HOUSTON (AP) — LaMarcus Aldridge scored 43 points and Damian Lillard made six free throws down the stretch to give the Portland Trail Blazers a 112-105 win over the Houston Rockets on Wednesday night and a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
Aldridge has made the most of the return to his home state and put the Trail Blazers in control heading home for Game 3 in Portland.
Aldridge became the first player with consecutive 40-point games in the playoffs since LeBron James did it in May of 2009 after scoring a career-high and franchise playoff-record 46 in an overtime win in Game 1. He’s also the first player Trail Blazers history to have to 40-point games in the postseason.
James Harden knocked down a 3-pointer with about 30 seconds left to get the Rockets within 3. Lillard made two free throws before Harden fouled out about 10 seconds later. Mo Williams and Lillard both made a pair of free throws after that to secure the win. Lillard finished with 18 points.
Dwight Howard was unstoppable early and scored 25 points in the first half, but managed just seven in the second half.
After missing 20 shots in Game 1, Harden promised a better performance in this game. But it was much of the same as he was 6 of 19 and finished with 18 points.
The Rockets trailed by nine points before a 5-0 run cut the lead to 102-98 with about a minute left. Both teams made a pair of free throws after that before Lillard found Wesley Matthews wide open for a reverse layup to make it 106-100 with 33 seconds left.
A one-handed dunk by Aldridge over Omer Asik gave Portland a 96-87 lead with about five minutes left.
With Aldridge on the bench to start the fourth, Houston scored the first four points of the period to cut the lead to two points, but Williams and Dorell Wright made consecutive 3s to make it 89-81 midway through the quarter.
Aldridge made 10 of Portland’s first 14 points of the second half to help the Trail Blazers build a 67-58 lead with about eight minutes left in the quarter. Houston scored the next nine points, with the last five from Chandler Parsons, to tie it at 67 a couple of minutes later.
Portland scored five quick points after that with the help of a 3-pointer from Lillard before Houston used a 6-0 run to go on top 73-72 with 3 ½ minutes left in the third.
Wright got going after that, scoring seven points in an 11-4 spurt that gave Portland an 83-77 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Howard scored just one point in the third quarter and sat out the last six minutes of the quarter after picking up his fourth foul.
There was a stretch in the second quarter when it was all Howard and Aldridge. Aldridge made a basket and a pair of free throws before he and Howard exchanged buckets on four trips down the court. The Trail Blazers cut the lead to four at the end of that span before Patrick Beverley made a free throw. Portland scored the next seven points to take a 53-51 lead, but Beverley’s basket at the buzzer tied it at halftime.
Howard scored Houston’s first 13 points and had 19 — with five dunks — by the end of the first quarter to help the Rockets to a 31-23 lead.
NOTES: Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who has been working with Howard this week, watched the game from a courtside seat. … Wright finished with 15 points.