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Game 12 Recap: Rockets Steal Blazers' Fire, Grab OT Win 107-105

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The Blazers are a great team. Coming into this game, they had the 10th-best offense and 11th-best defense in the league. I don't agree with everything their front office has done (like signing Jamal Crawford), but that roster makes a lot of sense, and they're centered around an offensive superstar in LaMarcus Aldridge, who I felt could easily slice his way through the Rockets' frontcourt.

So stealing a win against a team of the Blazers' quality is an enormous heist, indeed. If the Rockets are going to make the playoffs, they have to win games like last night, and then they need to steal a few against the great teams. And, lead by Kyle Lowry's immense 33 point, 9 assist (should have been more; the Rockets missed plenty of wide-open shots), 8 rebound night, the Rockets put together a game that wasn't exactly the prettiest win of the season, but which was certainly the biggest.

Kyle Lowry is an all-star. Maybe he won't be recognized for it this year (GO VOTE), but he's playing at that level, and he is showing no signs of faltering from his early pace. The guy is making every pass that needs to be made, and while his turnover rate isn't good right now, a lot of that is on his teammates, and a lot of it is just bad luck. But, bozhe moi, the plays he makes! Lowry is now, and I feel totally confident in saying this, easily in the same category as the league's best point guards: Rondo, Derek Rose, Deron Williams, and Chris Paul. If he can play like this for the rest of the year, he'll deserve a spot on an All-NBA team.

I'm not someone who believes in anything special about being "clutch," (good players make good plays more often than not) but I had no doubt about that three in the final moments of the fourth -- he made it, Houston was up two, and it allowed the Rockets to (eventually) hang on for the win. So, you know, maybe that sort of thing will make more people sit up and take notice.

Kevin Martin's game was uneven, as it has been all season, but most encouraging was his return to the free throw line tonight. I still think Martin is being singled out for new treatment from the refs, but he managed to get to the line for 13 free throws, nine after the first half. He made a vintage Speed Racer pump-fake-jump-into-defender move to ice the game in overtime at the line, and he played exceptionally well except for his shooting from beyond the arc. Once he gets his three point shot back, he'll be fine, I'm sure.

Dalembert played awesome defense against LaMarcus Aldridge, who failed to do anything but suck for the first half before leading the Blazers' charge in the second half. All the bigs were in foul trouble tonight, but Dalembert still managd to put up big rebounding numbers in limited time. Hill's seven rebounds were good as well, though he naturally had a few terrible shots in there. Scola looked gassed all game but grabbed 10 rebounds fairly quietly. The frontcourt played well overall.

McHale's rotations looked good, though I'm sure that was partly because of Portland's own weaknesses (lacking Camby, they didn't have much going in the center department). Budinger came in to replace Parsons, who left quickly because of foul trouble a few times in the game, and he poured some much-needed scoring (even as he blew a few gimme dunks and layups).

In contrast, some of Nate McMillan's decisions didn't make a lot of sense. Craig Smith and Batum killed the Rockets, but the former stayed on the bench for most of the game while the Blazers went away from Batum in the final minutes of the fourth and overtime. He chose Jamal Crawford's inefficiency over Batum's all-around awesomeness, and the Blazers paid for it down the stretch. They had every opportunity to win this, and Batum and Aldridge put them in a position to win by the third quarter, but Kyle Lowry's pure dominance and McMillan's odd plans eventually gave the Rockets a big win.