James Harden

How the NBA explains away all of those missed traveling calls

How the NBA explains away all of those missed traveling calls

The NBA has decided it is going to attempt to clarify its traveling rules very soon but the rules haven’t changed – the league is just going to attempt to further explain a rule that seems to be different than what’s called a travel at all other levels of basketball.

At the heart of the matter is what the league calls “the gather” – the time when a player finishes his dribble and begins a drive to the basket. The NBA allows players to gather the ball before its referees begin to count that player’s steps. The result is a situation like this, which appears to everybody who has ever played the game as a flagrant travel – but isn’t by NBA rule.

The league’s long and lean players are taking advantage of this rule, of course. They move so fast that very often humans can’t really ascertain in real time when the “gather” ends and the dribble should begin. Combine that with the league’s desire to keep its game moving and not clutter it with too many whistles and you get some uncalled travels. And then, of course, there’s the James Harden step-back move, which has become controversial because he certainly appears to be traveling before shooting.

My personal definition has always had to do with keeping track of a player’s pivot foot. As you shoot or pass, you’re allowed to lift that foot and as long as it doesn’t hit the ground before you unload the ball. That’s not traveling, at any level of basketball. It’s why young players are taught to jump stop – land on both feet at the same time – so that they can use either foot as their pivot foot.

Beyond that -- in spite of the NBA’s explanation of its “gather” – it’s still a mystery to me in the NBA. It’s so difficult to find that “gather” that I’ve given up. And I’m sticking to the opinion I’ve had since 2009, when I first heard about this gather thing – it’s just something the NBA made up to justify some of its players taking an extra step.

Rockets get Westbrook -- Did they watch him play in the Blazer playoff series?

Rockets get Westbrook -- Did they watch him play in the Blazer playoff series?

So the Houston Rockets wanted Russell Westbrook so bad they gave up Chris Paul, two first-round picks and two first-round swaps Thursday?

To get a point guard who seems very close to being an impossible partner for James Harden.

And I really think somebody should ask the question in Houston – did you guys watch any other playoff series but your own last spring?

The Westbrook we saw in the Portland-Oklahoma City, first-round series was one who was far below the public perception of what Westbrook is supposed to be. He’s a guy who thinks he can make all the big shots late in games and doesn’t understand that the reason the Trail Blazers were sagging about eight feet off him is that they WANTED him to shoot.

Don't fall for all that triple-double hype -- this guy is more relentless about that stat than he is about winning. He's prickly with not just the media but most people he comes in contact with, doesn't know how to gear his game down when the situation calls for it and, oh yeah -- he can't shoot.

I think this deal also sets up a situation with the starting Houston guards – Westbrook and Harden – fighting over the ball and ending up resenting each other. The only way I see this working is if Westbrook defers to Harden – because Harden isn’t going to defer to Westbrook. Nor should he.

And I don’t think Westbrook will defer to ANYBODY.

I can’t wait to see this in action. And to watch some Harden eyerolls after Westbrook clanks a few jumpers off the rim in the fourth quarter. And how crazy Westbrook is going to get while Harden is pounding the ball at the top of the circle waiting to beat somebody off the dribble.

Mike D'Antoni is going to need the touch of Houdini to make this work.

And that leaves the final question – Will the Thunder buy out Paul’s contract, freeing him to move to one of the superteams? I can’t imagine him being happy in OKC for more than a minute.

But of course, I can’t imagine anyone being happy in OKC.

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum & Terry Stotts weigh in on the impressive James Harden streak

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USATI

Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum & Terry Stotts weigh in on the impressive James Harden streak

It was probably the biggest story of the first half of the NBA season – Houston’s James Harden and his streak of five straight 40-point games and then, his ongoing run of 31 straight 30-point games.

And the most interesting facet of that 40-point streak was that almost none of his baskets came after an assist from a teammate.

The man was playing one-on-one against the whole league for weeks and making it work:

A while back, we had the opportunity after a practice to talk with Portland Coach Terry Stotts and the Trail Blazers’ two highest scorers, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, about Harden’s streak and the idea of basically doing it with one-on-one play -- virtually monopolizing the ball.

Of course, the Rockets were without injured starters Chris Paul and Clint Capela much of that time, too. And there was the feeling by many that Harden’s heroics were the only way Houston could win.

