Blazers Rally for First Road Win
We've talked about how young teams need to see results following all of the hard work. And, how big wins can boost the confidence of the entire roster. For this year's Blazers, this was exactly what they needed. Yes, we're just three games into the NBA schedule, but these are the kinds of wins that pay dividends later in a season.
The Blazers rolled into Houston Saturday night and ruined opening night for the Rockets. They were unveiling their massive new center-hung scoreboard, were showing the home fans James Harden and Jeremy Lin for the first time in the regular season, and were hoping to move to 3-0 following two big road wins.
Instead, the young Blazers spoiled the whole thing.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who's always at his best in Texas, put the team on his back at times in the second half, got huge help from Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum, and J.J. Hickson, and led Portland to a 95-85 overtime win.
Aldridge ended with 27 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Fittingly, he put the nail in the coffin in this one, popping in a jumper out top that gave Portland it's 10-point margin of victory.
Lillard continued his amazing start, scoring 20 points, and also dished out nine assists and grabbed 6 rebounds. He hit two huge three pointers in overtime, and outplayed Lin, who ended with just 13 points.
Hickson once again registered a double-digit rebound total, 12 on this night, and also added 9 points. He fought, scrapped, and recorded multiple floor burns in helping his team to the come-from-behind win.
Batum, who had the great first game against the Lakers, but went just 1 for 11 against the Thunder in Oklahoma City, had a rough first half in Houston. Halfway through the game he was 0 for 4 with 0 points. In the third quarter, Batum recorded 13 points, and recorded two big-time blocked shots.
But, who gets the MVP honors on this night? They could have gone to any of the above, but Matthews has been put through the ringer in these first few days of the season. He's had to spend most of his time on the floor in these games guarding Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and in this game, James Harden, who came in averaging an NBA-best 41 points per game. It sounds strange to say he held Harden to "just" 24 in this game, but considering what Harden has been posting, this was a huge success. Harden had to work for everything he got, and wound up shooting just 8 for 24. He came into the game against Portland shooting 64 percent in his first two.
Matthews also turned one of the key defensive plays of the night when he stripped Harden of the ball with the clock running out in regulation. Harden was about to attempt what would have been a game-winning shot, but had the ball slapped away by Matthews, and overtime became necessary.
In the first half, it certainly appeared the Rockets were on their way to another win, and a 3-0 mark. They had the crowd fired up, and had a 12-point lead in the second quarter. It was actually remarkable that the Blazers were able to go to the locker room at halftime trailing by only 8 points.
The third quarter changed everything, and overtime slammed the door shut. A big early-season win, and the first road victory was the reward on this night.
We're now in Dallas, and Monday night wrap up this three-game trip with a game against the Mavericks.