chance points, but
shot just 65 percent from the free throw line ... Harden struggled from the
field, finished just 8-of-28.