“It’s an amazing stat,” Stotts said. “To have that many points unassisted is obviously an indication of how they’re playing and how they need to play at this point. And it’s a case of good a player he is and how good of a one-on-one player he is.”

Lillard is a big scorer and appreciates the difficulty of scoring at that level for an extended period of time.

“You’ve got to respect it for what he is doing,” Lillard said. “It takes a great player to accomplish what he is doing. To have 20 points in an NBA game is an accomplishment… but to average over 40 or 30, that is crazy.”

McCollum is a terrific one-on-one player himself and knows how hard it is to carry the burden that Harden has carried.

“That’s a skill,” McCollum said. “That’s a skill to be able to create quality shots, create space. And a unique skill to do it essentially every possession.

“He gets to that spot before anybody else.  You’ve got to be in elite shape to dribble the ball as much as he does, come off screens, play at the top of the lane and still get step-backs. He’s special.”

But what about his teammates? A lot of them are relegated to standing around, watching him go one-on-one.

“Depends on the position you play,” McCollum said with a smile. “It would be tough. You have to be able to shoot, obviously. Be able to go a lot of possessions without touching the ball, because he handles the ball and facilitates – decides who scores and when they score.”

But, says McCollum, there’s another side to the coin.

“You also get one-on-one coverage, you have a lot of opportunities to attack angles and gaps because of the amount of attention he draws. He attracts double-teams and triple-teams. Everybody is always aware of where he’s at on the court.
“There’s positives and negatives to playing with everybody but with anybody, but as an NBA player you can figure it out – figure out how to be productive.”

Stotts approached the question of Harden’s teammates from a coach’s point of view.

“The biggest thing is everybody accepts their role and understands that with Chris Paul out and Capela out, that’s what they have to do to win games,” Stotts said.  “I’m sure they’re fine with it.”

Lillard, a player who takes seriously his role with the Trail Blazers as the one responsible for getting his teammates going, had some concern about Houston’s “other” players.

“The other side of it is the people who are playing with him,” Lillard said. “Those are the people you have to ask. When it’s unassisted, the ball is in his hands all the time. NBA players, you know they want to shoot, they want to have the ball and they want to have a chance. 

“You have to respect what’s he’s doing. You can’t take nothing away from him – especially if his teammates are OK with it and they’re winning games.”

A question that begged to be asked is if there are any other NBA players – given the green light to continually go one-on-one for entire games – who could duplicate Harden’s feats.

“Kevin Durant – for sure,” Lillard said. “If KD played that exact same way I think he’d do the exact same thing.”

McCollum chuckled when asked the question.

“Like that?” he asked. “I think I can score a lot but 50 or 60? You’ve got to be elite. There are guys out there who could be productive, but I don’t know if they could be as good as James Harden. He’s very elite in his own right.

“I think there’s some guys out there who can score a lot of points in that situation.”

What about Durant?

“He could do that on any team …  if he wanted to.” McCollum said.

Stotts took his time with his answer about other players being able to hamdle that load Harden is carrying.

“Umm, there are some great players,” he said. “I’d say probably. I’m not going to name names but there are players out there – I don’t know if they’d be that efficient –- but there are players, maybe a handful of players, who’d like to try to see if they could.”

I think we all could agree with that. How about Durant’s chances?

“Durant?” Stotts said. “I think it would have to be a perimeter player. Durant, Steph -- if he got on a roll -- the thing is to be able to do it every night.

“LeBron is probably in that category. Probably some other guys as well. The thing about what James (Harden) is doing is that he’s doing it every night. It’s not a one-night phenomenon.”

And, as far as the 30-point streak is concerned, it’s still climbing.

A different breed: How the Trail Blazers held James Harden to 'only' 38 points

A different breed: How the Trail Blazers held James Harden to 'only' 38 points

It’s very rare in basketball that you can talk about playing terrific defense against a player who scored 38 points.

But James Harden is a different breed. The Houston guard is being hailed among the great offensive players in NBA history (not by me, by the way) and the Trail Blazers held him to 38, shutting down his streak of five consecutive 40-point games. And it helped the Trail Blazers post a 110-101 win over the Rockets in Moda Center. The victory gave Portland the season series over Houston for the first season since 2014-15.

And seriously, holding a player to 38 points when he’s getting 35 shots, including 17 three-point shots and seven free throws, is an achievement.

Credit Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu for the defensive job.

