The Houston Rockets had no choice but to come out fighting in the wake of a 3-1 deficit at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers, and they did just that in snatching a 108-98 victory to stay alive in the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
In accordance with what has been an incredibly entertaining series, the two teams came out trading blows in Game 5. The Rockets trailed 27-26 with less than 2 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter, and to that point, there was little to no breathing room for either side. Then, the fireworks began.
Houston finished the opening frame with back-to-back dunks from big man Omer Asik, and that was just the beginning. The Rockets would race to a 15-0 run, including the first 11 points of the 2nd quarter, and when they took a 41-27 lead, it would prove to be the difference in the game. Houston’s lead rose to as many as 17 in the first half, but more importantly, the home team would never trail again.
Of course, the visiting Blazers wouldn’t go down without a fight, and they awakened considerably down the stretch of the second quarter and after the halftime break. Portland slowly chipped away at the advantage, but their biggest push came with an 8-0 run in the early stages of the fourth quarter that saw them climb within 1-point at 91-90. However, they could never quite get over the hump.
James Harden, who had not scored a point in the second half to that point, put together five consecutive points to key a 7-2 spurt by the Rockets, and with a 7-point lead in hand with just over 2 minutes to play, that was enough cushion for Houston. Portland “answered” with three consecutive empty possessions, and at that point, the margin was academic in favor of the home team.
There were many heroes for the Rockets, but chief among them was Jeremy Lin. The infamous creator of “Linsanity” finished the night with 21 points on 9 for 15 shooting, and he contributed huge minutes in the absence of Patrick Beverley, who was limited to just 20 minutes as a result of illness. In addition to Lin, Dwight Howard had a big night with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Chandler Parsons had a typical, all-around night with 20 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists for Houston.
On the Portland side, it was a rough night at the office for LaMarcus Aldridge. The power forward has been incredible throughout the series, but he couldn’t find the bottom of the net in this one, shooting just 3 for 12 in route to 8 points and 8 rebounds. Point guard Damian Lillard (26 points, 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 4 steals) and swingman Wesley Matthews (27 points including 5 triples) had huge nights, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the home crowd for Houston and the aforementioned troubles from Aldridge.
With their backs against the wall, the Rockets responded in a big way, and it was even more impressive considering an uneven performance from their go-to guy in James Harden (5 for 15, 17 points, 7 assists). The series shifts back to Portland for Game 6, meaning that the Blazers are still in the driver’s seat, but if Houston can parlay this victory into some momentum, these two clubs could return to Texas for a pivotal Game 7 on Sunday.