Blazers Hang On in Thriller
That's two games against the Houston Rockets this season for the Portland Trail Blazers, two overtime games, and two wins. In the first meeting, on November 3rd in Houston, we learned a lot about Damian Lillard, as he scored eight points in overtime and put the game away. In this game, we not only learned even more about Lillard, we saw many of his teammates share in the glory of a hard-fought victory.
Before we get started with any of that, it should be mentioned that the Rockets were very, very good in this game. They established a 16-point first-half lead, answered just about every Blazer run, repeatedly hit huge shots down the stretch, and had a list of would-be heroes of their own. But, in the end, all they got for their efforts was another loss to Portland.
The Blazers meanwhile, turned around a game that looked like was headed for another close-but-not-close-enough finish. They hustled, scrapped, rebounded, defended, and put together too many highlight plays to possibly recap this quickly after.
Player of the game for Portland? Nic Batum? Lillard? Aldridge? Meyers Leonard? Wesley Matthews? Take your pick.
Batum was incredible in getting Portland into position to even be in this game in the late stages. If I had a dime for every person who predicted that Batum wouldn't play up to his new, fat contract, I'd be a rich man. So far this season he's been worth every penny. Seriously, this is all-star-type stuff.
Batum got on one of his rolls late in the third quarter, and early in the fourth, and at one point scored 11-straight Portland points. There wasn't much the Rockets could do. Batum ended with 35 points, six rebounds, four assists, and five huge blocked shots. There are only two players in the NBA now who have scored over 33 points twice this season- James Harden, and Batum.
Lillard also had a stretch in the game where he scored 11-straight Portland points. In fact, there was a run where Lillard scored 16 of 18 points for the Blazers, with the only other two coming from Meyers Leonard, who was huge as well. Lillard ended with 27 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Leonard had eight points and eight rebounds, in his 27 minutes.
Matthews did his best against the NBA's top scorer, James Harden, and came up with his best defensive plays when it mattered most.
And then there was Aldridge, who buried a clutch turnaround jumper that basically put the game away. LaMarcus ended with 29 points on the night.
We've talked so much about confidence, and its importance to a young team just learning to play together in a new system. This was one of those wins that's tough to measure. Not only did they come back from a 16-point deficit, but even after Marcus Morris hit a three at the end of regulation for the Rockets, the Blazers didn't lose their poise. They came back in overtime and won the game.
You can take it from here. There are a lot of blanks to fill it, but I feel like I played in an overtime game, and I'm out.