Turner, who had Harden most of the time, said he, “Had to be aggressive and limit what (Harden) liked to do. He’s been on a hell of a run and obviously he’s the head of the snake so I just tried to pick him up and wear him down, tire him down and not get any cheap fouls.

“I wanted to contest his shots and not get any cheap fouls contesting his shots.

“I don’t know how to say it. It doesn’t make any damn sense – I get to the line 20 times in a month and he might go to the line 20 times in two hours.

“His feel for the game is unreal. You just have to play cat and mouse with him.”

Harden needed 35 shots to get his 38 points.

“I’d take that,” Turner said. “Chief, wouldn’t you take that? 13 for 35 and 38 points?”

Aminu (“Chief”) assured Turner he’t take it, too.

“You have to be locked in every play because the ball is in his hands so much,” Aminu said,. “It’s fun, though. He’s going to go at you one-on-one and in the pick and roll. You get to test yourself, defensively, to see where you stack up.”

Harden is one of the great tricksters in the game – goading defenders into reaching in on his shot, getting them to foul him on his jumper and tricking the referees into putting him on the foul line, whether he deserves it or not.

“He’s able to trick the refs sometimes,” Aminu said. “That’s part of the game. You’ve got to tip your hat to him. I thought we did a great job on him tonight. I tip my hat to ET and myself and really everybody.”

Reminded that Harden needed 35 shots to get his points, Aminu nodded his head.

“I feel like sometimes that gets overlooked,” he said. “This was a great defensive game against Harden and it should be commended as such.”

Asked if he ever got 35 shots in a game, Aminu thought about it for a few seconds and said that, yes, he did once.

“In a summer game,” he said. “Not the (NBA) summer league but a summer pro-am league.”

Coach Terry Stotts shook his head, smiled, and said, “Well, we held him under 40 so I guess that’s a win.”

But seriously, though…

“I thought Evan and Chief and other people obviously were switched on (Harden) – I thought they didn’t fall for many tricks. They were locked in, they didn’t reach, they contested.

"Obviously, he got it going in the third quarter but we didn’t get rattled. I thought they both took a lot of pride in the challenge that they had.”

Harden said, “We gave away offensive rebounds and we didn’t get on transition enough. And give them credit, they’re a good team, especially at home.”

The Trail Blazers got 25 points from Jusuf Nurkic, 24 from CJ McCollum and 17 from Damian Lillard. And they took care of a lot of the little things you need to beat good teams. Portland had a 54-44 edge in points in the paint, 21-7 advantage in second-chance points and a 14-7 margin in fast-break points. The Blazers also owned a seven-rebound edge on the offensive boards.

Harden, by the way, should have had his 40-point game. He missed a driving layup with 4.9 seconds to that would have done it.

 

'Tomorrow is big for us' -- No time to rest as Trail Blazers take lessons learned into game vs. Houston Rockets

'Tomorrow is big for us' -- No time to rest as Trail Blazers take lessons learned into game vs. Houston Rockets

This particular weekend of games has been circled on calendars for a while now.

Knowing Portland had to face MVP candidates in Russell Westbrook/Paul George followed by James Harden is obviously not an easy task, let alone on the same weekend of back-to-back home games.

But, the Trail Blazers looked up for the task early in Friday night’s game against the Thunder.

ASSIST CITY

Portland led 62-57 at the break in big part because of the Blazers’ ball movement as they dished out a season high 18 first half assists but would ultimately lose the game 111-109.

Evan Turner led the charge with finding his teammates with a season-high nine assists in the loss and the Blazers ended up with a new season-high in assists with 30 for the game.

“Guys were moving. I think one thing too- we got a lot in transition, which meant we got stops… Anytime the ball flies around you be a dangerous team and you wear down the other team… You gotta make the right pass and guys gotta get open cuts and make the shots,” Turner said. 

A big reason for so many assist was the pick and roll between Damian Lillard and Jusuf Nurkic. Nurkic got out to an aggressive start once again and scored 12 points in the first quarter as the Blazers were clicking on offense early.

Nurkic agreed there were several good aspects of the game especially in the first half, but it’s tough to think about that when you walk away with an ‘L.’

“We did a lot of good things, like I said, right now it looks like we didn’t. I thought we played with a great pace, and flow, execute real well,” Nurkic said.    

NEW LOOK ROTATION

Blazers head coach Terry Stotts went with a little different looking rotation against the Thunder with Jake Layman getting minutes on the wing off the bench over Nik Stauskas.

