Houston, Texas — James Harden shook off another tough shooting night with some clutch baskets down the stretch as the Houston Rockets avoided elimination with a 108-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series.
Harden missed nine of his first 12 shots before scoring eight of his 17 points in the final four minutes to help keep the Rockets’ season alive.
Houston trailed 3-1 in the tight series, with three of the first four games going to overtime. Wednesday’s meeting was also close, but the Rockets ended the game on an 8-0 run to secure the must-win.
Dwight Howard led the Rockets with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons chipped in with 21 and 20 points, respectively, for the victors, who outscored Portland in the paint by a 60-40 margin.
“Our guys came out and battled,” Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. “They really wanted to get back to Portland and get another shot at them.”
Wesley Matthews netted a game-high 27 points, and Damian Lillard totaled 26 with eight rebounds and seven assists for Portland, which received just five points from its bench.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who came in averaging over 35 points in the series, finished with just eight on 3-of-12 shooting.
“We need LA on the offensive end,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “We’re better when he’s got it going.”
“We had opportunities to make shots, but we didn’t make certain shots that we needed,” Aldridge said. “We didn’t get the big stops that we needed. They played well down the stretch and we didn’t.”
The series shifts back to Portland for Game 6 on Friday.
Portland, which never led in the second half, trailed 82-77 entering the fourth and pulled within one point three times in the final quarter.
After Lillard’s dunk cut the Blazers’ deficit to 95-94 midway through the frame, Parsons made a free throw and put in a layup after Howard grabbed the rebound of his missed second attempt.
Lillard answered with two free throws, and Matthews missed chances to tie the next two times down. Harden, held scoreless after halftime to that point, got a reverse layup to fall and followed that nifty maneuver with a 3-pointer for a 103-98 Rockets lead with 3:16 remaining.
Terrence Jones’ layup made it a seven-point game with 2:11 to go, and Portland missed its last eight shots to come up short.
The Rockets took control with a 15-0 run that spanned into the second quarter, as Troy Daniels’ 3-pointer yielded a 41-27 advantage.
The margin reached 17 midway through the frame before the Blazers ended the half on a 14-5 run to pull within 56-48 at the break.
Houston continued to stay in front in the third but did not pull away, in part because Matthews exploded for 18 points in the frame behind 4-of-5 shooting from the perimeter.
Omer Asik also recorded a double-double for Houston with 10 points and 15 rebounds … Harden is shooting 34.7 percent from the field in the series after hitting on 45.6 percent of his shots in the regular season … Houston’s Patrick Beverley played through an illness and finished with five points in 21 minutes … Robin Lopez and Nicolas Batum had 17 and 15 points, respectively, for Portland. … The Trail Blazers wore patches on their jerseys to honor Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, who died on Monday at 89. Ramsay coached the team to an NBA title in 1977. The plaid patch has the words “Dr. Jack” and a “77” to honor the championship team. The Blazers will wear the patch for the remainder of the postseason.