The skinny: An epic first quarter by Portland was followed by Houston actually making it a close game by early in the fourth quarter Monday at Moda Center.
But, perhaps, the Trail Blazers remembered who they were playing, turned up their game a notch and reached 140 points for the second time in six days, beating the Rockets 140-129.
Houston is 5-43 since Feb. 4, a stretch that included a 20-game losing streak. The Rockets, since trading James Harden to Brooklyn, suffered many injuries and basically appear to be playing for the best NBA draft position (at the bottom of the league).
Still, it was a competitive game, with Portland (40-29, 8-1 in past nine games) leading only 116-111 barely into the fourth quarter. But, Damian Lillard and the Portland veterans wouldn't let the team lose.
Lillard overcame a slow start in a tremendous first quarter for his team and finished with 34 points, nine rebounds and six assists. CJ McCollum and Norman Powell each scored 28 points. That's 90 points from the three-guard lineup. The Blazers shot .511 from the floor (18 of 40 3-pointers, .450) and made 28 of 35 free throws.
And, oh, what a start it was — a record start. Portland scored 50 points for the first time ever in a quarter. The Blazers tied an NBA record with 12 3-pointers in a quarter. McCollum had 21 points, going 5-of-5 3-point shooting. Portland shot .708 and made 12 of 16 3-pointers.
McCollum had 26 points at halftime, making 8 of 10 shots, 6 of 7 3-pointers and 4 of 4 free throws.
At least the Rockets (16-53) tried to make it close and didn't fold. D.J. Augustin and Kelly Olynyk had 21 points each. Armoni Brooks (six 3-pointers) and Khyri Thomas added 18 points each. The Rockets, who shot .494 from the floor, made their first 26 free-throw attempts and finished 27 of 28. They also had 18 3-pointers.
Portland came up one point short of a season high in points; the Blazers scored a season-high 141 points last Wednesday at Cleveland.
Next up: Well, the stretch of three games against NBA Western Conference teams that Portland hasn't beaten has arrived to conclude the regular season. The Blazers play at Utah, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (ESPN), followed by a 7 p.m. game Thursday at Phoenix (TNT) and a game Sunday (time to be determined) at Moda Center against Denver.
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