Lillard leads Trail Blazers past Rockets 117-107

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PORTLAND — Damian Lillard had 31 points and 11 assists, leading the Portland Trail Blazers past the Houston Rockets 117-107 on Thursday night.

Jusuf Nurkic had a team-high 11 rebounds to go along with 19 points for the Trail Blazers, who have a season-high five-game winning streak and a 1 ½-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

James Harden finished with 30 points and eight rebounds to lead the Rockets. Harden’s 3-pointer at the end of the first quarter gave the Rockets 1,078 3s, an NBA single-season record.

Portland held a 96-85 lead into the fourth, but Houston made a run early in the quarter. Trevor Ariza’s dunk tied the game at 105 with 2:29 left, but Nurkic’s post-up gave Portland the lead right back with 2:05 remaining.

Allen Crabbe sealed the win with steal on Harden, taking it coast-to-coast to give the Blazers a 113-105 lead with 1:12 left.
Harden had three turnovers in the fourth quarter.

After Eric Gordon’s 3-pointer gave the Rockets a two-point lead early in the second quarter, the Blazers outscored Houston 19-6 to reclaim the lead and push it to as high as 12 before taking a 65-56 lead into halftime.

Portland’s reserves, particularly Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu, were crucial in creating the lead while combining for 32 points and five 3-pointers.

Tip-ins

Rockets: Expect to get big man Montrezl Harrell back in the lineup Friday, when they face the Golden State Warriors, after he attended to the birth of his child. Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni praised Harrell for how he has handled being the team’s third center. “You can sweet-talk it, but reality is what it is and he’s accepted it,” D’Antoni said. “He keeps working with John Lucas, keeps getting better. He’s trying to improve his 3-point shooting. That way we can move him over to the 4 some. If he can do that, that will open up some space for him. I have nothing but good things to say about him. He’s been terrific.” … D’Antoni said the Rockets plan to rest backup center Nene on Friday.

Blazers: They’ve impressed D’Antoni, who praised his coaching counterpart, Terry Stotts, saying the Blazers are a much different team than the one they faced on Nov. 27. “Nurkic has helped give them new life,” D’Antoni said. “They’re a lot different now, they’re a lot better right now. Terry has done a great job, as he always does. This is really good what he’s done.”