In Layman’s first stint he went 4-for-5 and 1-for-1 from three to score nine points in his first five minutes of action. 

“I think my mindset is always to go in there an be aggressive no matter what point in the game it is. Just stay ready and be aggressive,” Layman said.

Layman finished with 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting to score double-figures for the fourth time this season.

Keep an eye on Coach Stotts' bench rotation as he continues to tinker with different lineups as the Blazers progress through this five-game homestand. A hot hand off the bench has often been just the spark the Blazers need for a win, but it rarely seems to come from a consistent source. 

Expect Houston to employ their switching defense, which could alter Stotts' rotation once again. 

WHAT WENT WRONG?

With Layman having an efficient shooting night and the Blazers sharing the ball so well, what went wrong for the Blazers?

Too many bad stretches.

“We had good momentum for most of the game… The turnovers weren’t bad, but we had them in bunches and their offensive rebounds were pretty much in control, but they got them in bunches and those runs effected us and allowed them to have the lead,” Stotts said.

“One thing coach mentioned after the game was we just kind of went through some bad stretches, whether that was two or three offensive rebounds in five minutes or a little group of turnovers, or whatever defensive mistakes—you know, two, three, four back-to-back,” Leonard said.

Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for a 33 points and 13 assists in the loss. McCollum would like to continue to see the ball movement in Saturday’s game vs. Houston.

“I thought we just moved, took advantage of whatever they gave us. They load up, they make it difficult on you to score first side of the court and we just tried to make the right passes whether that be to the roll man or the place man and guys made shots,” McCollum said.

But, Lillard and McCollum had five of the Blazers’ 12 turnovers, which led to 15 Thunder points.

SPIN IT FORWARD TO THE ROCKETS

There are of course a couple of aspects of Friday’s loss that McCollum knows is going to need to change before Saturday.

“The ball movement was good. I think when we needed stops we got them down the stretch, so we just gotta have that sense of urgency earlier, making sure we getting to the net, making sure we’re preventing some of those tip-ins and those tip-outs from the bigs… It’s hard enough to get one stop, so we gotta make sure try to eliminate those second and third chances,” McCollum added.   

And now with the Blazers turning right back around to face James Harden and the Houston Rockets, Lillard knows how important of a game it will be on Saturday after already losing to one of the top Western Conferences teams the night before.

“They’re playing really well. James is playing at an all-time, historic level. It’s a challenge were gonna have to accept. We won on their floor. They beat us the last time we played them. Tomorrow we’re gonna have to take the challenge. We dropped one tonight, so tomorrow’s big for us,” Llillard said.

Rockets dictated Portland's 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

Rockets dictated Portland's 4th-quarter lineup and then the ensuing defeat

I'm not big on moral victories. As I said last night on Talkin' Ball, this is big-boy basketball and winning on the scoreboard is the only thing that matters.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” 15-game Blazers package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

But that's not to say we didn't learn some positive things from Saturday night's loss to the Houston Rockets, which finished off an 0-4 homestand for the Trail Blazers. What did we learn? Here's what I saw:

