Well, it had to happen sooner or later. James Harden did score 38 points, but he struggled with his shot for the majority of the night, finishing just 13-35 from the field and 5-17 from three, and the Houston Rockets just didn’t have enough other firepower, falling to the Portland Trail Blazers 110-101 to end their six-game win streak.
The Beard also finished with 5 rebounds and 7 assists to round out another big night in the counting stats, but he started off the game 3-13 in the first half, and Portland broke open a previously close contest by going on a 13-3 run in the second quarter that the Rockets never really recovered from.
Harden had very little consistent help on a night in which he clearly wasn’t at his best. Austin Rivers came up big in the first half, hitting his first five shots from the field and his first four in a row from deep to take 17 points into halftime. And though his shooting kept the Rockets in the game while Harden was in the doldrums to start the game, he was less effective after the break, finishing with just 21 points total on 8-15 shooting after his perfect 5-5 start.
There were only two other Rockets in double figures, with Clint Capela finishing with 13 points, 21 boards, and 2 blocks, while Gerald Green also contributed 13 off of the bench. Houston clearly had an emotional hangover from the Golden State win, and Portland was simply able to take advantage despite being on the second night of a back-to-back set.
The Rockets were beaten in hustle for most of the night, and though they lost just 47-40 overall on the boards, the rebounding deficit was more pronounced early when the Blazers built their lead, but they also finished with a 17-10 advantage on the offensive glass and a 54-44 advantage in points in the paint. They held a 16-point lead at one point before the Rockets chipped away.
Portland was led by Jusuf Nurkic, who finished with 25 points and 15 rebounds, C.J. McCollum, who finished with 24, and Damian Lillard, who had 17 points and 12 assists.
It was a big win for the Blazers, who now own the season series with the Rockets 2-1, which could wind up being important, as the west standings are likely coming down to the wire this year.
The Rockets fall to 22-16 on the season, but they’ve been playing well overall through one the most difficult stretches of the year and with several key members out of the lineup, so they’ll look to get their mojo back on Monday night at home against the Denver Nuggets.