April 6, 2018 / 2:55 AM / 6 months ago

Late Paul runner lifts Rockets over Blazers

Chris Paul converted a runner inside the final second, and the Houston Rockets capped a season series sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 96-94 victory on Thursday at Toyota Center.

Portland mounted a stunning fourth-quarter rally behind its reserves, erasing a 92-75 deficit with under five minutes left and pulling even when Pat Connaughton converted a layup with 6.1 seconds remaining after James Harden missed two free throws with 13.1 seconds left to play.

Paul responded with his sweeping shot off the glass with 0.8 seconds left. Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to preserve the victory for the Rockets.

Paul finished with 27 points and five assists while Harden chipped in 24 points and seven assists. They shot 6 of 14 on 3-pointers and took advantage of a Portland backcourt missing All-Star guard Damian Lillard, who suffered a left ankle sprain on Tuesday in a loss to the Mavericks.

Houston extended its winning streak at Toyota Center to 20 games, one shy of the franchise record with one home game remaining. The Rockets will host Oklahoma City on Saturday.

The Rockets seized control with a 13-0 run in the first quarter, shooting 56.5 percent in the period including a robust 7 of 12 from behind the arc. Leading 27-12, the Rockets closed the period with a trio of 3s from Paul, Luc Mbah a Moute, and Gerald Green for a 19-point lead.

When Portland’s reserves, paced by Wade Baldwin IV and Caleb Swanigan, led a surge to within 11 points late in the first half, the Rockets once again responded with a barrage of 3-pointers.

Harden initiated this spurt, drilled a 3 behind a screen before Mbah a Moute and Paul finished that run. Paul also converted a pullup jumper during the spurt, finishing the half with 20 points.

McCollum scored 16 points for Portland but missed his first six attempts and shot 7 of 25. Jusuf Nurkic added 14 points and 11 rebounds while Baldwin tallied 14 points off the bench.

—Field Level Media

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