  • Meyers Leonard in the starting lineup worked. I don't care what you think, the guy can flat-out make shots. And this team needs more players who can do that. He probably should have seen fourth-quarter playing time but...
  • Coach Terry Stotts was busy trying to match up with the Rockets' fourth-quarter small lineup. However the problem with Portland's small lineup is that it usually contains more defenders than scorers. And the unfortunate part of that Saturday night was, even though it may have been the team's best defensive group, it was totally incapable of getting defensive stops. In fact, I can't remember a time when I've seen a team stack layup on layup down the stretch of a game the way Houston did to the Trail Blazers. Chris Paul and James Harden not only got to the basket whenever they wanted, they did so with their strong hand -- Harden from the left side and Paul from the right. So...
  • It wouldn't have hurt to have had some help in the basket area to at least harass those layups a bit. I'm not sure why that's so difficult for Portland to do when I see other teams doing it to the Portland guards quite frequently. And the real bottom line to all of that was ...
  • If you aren't getting stops while using your best defenders in that small lineup, forget about it! Face it, the Rockets can be impossible to guard. So...
  • Why not just go with your best offensive players, regardless of size or defensive ability? Make them worry about guarding YOU. Houston hit 15 for 18 from the field in the fourth quarter and murdered Portland from the foul line. Why not just put your best offensive players on the court and try to score with them? Because....
  • YOU WEREN'T ABLE TO STOP THEM AT ALL WITH THAT SMALL LINEUP SO SCRAP IT AND GET SOME SHOOTERS OUT THERE!
  • I may be obsessed with this -- well, I AM obsessed with this -- but I don't like it when the opposing team dictates Portland's lineups. Play the ones who got you the lead instead of the ones who are in the process of blowing a 14-point lead inside one quarter.
  • Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum shot their way out of slumps, which was a good sign moving forward.
  • Zach Collins did a terrific job during his time on the floor. He's not afraid to shoot an open shot and he's got a real instinct for blocking shots. I'd sneak him onto the floor as often as possible in the upcoming games to try to kickstart his development by getting him more comfortable. This team is in serious need of rim protection and he might be just the guy to provide it.
  • I don't envy Stotts with the lineup and rotation decisions he has to make on a nightly basis. He almost has too many versions of the same players and he is probably never quite sure what he's going to get from some of them on a night-to-night basis.
  • That said, I'd make sure to not only get Pat Connaughton on the floor every game, I'd make sure he got his shots. He's alert on defense and opportunistic on offense. And he is becoming a reliable scorer if he is allowed to be.
  • Ed Davis may be having one of his best seasons but he's going to struggle getting playing time because, all things being equal, some of the younger players are going to need developmental time and they are going to get it. I see Davis as a valuable trade piece at the deadline -- a big help to a contender looking for a rebounder off the bench.
  • Please, somebody in the league office, take a look at the way Harden is officiated. He often mixes in an extra little hop during his Euro-step and he deserves no extra benefits. And when he misses a shot, it's not always because he was fouled. Thank you.

Lillard, Trail Blazers stay hot, with big win over Houston

Lillard, Trail Blazers stay hot, with big win over Houston

The NBA’s best team in March was in Portland, and on Thursday the red-hot Trail Blazers capped a sizzling month with an impressive 117-107 victory over the Houston Rockets that left the Moda Center buzzing.

Damian Lillard had 31 points and 11 assists and the Blazers won their fifth straight to complete March with an NBA-best 13-3 record.

The Blazers closed the game on a 10-2 run in which Houston’s MVP-candidate James Harden repeatedly came up empty.

Harden, who entered as the NBA’s second leading scorer at 29.3 points, scored 30, but he had only three in the fourth quarter while going 1-for-4 from the field and committing two turnovers.

Portland (37-38) moved 1.5 games ahead of Denver for the eighth and final playoff spot with seven games remaining. Houston (51-24) has locked up the third seed in the Western Conference.

Jusuf Nurkic continued his resurgence in Portland, finishing with 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks and he scored two late buckets to help seal the game.

But more than anything, the Blazers got huge nights from their role players, none bigger than Maurice Harkless, who had 17 points, six rebounds and three blocks while guarding Harden for much of the game. Harkless made a key play on Harden late in the fourth with the Blazers clinging to a 103-101 lead, poking the ball away for a steal, then later finishing the possession with a driving dunk to put Portland up 105-101 with 3:37 left.

Allen Crabbe also added 17 points, and his strip of Harden, which he took the length of the court for a dunk, gave the Blazers a 113-105 lead with 1:12 and sent the Moda Center into perhaps its loudest decibel of the season.

"We are the sum of our parts,'' Coach Terry Stotts said. "When we get contributions up and down (and) we're not relying on Dame and CJ, it just makes us a better team.''

Lillard scored 11 in the first quarter and 12 in the third and broke the Blazers franchise record for points in the month of March (465), eclipsing Clyde Drexler in 1989 (439 points).

The Blazers led 65-56 at halftime as they rode the play of Lillard and Nurkic and got sizeable contributions from their role players. Lillard had another strong opening quarter, hitting his first three 3-pointers en route to 11 points, but he was complemented by Harkless, who also scored 11 while also being tasked with the defensive assignment on Harden.

The Blazers took advantage of Harden on the bench to start the second quarter, extending a 32-31 lead to 54-42 before Harden returned with 6:21 left. The Blazers’ spurt was led by Allen Crabbe and Al-Farouq Aminu, with Crabbe hitting three 3-pointers and Aminu scoring eight.

