Houston amazingly, was in the game in the last minute. After losing the first three quarters by a combined 12 points, the Rockets woke up. It took Houston three quarters to recharge emotionally from their game against the Pacers two nights ago. For the first three quarters, Portland won every contested free ball, they were quicker to the boards (POR 56 HOU 48) and fate seemed destined in the Blazers’ favor. But, this is the NBA, so the Rockets had the ball with 11 seconds left and a chance to tie.
Jeremy Lin barely beat the five second inbound rule, and found Harden in the corner for a three. Harden hits nothing but net, giving Harden 17 for the quarter. Tie game. Portland had the ball with 8 seconds left and they threw an inbound pass that Lin tipped. With Houston out of timeouts, they had to rush upcourt and Beverley took an awkward three point, one-handed runner from the top of the key, that bounced off the iron twice before falling out.
Houston woke up the crowd in the 4th quarter and outscored the Blazers by 12. Lillard started the overtime with a three and then fouled out with 3:30 left in OT. That was too much for the Blazers to overcome. Then Beverley fouled out with 2:55 left in OT, Portland by three.
The Rockets got back into the game by going small. They played Lin, Harden and Beverley in the 4th quarter. So when Beverley fouled out they continue to go small, leaving Jones (with a +/- of -19) and D Mo (who only played eight minutes) on the bench, with McHale inserting Hamilton. Neither D Mo nor Jones played in the 4th quarter.
McHale deserves credit for his lineup tinkering. For all the growing pains earlier in the year, McHale sure is pulling the right strings lately. I haven’t seen near as much chatter in the forums complaining about the coaching choices. McHale’s style is working well for Howard, Harden is still growing into the 4th quarter killer, Beverley is highly valued, Parsons continues his steady play, D Mo has hustled his way into his good graces, Jones’ development should be credited to the coach and when Hamilton is acquired, McHale has trusted him with big minutes. Everything is clicking now.
Lin played his best basketball in many games and hit some clutch shots down the stretch. He got massive minutes, finished with 26 points and a +/- of +21. It was so great to see McHale go to the small lineup. It was hard to watch for a few possessions as Harden was guarding Aldridge and getting into foul trouble. Then having to watch Parsons try that match-up was equally brutal. But, with Lin looking like the player Rockets fans know and love, the Blazers couldn’t match the speed of the three guards.
Harden was an amazing 7 of 12 from behind the arc and ended with 41 points and 10 boards. His big three-pointer at the end of regulation was the tipping point and the momentum continued into overtime for the win. James had to play 47 minutes to secure this one, but the win was huge. You can’t say enough about The Beard tonight. He did it all, and with the guards running, it didn’t turn into iso ball. The ball moved around the horn, Howard set awesome screens and other people hit shots.
Only one play stagnated in crunch time. With the Rockets up by one and one minute left, Lin waited for Harden. James pounded nails, got in trouble with the shot clock and had to take a tough shot that was blocked.
Are the stars aligning? This stretch against Miami, Indiana and Portland makes long time Rockets fans hoping/thinking that this years team could be a team of destiny. For a team that hasn’t won a playoff series since ‘09, this is an exciting time. Instead of being tied with Portland (and behind in the playoff seedings), Houston takes a two game advantage over the Blazers to maintain the third spot in the West.