Inquirer Daily News

Daniels' 3-pointer lifts Rockets past Blazers in OT

Portland, OR (SportsNetwork.com) - On a night where James Harden set the Houston postseason record with 35 field goal attempts and four NBA All-Stars were featured, it was seldom-used rookie Troy Daniels that was the hero.

Harden finished with 37 points, Dwight Howard had 24 points with 14 rebounds and Daniels hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the closing seconds of overtime to lead the Rockets to a 121-116 win over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal series.

Daniels, who made a name for himself as a marksman this season while playing for Rio Grande Valley of the NBA's developmental league, did not play in either of Houston's losses in the first two games of this series but contributed nine points off the bench in this one.

Damian Lillard followed two LaMarcus Aldridge free throws with a reverse lefty layup to put Portland in front two minutes into the extra session. Jeremy Lin's stepback got Houston within two, and Harden knotted the score at 116-all with a 21-footer with 1:51 left in the extra session. It stayed tied until Lin corralled a loose ball and fed Daniels on the left wing for his third trey of the contest with just 11.9 seconds left.

"My teammates and my coaches instilled confidence in me to be ready to shoot that shot," Daniels said. "That's what I do. That's my job. It was a great shot and a great game."

Nicolas Batum's 3-point try from the top of the key missed long, and Daniels grabbed the game's biggest rebound to secure the win for the Rockets, who still trail 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. Harden's free throws with less than a second left resulted in the final margin.

"It was a game that could have gone either way," said Portland head coach Terry Stotts. "Ultimately, they made some shots at the end and we didn't shoot the ball necessarily well in overtime. None of them are going to be easy, that's part of the playoffs."

Harden broke Hakeem Olajuwon's franchise-record of 34 shot attempts, set in 1995.

Lillard paced Portland with 30 points, Batum tallied 26 and Aldridge had 23 points with 10 rebounds. Aldridge, who totaled 46 and 43 points, respectively, in the first two games of the series, now has 112 points through three games.

Harden and Patrick Beverley had 11 points each in the first quarter to boost the Rockets to a 35-24 lead. The 35 points scored by the Rockets were the most for the team in the first quarter of a playoff game since 1997 against the SuperSonics.

After Daniels checked in for the first time and hit a 3-pointer early in the second, Lillard and the Blazers finally came alive with a 16-0 run. Lillard made two 3s and a finger roll during the surge.

Portland took its first lead of the game on Mo Williams' transition runner off the glass and Robin Lopez capped the rally with a baseline jumper for a 42-38 Blazers lead.

Portland coughed up the lead but scored the final five points of the half to take a 55-54 lead into the locker room.

Chandler Parsons scored five points during an 8-0 Houston flurry midway through the third quarter. His triple followed Harden's 3-ball to give the visitors a 71-65 lead at 6:49.

The margin hovered between six and three the rest of the period.

Houston went in front by 10, 92-82, on Harden's jumper 2:24 into the fourth, but Williams took it upon himself to keep Portland in the game. The veteran reserve scored nine straight Portland points, including a four-point play, to pull the home team within five, 96-91.

The Rockets rebuilt a nine-point lead but again the Blazers were resilient. Aldridge and Lillard converted similar three-point plays, driving right and drawing fouls on difficult scoop layups, a minute apart to get within two. A pair of Williams free throws at 2:32 got them within one, and Lillard's hard drive and layup at 1:59 gave Rip City its first lead of the fourth.

Harden worked his way to the free throw line on Houston's next two possessions, hitting all four of the ensuing free throws, and Batum tied the game with a trailing 3 with 41.9 seconds remaining in regulation. Wesley Matthews missed a triple on Portland's next touch, but Jeremy Lin took it the length of the floor and missed a layup with Aldridge applying pressure.

Harden's fullcourt try at the buzzer missed wide left.

Game Notes

Beverley and Parsons scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Rockets ... Daniels made the D-League All-Star game this season and hit a league- record 240 3-pointers ... Portland has never lost a playoff series in which it won the first two games ... The Blazers were wearing their throwback Rip City uniforms ... Williams had 17 points in a reserve role for Portland ... There were 12 lead changes and 12 ties.

04/26 09:29:18 ET