Next up: Phoenix at Blazers, 7 p.m. Saturday (CSN)

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James Harden and Houston dominate Trail Blazers again

James Harden and Houston dominate Trail Blazers again

The Trail Blazers on Sunday had no answer for James Harden -- again -- as their defensive woes continued with a 130-114 loss to Houston at the Moda Center.

Harden, who entered the game tied for fourth in the NBA in scoring (28.3 points) and leading the league in assists (12.4), controlled the game offensively from start to finish with his playmaking, finishing with 38 points, 10 assists and two rebounds.

The Blazers were within 96-93 at the start of the fourth quarter and 96-95 after Ed Davis dunked to open the quarter, but Houston (11-6) hit six three-pointers in the fourth to cruise to its fifth win in six games. The Rockets went 17-of-36 from three-point range (47.2 percent).

Portland, which entered the game giving up the second most points in the NBA (112.8), allowed at least 120 points for the sixth time this season as Houston shot 56.1 percent from the field. The Blazers (9-10) have lost six of their past eight. Portland fell to 2-8 against teams with a .500 record or better. 

CJ McCollum had 28 points and seven assists and Damian Lillard added 27 points, but also seven turnovers, for the Blazers, who also got 18 points from Maurice Harkless and another almost-triple-double from Mason Plumlee (11 points, eight rebounds, seven assists).

The Rockets looked like they would run away with it in the third quarter when they took an 85-75 lead when Harden found center Clint Capela for a lob dunk. But Portland scored the next 10, the last six on three-pointers by Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. 

Houston led 65-62 at halftime as Harden dominated control of the game with his shooting (21 points) and passing (five assists). The Blazers had leads as large as five in the first half, thanks in part to the shooting of McCollum, who made his first five shots and had 20 points by halftime. 

Next up: Indiana at Blazers, 7 p.m. Wednesday

Trail Blazers absorb another blow out, this time to James Harden and Rockets

Trail Blazers absorb another blow out, this time to James Harden and Rockets

HOUSTON -- The Trail Blazers' trouble with good teams continued Thursday in Houston when the Rockets became the latest team to blowout the Blazers. 

Behind a 41-point first quarter and a 38-point third quarter, Houston routed Portland 126-109 behind James Harden's third triple-double of the season: 26 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. 

The game was tied at 62 at halftime, but in the third quarter the Blazers quickly lost sight of the Rockets, who took leads as large as 25 after playing the night before in Oklahoma City. 

Allen Crabbe - who started at small forward -- hurt his right knee on the Blazers' first offensive possession of the second half and had to leave the game (he later returned). Then Harden and the rest of the Rockets had their way with a porous Blazers' defense, getting close-range shot after close-range shot on the way to 65 percent shooting in the quarter (15-of-23). At one point, Harden assisted on four consecutive Rockets baskets, securing his triple double with time left in the third quarter. 

The Blazers (7-6) have two quality wins this season -- opening night against Utah and at Memphis -- and have struggled to beat lower-division teams. When the Blazers have faced elite teams, they have been dominated, with losses to the Clippers (by eight and 31 points), Golden State (23), and Chicago (25) and now Houston (17 points).

The Blazers, who entered the game giving up the second most points in the NBA, were one point off their season high in points allowed. The Rockets, who entered as the 9th highest scoring team, scored a season high.

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 26 points after hitting his first six shots. Maurice Harkless added 19 points and six rebounds and Damian Lillard had 18 points, five assists and five rebounds on 7-of-17 shooting.

Houston (7-5) had six players in double figures. Trevor Ariza (16 points) hit four three-pointers and point guard Patrick Beverley was effective in his season debut with 11 points, three assists and three blocks, including one on a three-point attempt by Lillard.

The Blazers forged a 62-62 tie at halftime after trailing by as many as 15 in the first quarter. The comeback was fueled in part by Evan Turner, whose defense on Harden and Eric Gordon slowed the Rockets, and his eight points helped ignite a 33-point second quarter. 

Coach Terry Stotts started Crabbe alongside Maurice Harkless at forward and the Blazers bolted to a 6-0 run, all three of the baskets coming on layins. But Houston scored the next 10 and eventually took a 41-29 lead after the first quarter as Harden had 16 points, six rebounds and six assists. McCollum kept the Blazers in contact by hitting his first six shots. 

Next up: Blazers at New Orleans, 5 p.m. Friday (CSN)