HOUSTON (AP) - LaMarcus Aldridge had just fouled out late in overtime after scoring a career-high and franchise playoff-record 46 points when he went to Portland teammate Damian Lillard with a simple message.
“I said: ‘Take it over,’” Aldridge said.
Lillard did just that, finishing with 31 points and making the go-ahead free throws in overtime to lift the Trail Blazers to a 122-120 victory over the Houston Rockets on Sunday night in a thrilling first-round series opener.
Aldridge fouled out with about a minute left in overtime and Lillard, who was making his playoff debut, scored Portland’s next five points and put the Trail Blazers on top by one point with a pair of free throws with 17 seconds left.
“When you’ve got your best player playing like that, it fires you up,” Lillard said. “When he went out of the game, I felt like our team … had to have L.A’s back and come through for him.”
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Houston.
Aldridge, who was playing in his home state, also had 18 rebounds and two blocks.
“I’ve got to play better,” Harden said. “I didn’t shoot the ball well … I’ve got to shake it off, but it will be better in Game 2.”
It was a physical game with the teams combining for 79 free throws.
A three-point play by Lillard gave Portland a one-point lead with 44.5 seconds remaining. Francisco Garcia and Howard both made one of two free throws after that to give Houston a 120-119 lead 20 seconds later.