CJ McCollum drilled a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds left before the host Portland Trail Blazers turned a late defensive stop into a 128-126 overtime victory over the short-handed Houston Rockets on Saturday.
McCollum hit 9 of 16 3-pointers and added eight assists, teaming with Damian Lillard (32 points, nine assists) to offset the clutch shooting of Rockets guard James Harden, who drilled two 3-pointers in the waning moments, the second of which gave Houston a 126-125 lead with 15.3 seconds left. Harden (44 points plus a career-high-tying 17 assists), however, had his pass with 1.3 seconds remaining picked off by Robert Covington, and the Trail Blazers sealed the victory.
Christian Wood paired 31 points with 13 rebounds in his Rockets debut, while rookie Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points for Houston, which was without six players due to COVID-19 protocols.
Portland turned a 17-2 run early in the third quarter into their first lead since the first quarter, a rally that included a Covington 3-pointer and two free throws, a steal and transition dunk from Derrick Jones Jr. and three McCollum 3s. The Rockets managed to reclaim an 85-84 lead entering the final period despite missing all nine of their 3-point attempts in the third quarter.
McCollum and Lillard kept pushing until Harden pulled the Rockets even at 113-113 on a layup with 38.9 seconds left. Jusuf Nurkic missed two free throws with 32 seconds left, setting the stage for Lillard to win it at the buzzer, but his shot was errant and the teams went to overtime.
With several key rotation players unavailable, the Rockets needed production from unexpected contributors. Sterling Brown was first to provide a spark, scoring eight first-quarter points on 3-for-3 shooting that included a pair of 3-pointers. Brown helped Houston erase an early six-point deficit, and the Rockets carried a 31-27 lead into the second as Harden played all 12 minutes in the opening quarter while recording six points and eight assists.
By the midpoint of the second quarter, all nine available Rockets had played, and Houston surged to a 55-39 lead by sharing the load offensively. The Trail Blazers fashioned a 12-4 run that cut the deficit to eight points before Houston closed the half with a flourish. While Lillard and McCollum combined for 34 points in the first half, the Rockets got 15 points from Wood, 11 from Tate and a double-double from Harden (17 points, 10 assists) en route to a 68-58 halftime lead.