HOUSTON — Rockets guard Jeremy Lin has built a reputation on redemptive moments, on discovering means to produce against mounting disbelief and adversity, persevering against long odds.
Labeled the goat after his fourth-quarter turnover enabled Portland to force overtime in Game 4 and subsequently take a commanding 3-1 series lead, Lin rebounded to score 21 points off the bench and helped carry the Rockets to a 108-98 win over the Trail Blazers on Wednesday night at Toyota Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference quarterfinal series.
With All-Star guard James Harden largely invisible until a late scoring surge pushed Houston over the top, Lin filled the offensive void, tallying 15 points during the middle two quarters to keep Houston afloat. The Rockets improved to 3-1 in elimination games the last two postseasons.
“Game 4 was definitely a rough one. I didn’t sleep much that night,” Lin said. “Over the last two days I just kept reminding myself to stay faithful and trust in God’s perfect plan. It doesn’t always go your way.
“Tonight my mindset was to go out there and play for Him, play as hard as I can. Same mindset as Game 4, but tonight was a better outcome.”
Game 6 is Friday night at the Moda Center in Portland.
Harden had just nine points prior to converting a baseline reverse layup with 3:58 to play that pushed the Rockets’ lead to 100-96. He followed with his lone 3-pointer in seven attempts and two free throws with 1:29 left to help the Rockets stave off elimination.
Harden finished with 17 points and seven assists but continued his woeful series shooting by missing 10 of 15 shots.
Twin towers Dwight Howard (22 points, 14 rebounds) and Omer Asik (10 points, 15 rebounds) added double-doubles while Chandler Parsons chipped in 20 points as Houston won the fourth quarter for the first time this series.
“We’ve learned the hard way this series,” Parsons said. “We’ve had multiple leads that we’ve given up, and they’re a tough team and they’re not going to ever throw in the towel. They’re going to keep coming at you, and they’ve got guys that can hit tough shots.
“The biggest thing for us tonight was just to learn from our mistakes.”
Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge scored just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting after totaling 89 points over Games 1 and 2. The Trail Blazers’ starting backcourt of Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews combined for 53 points on 18-for-36 shooting, 8-for-17 from deep.
The Trail Blazers trailed by as many as 17 points before Lillard cut the deficit to two points with two free throws at the 5:08 mark of the fourth quarter. That’s when Harden responded with his sudden scoring burst.
“They made plays,” Matthews said. “Give them credit. They played with a sense of urgency and desperation that we knew they would. It seemed like Jeremy Lin hit big shot after big shot.”
The Rockets made a run that provided the sort of cushion that could calm their collective elimination nerves, bridging the first and second quarters with a 15-0 spurt that turned a 27-26 deficit into a 41-27 lead.
D-League call-up Troy Daniels scored the final five points of that burst, sending the crowd into a tizzy along with a Portland timeout. But the Trail Blazers rallied as they have all series, whittling a 51-34 deficit at the 5:39 mark of the second quarter to eight points at intermission on Lillard’s 3-pointer with 33.6 seconds left.
For once, the Rockets responded when the Trail Blazers rallied, finding a little something extra to add to a series that has been rife with tension.
“I think both teams have been playing with high intensity all series,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I didn’t notice it one way or another because all the games have been at a high level of intensity and effort.
“I think you’ll see the same thing on Friday.”
NOTES: For all of the talk about how evenly matched the Trail Blazers and Rockets have been this series, Portland had dominated the fourth quarter, winning the final period in regulation of each game until Wednesday. Portland is plus-10 in the fourth quarter overall. “We’ve been a good fourth-quarter team for a good part of the season,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said before the Rockets outscored his team 26-21 in the fourth on Wednesday. “We have confidence at the end of the games. I think we have a lot of trust in each other in the fourth quarter. We get stops when we need them, and I think that bodes well for us because being good in the fourth quarter, being good in close games, a lot of times that’s when games are won and lost.” … Houston was reputed to be the superior defensive team, but the Rockets had allowed Portland to shoot a robust 52.6 percent (130-for-247) on two-point field goals in the first four games. “At a certain point they’re very hard to guard and they’re very hard to defend if there are blow-bys and straight line drives,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said.
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.