Mistakes cost Rockets Game 4 in Portland

Mistakes cost Rockets Game 4 in Portland
April 28, 2014, 2:30 am
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(USA Today Images)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The Blazers and Rockets series may go down as one of the most exciting, hard-fought series in the NBA playoffs in quite some time, but for Houston, they are just one game away from being eliminated after falling in overtime in Portland, 123-120, in Game 4.

For the third time in this series the two teams played to a standstill after 48 minutes, needing five extra minutes to determine a victor. For the second time, that victor was not the Rockets.

James Harden, who scored 28 points, but had five turnovers, talked about the mistakes that once again that cost Houston a chance at evening up the series.

"A couple of silly mistakes, a couple of mental lapses late in the game, when we take the lead we have to protect the basketball and get a good shot, it was pretty frustrating," he said. "So many plays that we had to execute on. Credit to them, they kept fighting, making their runs. But a couple of mistakes, that we just can't have, especially in the fourth quarter. We just didn't finish the game like we needed to."

Houston has held fourth quarter leads of 13 in Game 1, 11 in Game 3 and eight in Sunday night's game, but in each case allowed the Blazers to come back and force overtime. In this instance, Houston made more mistakes down the stretch than in the previous games and this is the loss that puts them on the brink of elimination.

"We didn't execute very well, we held the ball way too often," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We didn't attack enough and we had a ton of opportunities. It wasn't the fourth quarter, it was the third quarter, we had three consecutive breaks where we botched them up where we were up 11 and could have been up 17."

"It was a great game, a great game to be a part of. Both teams competed really hard," said Damian Lillard, who finished with 23 points and eight assists. "They controlled most of it, but we kept competing, kept fighting and we found a way to get it done again."

Houston had only four turnovers in the first half and built a 10-point lead. Turnovers had been a problem all season for the Rockets, but not in this series where they had not had a game with more than 14 turnovers. They averaged 16.1 turnovers per game, which was the 29th worst mark a 30-team league.

The costliest of the 12 turnovers they had after halftime, came after they had come all the way back from a five-point deficit to take a two point lead with under a minute remaining.

Houston forced a Nicolas Batum miss on a 3-pointer and Jeremy Lin fought for the rebound underneath the basket with the clock showing roughly 30 seconds remaining. But the Rockets had discussed their plan if they grabbed a defensive rebound in the timeout that preceded the play and the players didn't execute the plan.

Lin attempted to dribble the ball out from under the basket, but he lost the ball right in front of the Houston bench and after a mad scramble and a second missed shot, the ball found it's way to Blazers guard Mo Williams, who allowed Lin to fly right by him before launching a 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net and gave the Blazers a one-point lead with just under 18 seconds remaining.

"When we have a plan you just have to stick with it, we said when we get the rebound, we said unless we have a clear break, we're going to take a timeout," McHale said about the late-game miscue. "Jeremy (Lin) gets the defensive rebound and dribbles it out and we lose the ball. We couldn't be any clearer, than 'clear break or timeout.' That's not his fault, he made a basketball play. That was just typical of what we did tonight."

After Harden missed a driving layup and Blazers forward Dorell Wright made one of two free throws, the Rockets did execute a nice play to send the game to overtime when Harden drove into the lane and found Dwight Howard for dunk with three seconds left.

Houston never led in overtime, with the Blazers scoring first following a flagrant foul on LaMarcus Aldridge by Chandler Parsons. The was reviewed and the call was upheld. Aldridge said after the game, he thought the foul woke him up a little bit and got his team locked in a little bit. He also said it felt like a flagrant foul to him.

Portland built a seven-point lead, which the Rockets sliced to one after rookie Troy Daniels calmly made three clutch free throws with 8.9 seconds left. But after Mo Williams connected on a pair of free throws to put the Blazers up 123-120, Pat Beverley had the ball stolen from him as he brought the ball up the court for the last of the Rockets 16 turnovers in the game.

The Rockets were saying a lot of the same things they have been saying throughout this series as they have come up short now three times in the final minutes.

"We feel like just as easily as it's 1-3 we're down, we could be up 3-1," said Chandler Parsons, who scored 26 points on 11-of-18 shooting. "A couple of plays here and there, and it can all change. We're excited to go back to Houston an play at home and we fully expect to come back here and this is it. It's win or go home and we're not trying to go home."