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Blazers honor injured Matthews by beating Rockets

Portland wins on day of emotional leader's Achilles surgery

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: March 12, 2015, 12:00am

PORTLAND — Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews underwent a successful surgery to repair his torn left Achilles on Wednesday, the team announced prior to its game against the Houston Rockets but he was on the minds and chests of all of his teammates.

Players and staff warmed up on the court prior to the game with black T-shirts that said “With Wes” in all red capital letters before defeating the Houston Rockets 105-100 behind 26 points and 14 rebounds from the driving force behind the shirts, LaMarcus Aldridge.

“We put his jersey up on the road and I think everybody thought that was it,” Aldridge said. “But I think those shirts shows him how important he is and not that we’ve forgotten about him already.”

Matthews underwent a successful surgery Wednesday by Dr. Richard Ferkel of the Southern California Orthopedic institute — but without him, the Blazers collectively did a wonderful job against Houston’s James Harden.

After the game, Matthews posted a picture on Instagram of him post-op watching the second half with game jersey and shooting sleeves on. When the Blazers showed Matthews’ post, the crowd went wild and many in the seats were brought to their feet.

Aldridge could not help but smile.

“That’s what’s up,” Aldridge said. “That’s just who he is — a big-time teammate, a very competitive guy. That’s him for sure. Still drugged up, too, looked like.”

Sans Matthews, most of the job went to Arron Afflalo, but Nicolas Batum had Harden for much of the game as well and the Blazers were disciplined.

Harden scored 18 but just four points in the second half, taking just five free throws .

“I thought it was pretty good,” Robin Lopez said of the Blazers’ defense on Harden.

The game got of to an entertaining start. LaMarcus Aldridge was active early, going to work on the smaller Rockets team without an injured Dwight Howard who has missed nearly half the season.

Aldridge was aggressive, going 7 of 11 front he field and scoring 15 points.

Harden scored 14 points in the first half, but did not get to the line much and shot poorly on 3-pointers, which continued throughout the game.

Although Harden had it going early and the Rockets scored more than 50 points in the first half, the Blazers did their job by not giving Harden easy and efficient looks at the foul line.

The Blazers trailed by three after the first quarter but the Rockets expanded the lead with Harden on the bench, only to let the Blazers back into the game later.

Lopez nearly had a double-double in the first half before finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds.

Lillard did a nice job of mixing up his playmaking with his aggression to look for his shot against the pesky Patrick Beverley.

Aldridge picked up his fourth foul with 10:32 left in the third quarter which put the Blazers in a tough spot.

The Rockets instantly jumped out to a 8-0 run — but behind some hot shooting from Nicolas Batum and Meyers Leonard as well as some stops, the Blazers got back in it.

Leonard hit a pair of 3’s and even had a little floater in the lane as the Rockets continued to ignore him on the perimeter.

The Blazers regained the momentum and the lead, actually expanding their halftime lead as Aldridge closed the quarter.

Aldridge picked up his fifth foul with just more than six minutes left.

Although he had suffered through a rough shooting night, Afflalo hit a big 3-pointer with 2:42 left to put the Blazers up by 11.

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Houston’s Corey Brewer scored 17 in the final 3:53 but missed a 3-pointer with a chance to tie the game in the last 10 seconds.

The win gives the Blazers the season series against the Rockets and a possible tiebreaker as the Blazers stand in third place in the West.

Columbian Trail Blazers Writer