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Lin redeems self as Rockets stay alive vs. Blazers

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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.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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