Rockets' D comes through in Game 5 win

Rockets' D comes through in Game 5 win
May 1, 2014, 1:45 am
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(USA Today Images)

It's been awhile since the Rockets have been a team that brings it on the defensive end, but make no mistake about it, the Rockets' 108-98 win in Game 5 had a lot to do with their defense, especially when it counted most, in the fourth quarter, down the stretch, in a close game.

The win extends the series, now with Portland leading 3-2, and forces Game 6 in Portland on Friday night.

"Team defense starts with individual defense," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "We were able to contain them and guys did a little better job of helping each other. We were able to keep them from coming downhill on us. What's hurt us in the games we've lost, we've stopped their action, whether it was a pick-androll or a flare screen or whatever. Then it just came down to one-on-one defense, we did a better job of that tonight."

Houston had held the lead going into the fourth quarter in three of the four games in this series but Portland had outscored Houston in each of the four fourth quarters -- prior to Game 5 -- averaging 30 points in the fourth quarter.

Once again, the Rockets carried a lead into the fourth quarter, but not only did they win the final quarter for the first time in the series, they held the Blazers offense in check. Portland made just 6-of-20 shots in the fourth quarter, scoring just 21 points.

"I think we got stops, they missed some shots they normally make," Pat Beverley said. "We rebounded, Dwight (Howard) and (Omer Asik) did a great job. (Portland) started making a comeback in the fourth, but we withstood it and we got stops at the end."

After the Blazers cut the lead to 100-98 with 3:39 left in the game, the Rockets got stops. In fact, they got stops on every single possession the rest of the game. Portland missed their final eight shots of the game. Three of those misses were blocks by the Rockets, including a pair from Howard on LaMarcus Aldridge on the same possession that resulted in a 24-second violation.

It was the second scoreless stretch of more than 3:30 in Game 5 for the Blazers, the first spanning 5:16 from late in the first quarter to early in the second quarter as the Rockets scored 15 straight points to build what was then their largest lead of the series at 41-27.

They would extend the lead to 17 points later in the period, before the Blazers closed the gap as they have the entire series, although this time, they never took the lead from the Rockets over the final 37 minutes of the game.

Clearly, the Rockets' defense deserves some credit for the work done on Aldridge, who scored just eight points on 3-of-12 shooting. Although Aldridge said his low production had more to do with the flow of the game and less to do with what Houston was doing.

"That was just how the game went," said Aldridge, who scored 46 an 43 points, respectively in the first two games in Houston. "The ball didn't come to me as much tonight. Our guys were making shots and were playing off them and that's how the game went. It wasn't about how Dwight guarded me or anything like that."

Certainly, not for the whole game anyway, since it was Asik, who has had the duties of defending Aldridge from the start of each of the last three games. There has been a marked difference in his output since that change was made to the Rockets starting lineup and Houston's overall strategy of defending Aldridge with Asik or Howard, almost exclusively.

Aldridge was 35-of-59 (59 percent) from the field in the first two games in Houston, averaging 44.5 points per game. But since the Rockets made the decision to go big on Aldridge, he's shooting 23-of-57 (40 percent) from the field, while averaging 20 points per game.

"I think we got stops when we needed to and that's what got us the win tonight," said Terrence Jones, who came off the bench and made four of his five shots. "We've always been a great scoring team, we think it was defense tonight (that won the game)."