Blazers blow 13-point fourth quarter lead but recover late to fend off skidding Rockets
Damian Lillard celebrates after hitting the dagger to help the Blazers fend off a late Rockets rally. AP

THE Portland Trailblazers blew a 13-point fourth quarter lead but recovered late to defeat the Houston Rockets, 117-107, on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) at the Moda Center.

The Blazers rode a 10-2 finish in the closing minutes to fend off a fiery late-game rally from the Rockets, thanks to some stingy defense and timely hits from Nurkic and Damian Lillard.

Lou Williams sparked a 16-7 fourth quarter start to cut a 13-point Rockets deficit down to two, 103-101, with five minutes to play. Trevor Ariza completed the comeback in tying the game at 105 with a slam but Nurkic had a quick answer, spinning baseline for the easy basket to put the Blazers up by two, 107-105, into the final two minutes.

Mo Harkless got the steal of Pat Beverley and CJ McCollum sank two free throws off a James Harden foul to extend the Blazers lead, 109-105. Harden missed on a trey and lost the ball on the next two Rockets possessions and an Allen Crabbe layup put the Blazers up eight, 113-105, with 1:12 to go.

After a Beverley basket, Lillard fed Nurkic on a slam and drilled the dagger with 21 seconds left as the Blazers went on to bag their fifth straight win and take a one-game lead over the Denver Nuggets for the last playoff spot in the West.

Lillard led all scorers with 31 points to go with 11 assists, while Nurkic had a double-double of 19 markers and 11 rebounds for the Blazers (37-38). Harkless and Crabbe each added 17 points.

Harden had 30 points on 11-of-30 shooting for the Rockets (51-24), who still hold a huge lead for the West third seed despite losing two in a row. Ariza finished with 17 markers, while Williams scored 10 of his 14 in the fourth. 

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