Blazers seek big lead over Rockets

( - The Portland Trail Blazers return home to the Moda Center armed with a 2-0 lead Friday night when they'll try to further deflate the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The Blazers host a playoff game for the first time since 2011 and will do so after opening a postseason series with two road wins for the first time since 1977 when the franchise won its lone championship.


Portland won twice in Houston and the Blazers' success in those outings can be summed up in one name -- LaMarcus Aldridge.

The All-Star has been spectacular in the first two contests with 89 points, which are the third-most in the first two playoff games in the last 50 years, trailing only Michael Jordan and Jerry West.

Aldridge, who also has 23 rebounds through two games, is the first player to post back-to-back 40-point games in the postseason since LeBron James in 2009. He is also the first player with at least 80 points and 15 rebounds in the first two playoff games of a series since Jordan in 1997, and is the first player to record at least 43 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in a playoff game since Shaquille O'Neal in 2001.


"This team, in general, just believes in me so much, they ride the wave so well," said Aldridge. "When I'm going, one through 15, they're all cheering for me, they're all telling me to shoot it. If I pass up a shot, they're all mad at me. So I think having 15 guys have your back like that, that's great."

In Wednesday's 112-105 Game 2 victory, Aldridge went for 43 points on 18-of-28 shooting and eight rebounds.

Damian Lillard has been special as well, just not as historically great as Aldridge. On Wednesday, he finished with 18 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds for the Blazers.

Lillard came away with a huge offensive rebound in the final minute and hit two free throws with 42.8 seconds remaining to close out the win.

Dwight Howard led Houston with 32 points and 14 rebounds but was limited to seven points after halftime. James Harden netted 18 points, but needed 19 shots to do so as the All-Star has connected on just 29.8 percent (14-of-47) from the floor through the first two games.

"I'm not worried about my offense, I'm worried about our defense, our defense as a team," said Harden. "When we get stops and get out in transition everybody feels good about themselves and that's when the assists flow in and things start going well. Like I said, if we can't get stops it makes it more difficult."


Houston never led in the fourth quarter in Game 2 after blowing a nine-point fourth-quarter lead in Game 1 and a six-point cushion in overtime.

One final push brought the Rockets within 102-98 inside the final minute, and they almost got the ball back when Aldridge missed a deep jumper. Lillard, though, outhustled Patrick Beverley to the long rebound and calmly made two clutch free throws to send Portland to another hard-fought victory.

Only three teams in NBA history have come back after losing the first two at home to win a series -- the 1968-69 Los Angeles Lakers with Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West, the 1993-94 Houston Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon and the 2004-05 Dallas Mavericks with Dirk Nowitzki.

The Rockets are 5-2 in their last seven in Portland and have taken two of the last three meetings in the great northwest.

Game 4 will be Sunday night at the Moda Center.


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