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Trail Blazers 119, Rockets 117, OT

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - Two of Neil Olshey's biggest offseason moves are paying off in a big way for the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Batum tied a career high with 35 points, Lillard sparked a late comeback and the Blazers beat the Houston Rockets 119-117 in overtime Friday night.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 29 points for Portland, including a tiebreaking free throw and key turnaround jumper in the extra session. Lillard scored 16 of the Trail Blazers' last 21 points and finished with a career-high 27.

``He played great,'' Aldridge said of Lillard, the 6-foot-3 point guard who was the sixth overall pick in this year's draft out of Weber State. ``He had ice in his veins. Took big shots, made big shots.''

Olshey became Portland's general manager in June. He drafted Lillard and Illinois big man Meyers Leonard in the first round, then re-signed the talented but inconsistent Batum to a $44 million contract.

Batum is averaging 20.8 points and 6.3 rebounds and is shooting 48 percent from the field. Lillard is averaging 19.3 points, 6.4 assists and looks like a candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year.

James Harden had 29 points for the Rockets, who led by as many as 15 before falling behind in the final quarter. Chandler Parsons added 19 points and 11 rebounds.

Portland won its second consecutive game while narrowly avoiding a fourth straight loss at the Rose Garden.

``One thing that has been evident with our team is that we compete until the end,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ``For a long stretch of the game it wasn't going how we wanted it, but when it mattered, we played pretty well.''

Lillard made a tying 3-pointer with 3:25 left in overtime. After Omer Asik hit two foul shots for Houston, Lillard connected on another jumper to tie it at 116.

Houston committed a turnover on the other end and Aldridge went 1 for 2 at the line before making a turnaround jumper to extend the lead to 119-116 with 36.8 seconds left.

Harden made a free throw with 1.4 seconds to go but Houston couldn't corral his intentional miss, and the game ended.

``Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say, `Batum, those are great shots,' and `Lillard, those are great shots.''' said Kelvin Sampson, who is coaching Houston while Kevin McHale is away from the team to tend to a personal matter.

The Rockets were kicking off a three-game West Coast road swing after going 2-1 at home despite some off-the-court distractions.

McHale has been away since Saturday. Royce White, a first-round draft pick, is feuding with the team over how it has accommodated his anxiety disorder, and is not with the team either.

The Blazers, who snapped a four-game losing streak with a 103-86 victory over Sacramento on Wednesday, leaned heavily on Batum's outside shooting and Aldridge under the basket until Lillard took over with 4:29 left in regulation and Portland trailing 103-98. The 6-foot-3 point guard hit six free throws, a 3-pointer, a driving layup and then put the Blazers up 111-108 with a jumper after faking Jeremy Lin up in the air.

Marcus Morris then nailed a 3-pointer for Houston with 10 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

The Blazers have struggled defensively all season, allowing 100 points or more in six of their first nine games. They entered having allowed opponents to shoot 49.6 percent.

Mindful of Portland's defensive deficiencies, the Rockets pushed the ball in transition. The Rockets had a 17-1 fast-break point advantage in the first half and they shot 55 percent before the break.

Houston led 51-35 in the first half and was up 13 in third quarter. But Batum scored 14 points in the period, including nine in a row.

``He had serious momentum going with him, and everything he was throwing up was going in,'' Parsons said. ``If we look back at the film, that was pretty good `D.' That's just how it goes sometimes.''

NOTES: Portland beat the Rockets 95-85 in overtime on Nov. 3 in Houston. Aldridge had 27 points and 11 rebounds in that game. ... Harden is averaging 32.3 points in four road games this season. . Batum had 35 points against San Antonio on Nov. 10. Originally credited with 33, he was later awarded a basket, which had been given to Wesley Matthews.

AP NEWS
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The Associated Press
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