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Balanced attack leads to Rockets' win vs. Blazers

The SportsXchange

PORTLAND -- The Houston Rockets game plan was simple: Work the inside-outside game on offense and defend much better than in Monday night's 137-118 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center.

Mission accomplished. Guard James Harden and forward Dwight Howard combined for 62 points and Houston held the Portland Trail Blazers to under 42 percent shooting in a 116-101 victory Tuesday night at the Moda Center.

Harden collected 33 points and seven rebounds and Howard had a season-high 29 points and 13 boards as the Rockets (4-1) got balanced scoring from the perimeter and the paint.

"We have to do that every night," said Howard, who made 10 of 13 shots from the field and 9 of 12 from the foul line. "We had an inside-out attack that's tough for (opponents) to guard. When we have guys who are playing downhill -- James, Chandler (Parsons), Jeremy (Lin) -- and attacking the basket, it puts pressure on the defense. When we play inside-out like that, it make (the opponent) work."

The Rockets (4-1) shot .547 from the field, ruled the backboards 47-30 and won the points-in-the-paint battle 54-28.

"They're a good team," said Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who led Portland (2-2) with 22 points but was only 7 for 17 from the field and 4 for 7 from the line. "It was our job to make sure they had another night like (Monday) night, but a lot of the shots that didn't fall for them (Monday) night fell tonight."

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points on 9-for-19 shooting for Portland, which was ahead by nine points early but never led after the early second quarter.

"I tried to do anything I could to make them tough shots" for Aldridge, said Howard, who spent part of the night guarding the Blazer's All-Star forward. "He hit some. That's what we were expecting.

"We have to clean up some of the pick-and-rolls, but we did a pretty good job tonight with him and Lillard. Those guys are two terrific scorers. It was good to hold them down a little bit."

Harden finished the game 11 for 18 from the field and 9 for 10 from the line.

"The Rockets are a talented team," Portland coach Terry Stotts said. "Give them credit for the way they played. Harden made tough shots and Howard finished around the basket and made his free throw. We could never quite get over the hump."

Leading by five points at the half, Houston scored the first 10 of the third quarter to jump in front 65-50, then increased the run to 15-2 for a 70-52 advantage midway through the quarter.

The Blazers rallied, closing the gap to 80-71 with a 19-10 spurt. The Rockets held an 84-73 edge going into the final period.

Portland continued the fight back, cutting the margin to 93-88 with eight minutes to play. Houston amped the lead back up to 101-90 and Portland got no closer than eight the rest of the way.

Howard and Harden each scored 18 points to stake Houston to a 55-50 halftime lead. Howard, who was 6 for 7 from the field and 6 for 8 from the foul line, also had eight rebounds in a dominating first-half performance for the Rockets, who shot .513 for the half.

Guard Wesley Matthews and Lillard each scored 12 points and Aldridge had 11 in the half for the Blazers.

Portland jumped to a 19-10 lead before Houston clicked into gear, going on a 19-4 run to jump in front 29-23. Forward Dorell Wright got the Blazers back on track, knocking down consecutive 3-pointers to give them a 31-30 advantage going into the second quarter.

Portland built a 36-30 lead, but the Rockets, with Harden and Howard doing much of the damage, stormed back with a 13-0 spurt for a 43-36 advantage midway through the second quarter.

NOTES: Houston was playing its fourth game in five nights. ... Portland C Robin Lopez and C Meyers Leonard combined for six points and eight fouls in 32 minutes.... The Blazers went scoreless for the first 4:10 of the third quarter, missed their first eight shots from the field. ... Houston G Patrick Beverley, who had missed the past three games with a torn muscle in his midsection, was a force off the bench, contributing 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four rebounds in 29 minutes. "He's a pretty efficient defensive presence," coach Kevin McHale said. "Point-of-attack defense is huge. Most teams' offense start with their point guard. Last night it was (Chris) Paul; tonight it's (Damian) Lillard. Those are really elite guys. You want to make it harder on them." ... Portland was without reserve C-F Joel Freeland, who aggravated a hip injury in Saturday's win over San Antonio. That moved second-year C Meyers Leonard into a spot in the rotation. Leonard had six points and two rebounds in 14 minutes. ... Portland beat Houston 119-117 in a wild overtime game here last November in which Blazers F Nicolas Batum scored a career-high 35 points.
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