In games one and two, the Rockets went with an eight man rotation, bringing Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, and Francisco Garcia off the bench. In game three, the rotation was mostly the same, except with one change. Instead of Garcia, Kevin McHale took a chance on the rookie shooting guard Troy Daniels, who had exactly five career NBA games to his name. Daniels answered the call, hitting the Rockets' biggest shot of the season to propel Houston to a thrilling overtime win.
From the opening tip, it seemed like the Rockets had finally gotten the kick in the pants that they had been missing all series. Patrick Beverley scored 11 in the opening period, James Harden made his first free throw in the first quarter all series, and the Rockets jumped all over the Blazers to get out to an eleven point first quarter lead.
However, like every other game this series, the Rockets' initial run wouldn't go unanswered. The Blazers fought right back with LaMarcus Aldridge on the bench, with Damian Lillard and Robin Lopez keying a second quarter that would see the Blazers go into halftime with a one point lead.
From then on out, it was an absolute dogfight. Each team had the lead at various points, but neither seemed content to stay ahead, and with just under two minutes left, the Rockets trailed by one. A quartet of free throws from James Harden took the Rockets ahead by three, and after a Wesley Matthews miss, Jeremy Lin looked liable to put the Blazers away with a fast break layup. Unfortunately, the layup rimmed out, and in the ensuing scramble, Nicolas Batum got enough space for a three which he would can to bring the Blazers level.
Both teams would get their shots at a game winner, but they all ended up going wide and the two teams were set for overtime. As overtime got going, it seemed like the Rockets could be headed for an all too familiar result as the Blazers were quick to go ahead by four and Chandler Parsons fouled out. Little did they know, that was all just a way to set the stage for perhaps the most exciting finish of the season for the Rockets.
Lin and Harden fought back with a pair of step-back jumpers, and after a run of turnovers and misses, the Rockets had the ball with thirty seconds left and a chance to get their first lead of overtime. Harden drove to his right, lost the handle, and Lin and Mo Williams fought over the loose ball on the floor. Lin came out it with the ball, but the Rockets had just six seconds left on the shot clock. Fortunately, Lin knew what to do with the ball, hitting Troy Daniels outside of the three point line where the rookie confidently rose up and hit a crucial three.
That's right, that Troy Daniels. The same Troy Daniels who spent the better part of the season toiling in the D-League, who had just five NBA games to his name, was not only playing minutes in an overtime game in the playoffs, he hit the decisive three to get the Rockets their first win of the postseason. Everyone watching the game owes Daryl Morey a drink.
The game wasn't over at that point, however. The Blazers had a chance to tie the game back up, but Nicolas Batum missed a difficult three pointer, and James Harden put the Blazers away with a pair of free throws as the Rockets got a much-needed win in Portland to get them back in the series.
The Rockets still have an uphill climb, but game three was proof of concept that the Rockets can continue to win in Portland and win this series. Game four is on Sunday night, and it will tell us a lot about the Rockets' chances moving forward. If they have Troy Daniels in their corner, they should be alright.
Editor's note: Sorry for the delay on this recap. We had some unfortunately technical issues last night.