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News / Sports / Blazers

Blazers roll past disrupted Rockets

Lillard, Harkless lead Portland over Houston team in disarray

By Erik Gundersen, Columbian Trail Blazers Writer
Published: February 10, 2016, 11:22pm
2 Photos
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket on Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Trevor Ariza (1 ) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. The Blazers won the game 116-103.
Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) drives to the basket on Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) and forward Trevor Ariza (1 ) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016. The Blazers won the game 116-103. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes) (steve dykes/Associated Press) Photo Gallery

PORTLAND — The old saying is that a picture says a thousand words. And as Houston’s Dwight Howard ripped off his Rockets jersey in disgust before giving it to a Blazers fan court side, he told a season’s story without saying anything.

The red-hot Blazers pummeled a disappointing and dispirited Houston team 116-103 behind 31 points from Damian Lillard and Maurice Harkless’ double-double of 19 points and 13 rebounds, both season highs.

“I think we dug ourselves a hole to start the season, but we stuck with it,” Lillard said. “We kept going, we kept working. We didn’t get too high or get too low.”

After the game, media members heard Houston’s veteran guard Jason Terry bemoaning the Rockets’ lack of chemistry in the media room.

The Rockets locker room was barren and quiet, while the Blazers could not stop chattering.

“I really like the way we’re playing right now,” Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. “We’ve been really good the last two or three weeks. Our aggressiveness has been good.”

That these two teams met on the final game before the All-Star break was fitting in that they seem to be trending in opposite directions.

With Portland’s win, they surpassed the 26 1/2 over-under mark set by Vegas and Houston’s loss — their 28th — makes it impossible to reach their 54 1/2 win over-under.

It started so promising for Houston, too, as the Rockets jumped out to an 18-11 lead in the first six minutes with their two best players, Dwight Howard and James Harden, leading the way.

But the Rockets being the Rockets, they let the Blazers right back into the game.

It was a high-scoring affair early, with the two teams tied at 29 after a quarter.

Howard was in rare form Wednesday, looking like the dominating player he was before injuries began to limit him. He dunked, he changed shots, had the jump hook going and punished any Blazers big man who lay in his path.

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Harden was solid, if not a little too turnover-prone, but the Blazers have not won 11 of their last 14 games by accident.

And once again, Patrick Beverley and Damian Lillard showed that their’s very little love lost between them.

Beverley got the crowd involved when he shoved Lillard early in an offensive possession, where it did not look as if he was making a play on the ball.

It was a common foul, but it lit a fire under the Blazers and a crowd that even before the foul was among the liveliest they have had all season.

After the Beverley foul, the Blazers closed the first half on a 13-4 run to take an 57-46 lead into halftime.

The Blazers were finally back at full strength with Noah Vonleh fully recovered from an ankle injury. However, against a small Houston lineup, Stotts went with Harkless who got the start in the two of the last three games.

It was arguably Harkless’ best performance of the season — endless energy, hitting his 3-pointers and cutting to the basket with ferocity — helping power the Blazers to a lead that got as high as 21 in the third quarter.

But the Blazers gave the Rockets a life line at the end of the third quarter, which included a mind-boggling turnover on an inbounds pass to let Houston get to within 11 points.

Terry convened with several Rockets players during a timeout away from the rest of the team when they were down big in the 3rd quarter.

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Columbian Trail Blazers Writer