After making the biggest move of the NBA offseason by signing Dwight Howard, the Houston Rockets were hoping to go on a deep run when the postseason began. They had an opportunity to get things off on the right foot on Sunday night when they played host to the Portland Trail Blazers in a Western Conference clash.
The game was highly contested through the final seconds of overtime, with the Trail Blazers earning a big win on the road, 122-120.
Portland was able to jump out to an early lead despite limited playoff experience among their key players, as they took a seven-point lead into the first break. However, the Rockets answered back in the second quarter and outscored the Trail Blazers by eight points to take a one-point lead into the half.
That is where things started to go south for the visiting team.
Houston was able to find their rhythm in the third and began to pull away in the final minutes of the quarter, which left Portland in a double-digit deficit heading in to the final 12 minutes of the game.
LaMarcus Aldridge was making some big shots for Portland as they attempted to mount a comeback, but Chandler Parsons continued to have a big day and put a halt to the momentum.
Midway through the final quarter, Portland guard Damian Lillard appeared to be shaken up, but he was able to remain in the game after a brief timeout.
The Blazer were unable to stay within striking distance as the Rockets continued to keep a double-digit advantage, despite an incredible effort by Aldridge to keep them in the game.
Houston had the bonus and was shooting for the final five minutes of the game, which many thought could lead to a “hack-a-Howard” strategy. However, Howard was unexpectedly clutch from the line and kept the Rockets lead intact.
Just when it appeared that the Rockets were going to be able to close the game out, the Trail Blazers went on a run and were able to cut the lead down to just five points.The Trail Blazers were able to tie up the ballgame, but James Harden sparked the Rockets offense and get the team back out in front by three points.
Dwight Howard picked up his fifth foul with just under a minute left to play, which sent Aldridge to the line. Aldridge converted both free throws to get the Trail Blazers back within one point.
Howard was sent to the free throw line and the crowd went silent in an effort to allow him to focus, and their efforts were rewarded with two successful free throws from Howard and a three-point lead for the Rockets with 30 seconds to go.
The lead didn’t last long for the Rockets, after Lillard threw up a clutch three to tie up the game.
James Harden took the ball into his hands, and was able to draw a foul with just under eight seconds remaining in the game. Harden went two-for-two from the stripe to give Houston a two-point lead, but Portland had one final chance to take the win or the tie and they called a timeout to dial up their final play.
Wesley Matthews launched a quick three in an attempt to get the win, but the ball rimmed out. However, the game wasn’t over just yet, with Lillard converting the tip-in to tie up the game leaving just two seconds left on the clock.
Harden got the final shot of regulation, but he was off target and we were headed to overtime.
To close out regulation, Aldridge and Lillard scored the Trail Blazers final 25 points.
Houston started the overtime period off on a hot start, but Aldridge’s big game continued with a three-pointer to put a halt to the Rockets momentum. The Trail Blazers followed Aldridge’s three up with another three-pointer by Nicolas Batum to tie up the game.
Robin Lopez fouled out with just under two minutes left, which led to Howard converting two free throws to tie the game back up. The Rockets found themselves trailing in the final minute, but Howard’s unlikely success at the free throw line once again came up big to give the Rockets a one-point lead with only 24 seconds remaining.
A controversial foul led to Howard fouling out with just 10 seconds remaining and the Rockets trailing by one. Portland converted one of the following free throw attempts to go up by a basket.
On the Rockets final possession, Harden forced up a shot in the final seconds that bricked out and gave the Blazers the 122-120 win in overtime as the Trail Blazers stole a hard fought win on the road.
Aldridge finished the game with an incredible 46 points and 18 rebounds, while Lillard added 29 points, 9 rebounds and five assists. Howard had a double-double for the Rockets with 26 points and 15 rebounds. Terrence Jones also added a double-double for Houston with 12 points and 13 boards, while James Harden added 27 and Parsons put up 24.