PORTLAND — For the second time in three games, 48 minutes weren’t enough for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets.
The unheralded Troy Daniels, who was in the D-League earlier this season, hit the go-ahead basket in overtime, sending the Rockets to a 121-116 win over the Blazers in Game 3 of their first round NBA playoff game on Friday.
Behind Daniels’ 3-pointer, on a crazy scramble of a play with bodies flying everywhere, the Rockets have moved a game closer in the best-of-seven series that is now 2-1.
Daniels had hit two three-pointers earlier in the game.
“He rose up on that last one like he had been there before,” Damian Lillard said. “You live with him shooting that shot over James Harden.”
Added Lillard: “I thought we played a good game. The game went to overtime. That says right there that both teams played so well enough that it needed an extra period and they made one more play at the end of the game than we did.”
In need of a win, Houston coach Kevin McHale finally moved a chess piece on the board, electing go super big by starting back-up center Omer Asik at power forward alongside Dwight Howard.
The move was made to counter Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who had two big games in Houston.
The Rockets strategy on Friday forced other Blazers to step up.
It worked early with the Rockets jumping out to a 9-0 run, but the Blazers came back, led by Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Lillard said. “They couldn’t stop L.A. the last two games and once I saw (Asik) and Dwight out there at the same time, I figured they were trying to make it harder for him.”
However, while the Rockets strategy was in successful in some ways — with Aldridge going 8-for-22 from the field — it didn’t do much to slowdown Portland’s ball-handlers.
McHale added that the Rockets must clean up the one-on-one defense on their end.
Harden scored 37 points on a whopping 35 shots. It wasn’t efficient, but he was certainly more involved.
Batum finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Lillard led the Blazers with 30 points, six assists and six rebounds.
Lillard helped the Blazers close the game on Houston after the Rockets pushed their lead to as much as 12 in the second quarter.
Mo Williams’ four-point play with 7:47 left in the game was followed up by a pull-up jumper in Harden’s face on the next possession.
But the Rockets continued playing and attacking with Harden, Howard and some play off the bench by Jeremy Lin.
Harden went to the line with 1:08 left, hitting a pair and picking up a fifth foul on Wesley Matthews in the process.
Batum hit a 3-pointer that tied the game 110-110 with 41.9 seconds left. Lillard missed a chance to win the game in regulation.
It was also Lin who made the pass to Daniels for the eventual basket that decided the game.
Batum had a chance to tie the game in overtime but missed a 3-pointer.
“It was a great shot and if it happened all over again and get that same look I would do it all over again,” Lillard said of the shot by Batum.
“There’s nothing we can do about anything that happened now,” Matthews added.