Trail Blazers take 2-0 series lead against Rockets

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge controls the ball as Houston Rockets centre Dwight...

Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge controls the ball as Houston Rockets centre Dwight Howard defends during Game 2 of their Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Toyota Center in Houston, April 23, 2014. (TROY TAORMINA/USA Today)

The Sports Xchange

, Last Updated: 1:30 AM ET

HOUSTON - Forward LaMarcus Aldridge delivered another scintillating performance and the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Houston Rockets 112-105 on Wednesday night at the Toyota Center to take a 2-0 lead in a Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Aldridge had 43 points and eight rebounds to win his duel with Rockets centre Dwight Howard, who paired 32 points with 14 rebounds while adding four blocked shots.

Portland guard Mo Williams and forward Dorell Wright combined for 28 points off the bench in support of Aldridge and guard Damian Lillard (18 points, 11 assists).

Game 3 is Friday night at the Moda Center in Portland.

Rockets guard James Harden delivered his second subpar performance of the series, missing 13 of 19 shots from the field while scoring 18 points and committing five turnovers before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Houston forward Chandler Parsons (15 points) missed 10 of 15 shots from the floor.

After playing Howard to a standstill in the first half, Aldridge scored 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field to push the Trail Blazers to an 83-77 lead heading into the fourth quarter. He scored six points in just over a minute to boost the lead to 67-58 and, after the Rockets responded with a 9-0 run, Aldridge drilled another midrange jumper.

With 6.7 seconds left in the third quarter, Aldridge nailed a step-back 18-footer and the Rockets were in scramble mode the rest of the way.

The first half offered a spectacular display of one-upmanship between Howard and Aldridge, with Howard scoring a franchise-postseason-record 19 first-quarter points after sizzling 6-of-6 shooting from the field.

Aldridge was not quite as hot early — he scored 11 points in the first quarter — but he caught fire in the second and nearly matched Howard by intermission.

After Howard completed an alley-oop dunk with 5:41 left in the half, Aldridge scored 10 consecutive points for the Blazers. His 15-foot fadeaway with 3:12 left pulled Portland to 50-46. Aldridge added two free throws before the second quarter closed, running his total to 23, just two shy of Howard’s 25.

Most critical for Portland: Howard’s scorching start did little to buoy the Rockets. When guard Patrick Beverley drained a baseline jumper at the buzzer, he merely pulled the Rockets even at 53 at the half. When Aldridge resumed his dominant ways in the third quarter, Houston was helpless.

NOTES

Rockets C Dwight Howard set a franchise record for points in the first quarter of a playoff game with 19. Hall of Fame C Hakeem Olajuwon scored 18 points in the first quarter of Game 4 of a Western Conference first round series against the Utah Jazz on May 5, 1995. ... Rockets G Patrick Beverley was in the starting lineup despite suffering in Game 1 a re-aggravation of a right knee strain that sidelined him for eight games down the stretch of the regular season. ... Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts expressed a desire to generate more production from his bench, particularly during those stretches when F LaMarcus Aldridge takes breathers. Aldridge scored 46 points and grabbed 18 rebounds while logging 45 minutes in Game 1, a 122-120 overtime win for Portland. The Trail Blazers were a minus-15 in the eight minutes Aldridge rested on the bench.


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