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by: Kris Gardner, United States Basketball Writers Association member. Credentialed media member since 1997. USBWA approved online journalist. Voter of Katrina McClain, Naismith, USBWA, and Wooden awards.

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Rockets gut out gritty 118-113 OT win over Portland

With tonight's win, the Rockets win the regular season head-to-head match-up 3 to 1

Posted: March 9, 2014 -- 10:30 pm CST.

HOUSTON, TX (Toyota Center) -- The Houston Rockets gutted out a hard-fought 118-113 overtime victory Sunday night over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Rockets trailed for much of the ball game; but, they battled and, simply put, found a way to get the win.

"We didn't have a lot of zip in us tonight, for some reason; but, the guys just kept battling and kept fighting," Kevin McHale said. "Sometimes, you just have to go out there and gut your way through a win."

After a slow start, James Harden was sensational. Harden missed nine of his first 11 field goals; but, he caught fire and made 10 of his last 17 field goals for a total of 41 points. Plus, Harden added 10 rebounds, six assists, and six steals. Harden joins Michael Jordan as the only two players, since 1985-86, to record a game with at least 41 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and six steals.

"We showed some great resilience. Early in the year, we probably would have let that one slip away," James Harden admitted. "Guys kept fighting. We knew how important this win was. It's two games record-wise and for the tie-breaker (against Portland). So, it was more important; and, we fought through it."

Jeremy Lin had his best game in months. Lin scored 26 points - including key buckets down the stretch in the fourth quarter and the extra five minutes.

The Rockets capitalized on 21 turnovers by the Blazers and converted those mistakes into 23 points. Meanwhile, the Rockets only turned the ball over 13 times.

The game was extremely physical; and, the officiating was, um, interesting. Sixty-one fouls (34 on Portland) and three technical fouls were whistled in the ball game.

Trailing by 12 points after three quarters, Harden (17 points) and Lin (9 points) combined for 26 of the Rockets' 33 points in the fourth quarter to help force overtime.

Lin scored six straight points - including a go ahead three-point shot for a 102-101 lead; and, then, trailing 106-103, with 8.8 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Harden nailed a tough three-point shot in front of the Blazers' bench to tie the game at 106.

"Jeremy made a good pass; and, I just had confidence in my shot. I work on it everyday," Harden said of his game-tying shot.

Portland called a timeout and, for some reason, tried an inbounds lob pass which Lin deflected and picked off. Then, Pat Beverley raced up the court and launched a game-winning 26-foot runner which bounced off the backboard and the rim before rolling out to send the game into overtime.

After Damian Lillard started the scoring in the extra session with a three-point basket, Harden assisted on a driving layup by Chandler Parsons. Then, Lin scored a reverse layup and Harden tied the game at 113 with a clutch three-point basket. After three missed shots by the Blazers, Lin nailed a smooth 11-foot fade away jump shot for a 115-113 Rockets' lead with just 62 seconds left.

"I think early on I was trying to attack; but, especially in the third quarter, my shots weren't really falling and at the beginning of the fourth either. Towards the end of the game, I would say is when it opened up for me."

Lin scored 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.

The Blazers continued missing field goals. Howard split two free throws before Lin iced the game with 2 made free throws with 23.0 seconds remaining. The Blazers finished the game missing their last nine field goals.

"We need Jeremy," Kevin McHale acknowledged. I said that all along. Jeremy is the guy that can get fouled; get to the line. He attacks. He just makes a lot of stuff happen; and, when he is rolling, it just gives you more versatility in your lineup to play smaller; and, you can do different things."

Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge scored a team-high 28 points; but, Aldridge needed 27 field goal attempts (made 10) for his points.

Wesley Matthews added 26 points (5 for 15 field goals, 12 for 13 free throws).

"Each game is important from here on out," Harden summarized. "We're fighting for (playoff) positioning. We're fighting for home court advantage; so, no matter who we play, it's going to be a tough game. And, tonight was a great win for us."

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