The Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers took a third playoff game to overtime. The Trail Blazers took an early hold of the extra period followed by a Rockets surge leading to a heartbreaking 120-123 loss.
The Rockets will have to avoid elimination at Toyota Center on Wednesday down 3-1 in the first round of the playoffs.
This series has sat on a razors edge where the Rockets could be up 3 - 1 or we could have been swept already. The series and games have been close enough the referees and coaching have drawn more attention than the players.
Here's a list of things that won't be covered in this article:
Dwight Howard's technical foul.
Chandler Parsons' flagrant foul.
The "knee" call on Dwight Howard.
Mo Williams on the Jeremy Lin steal.
The call leading to Troy Daniels three free throws.
The Wes Matthews steal on Patrick Beverley.
The Rockets burst into game four looking like the fast paced, high scoring, three point bombing team the NBA expects. They did it under a series of unlikely situations -- A Dwight Howard-Omer Asik pairing, James Harden in foul trouble and a rookie playing his 7th NBA game. The most crazy part of all this, the Portland Trail Blazers struggled to keep up through three quarters.
General Thoughts on the Game
Portland started putting a double team on Dwight Howard -- In the regular season this never happened. The Trail Blazers began to do it during game three. In game four they didn't bring a double team later in the game. My theory behind this is Howard passed well out of the double team in the first three quarters. It created open three looks for Rockets players begging for open looks. Portland gave up on it, but did do it.
Troy Daniels got the bench minutes -- If his game winning game three shot was a coming out party the first half of game four was the hotel lobby after party. Daniels bagged nine points on three threes in the first half. Daniels disappeared for a stretch of the third quarter but did a solid job contributing and drained a three pointer in overtime that started a Rockets comeback that ended in heartbreak. One of the best parts about Daniels is he isn't terrible on the defensive end. This is in comparison to James Harden, but he puts forward a solid effort and you don't see his man torching the Rockets on consecutive possessions.
James Harden was more efficient -- If the game ended in four quarters this would be a more solid point, but it was refreshing to see Harden create a quality output that's not entirely based on quantity. Game three was the epitome of an evening worth of stats based nearly entirely on quantity. 9-21 shooting and 7-8 from the free throw line. It's not the best performance, but one we'll take in a game filled with ISO situations and hero attempts.
Chandler Parsons had the best game of the night and logged 45 minutes. He posted 26 points. Harden had a slow first half, but found his way to 28 points. His three point shooting clocked in at 3 - 11 most of which were contested attempts. Howard dropped 25 points with plenty of post looks and brought in 14 rebounds.
Four of Porltand's starters went over 20 points. The Rockets kept Aldridge from going off like game one or two, but didn't shut him down.
After 18 minutes the Rockets were able to create some space and hold a lead going into the half at 61 - 51.
Chandler Parsons could do little wrong in the first 24 minutes. He scored 19 points on 8-11 shooting including 3-4 from three, a few midrange jumpers and some nifty trips to the hoop. Parsons appeared ready to make the difference in this game. He unfortunately went cold down the stretch. His three stopped falling and he found himself far off the ball in defensive situations and on offensive sets dominated by Dwight Howard and James Harden.
Also Dwight did this:
Dwight barely had an offensive impact as the Blazer brought double teams to cover his post attempts, but his kick outs found shooters and drive attempts. Dwight and Asik did a quality job of clearing the boards and rotating on the LaMarcus Aldridge.
On pick and rolls Asik would stay outside to put pressure on the ball handler and trap the ball outside the three point line. Aldridge would move to the basket but have to deal with Dwight Howard waiting and ready to step out to defend the midrange jumper.
A solid portion of the third and fourth quarters felt like a soccer match the Rockets had a one goal lead in. We knew we had outplayed our opponent up to that point, but the game wasn't over yet and they were capable of moving even or ahead on a moment's notice. We wanted the clock to tick and the referee to blow the final whistle.
It didn't happen that way. The Blazers dug deep and for the first time found a run of baskets the Rockets couldn't immediately answer with their own sudden offensive production. Aldridge and Lillard had been startlingly tired.
When Damien Lillard drilled a turnaround buzzer-beating three to end the third period you could tell the Blazers weren't done for.
Ultimately, the Rockets would regret a third quarter they dominated and established a ten point lead in. Houston found themselves comfortable with the lead against a sagging Blazers team and stopped pushing. On multiple plays the team lazed their way to turnovers without getting a shot up when a 10 point lead could have easily expanded to a 16 point lead.
Also, the Internet thought Dwight Howard broke the rim in the third quarter on an epic alley oop.
In the fourth quarter the Rockets hit an offensive drought and the Blazers were able to take a five point lead in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard put in a pressure performance by going 3-4 from the free throw line and the game hit "crazed" status when Dwight Howard blocked Lillard and Batum producing four unanswered James Harden free throws and a 7 - 0 Rockets run.
The Rockets had a two point lead and then this happened:
After the game Lin admitted he should have held the ball and called a timeout:
Jeremy Lin very upset after gm: "It shouldn't have been in overtime in the first place. I should have held on to the ball & called timeout."— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) April 28, 2014
In the end, Dwight tied the game with an easy slam off a James Harden drop off. Following that Kevin McHale questionably brought Jeremy Lin in to play defense. The result was not a catastrophe as Mo Williams launched an errant three pointer.
The Blazers came out hard charging and were able to establish a seven point lead. The Rockets answered with a Troy Daniels three and a James Harden step back ice cold jumper. In a two point game the Rockets got a chance to take a lead. Harden found himself with limited time on the shot clock and Aldridge guarding him. He hoisted a three that didn't fall and that was the last chance the Rockets would get.
On the final play of the game Patrick Beverley got picked by Wes Matthews at half court and the Rockets were done.