PORTLAND, Ore. — The last time Houston visited Portland, coach J.B. Bickerstaff called his team broken. This time he had nothing but praise for the Rockets after their come-from-behind victory over the Trail Blazers.
"It was an awesome game. To be down in the position we were in, having been down against this team the last two times we’ve played them, and not give in speaks volumes for this team," Bickerstaff said. "It was a hell of a win."
James Harden scored 46 points and the Rockets overcame a 21-point, third-quarter deficit to beat the Trail Blazers 119-105 on Thursday night, snapping Portland’s six-game winning streak.
Dwight Howard added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Houston, which had lost four of five. But the Rockets proved resilient, rallying to tie it at 95 on Harden’s layup with 7:40 left, then taking the lead on Howard’s dunk.
The Rockets pushed with lead to 106-98 with 2:59 left and Portland couldn’t catch up. Harden’s layup and a pair of free throws stretched the lead to 112-102 and out of reach.
Harden scored 19 points in the fourth quarter alone.
"We were kind of letting them do what they wanted," Harden said. "So the second half we dictated what we wanted, got to our spots. Defensively we were aggressive and the game changed for us."
Damian Lillard had 23 points for the Blazers, who had won 15 of their last 18 to move into playoff position in the Western Conference. CJ McCollum added 20 points.
Lillard, who was showered with chants of "MVP!" every time he went to the free throw line earlier in the game, had scored 30 or more points in five consecutive games, equaling a team record set by Geoff Petrie in 1970-71, the franchise’s first season. But the Rockets consistently double-teamed him.
"It was frustrating, just because we played so well to start the game," Lillard said. "Even in that third quarter we came out strong. I think we just got a little comfortable. Sometimes when you play so well, you forget how hard what you’re doing actually is."
Houston’s last visit to Portland on Feb. 10 resulted in a 116-103 loss that prompted Bickerstaff to call his team "broken" and "fragmented."
Portland’s win in that game touched off the six-game winning streak, which included a surprising 137-105 rout of Golden State. The Blazers were coming off a 112-104 victory over Brooklyn on Tuesday night.
The Rockets were coming off a 117-114 overtime loss at Utah on Tuesday.
Maurice Harkless hit a 38-foot hurl at the buzzer to end the first quarter, putting Portland up 34-28. The Blazers stretched the lead to 57-39 on McCollum’s short jumper.
Portland was up 64-49 at the half, and McCollum’s 3-pointer early in the third quarter stretched the lead to 72-51. But Jason Terry’s 3 closed the gap to 85-75 late in the period.
Harden hit consecutive 3-pointers that got the Rockets within 91-83, part of a run where he scored 14 straight points for the Rockets.
The Rockets were without center Clint Capela because of a sprained right foot that he hurt in practice on Wednesday.
Rockets: Portland native Terrence Jones made his second appearance for the Rockets after a concussion sidelined him for five games. … Before the game, Rockets CEO Tad Brown met with team beat reporters and shot down reports that Harden had asked for former coach Kevin McHale’s firing, or that he had asked for Howard to be traded. … The Rockets had 62 points in the paint, opposed to Portland’s 26.
Trail Blazers: The Blazers head off on a six-game road trip. … The Blazers took their team photo before the game and coach Terry Stotts smiled. "I always smile — unless they tell me not to," he said.
It was the most Harden had ever scored against the Blazers, and it fell just three shy of the Rockets’ record against Portland. Moses Malone had 49 points against Portland in 1982.
It was also Harden’s second straight game with 40 or more points (he had 42 in the loss to the Jazz), the fourth time in his career he’s had consecutive nights with 40-plus.