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Blazers outlast Rockets, 111-104

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - LaMarcus Aldridge's big night against the Houston Rockets wasn't about the stats, the All-Star votes or the fans chanting ''MVP! MVP!''

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''This was a `we needed a win' night for me,'' said Aldridge, who had 31 points and a career-high 25 rebounds in the Trail Blazers' 111-104 victory Thursday.

For Aldridge, it was important that Portland (19-4) come away with a win after losing to the Rockets earlier this season - a rare blip for the Western Conference leaders.

It was the first time in franchise history that a Blazers player scored 30 or more points with 25 or more rebounds.

''I'm blessed,'' Aldridge said. ''(But) I felt tonight, it was needed.''

Dwight Howard had 32 points and 17 rebounds for the Rockets, who beat the Blazers 116-101 on Nov. 5. That was one of just two losses at home this season for Portland.

The Trail Blazers led by 10 early in the fourth quarter, but Chandler Parsons hit a 3-pointer to narrow it to 93-88 with 7:07 left. Houston closed to 97-95 after James Harden made a layup and a free throw with 4:45 to go.

Nicolas Batum's 3-pointer pushed Portland's lead to 102-95 before Wesley Matthews' layup and free throw made it 108-96 with 2:04 left and all but put the game out of reach for the Rockets.

''They made some big plays down the stretch,'' Howard said. ''It seemed like every time we would close the gap, they came down and got a great shot. This was big for them.''

Blazers center Robin Lopez added 16 points and 10 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season, a career high.

Portland was coming off a 105-94 victory in Utah on Monday. The Blazers have scored 100 or more points in 10 consecutive games.

Houston had won two straight, including a 98-88 victory over the Orlando Magic on Sunday.

The Rockets (15-7) were without Omer Asik, who missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right thigh. Houston did get back guard Jeremy Lin, who missed the previous six games with a sprained right knee.

Rockets coach Kevin McHale was not with the team because of the death of his mother. Her funeral is scheduled for Friday in Minnesota. Assistant coach Kelvin Sampson ran the club against the Blazers.

''Portland is obviously really good, and they're really good in this gym,'' Sampson said. ''They are playing with a lot of confidence right now.''

Neither side was able to get in front by more than five points in the first half. Portland held a 21-20 lead after the opening quarter. Aldridge was just 1 for 7 from the floor but he had nine rebounds.

Houston went ahead 32-28 on Parsons' layup and Howard's hook shot, and the Rockets led 44-43 at halftime. Neither team shot well, with Portland at 32 percent and Houston at 36 percent. The Rockets had just five first-half assists.

The Blazers opened the second half with an 11-3 run capped by Matthews' 3-pointer to take a 54-47 lead. Portland stretched the lead to 59-49 on Lopez's dunk and free throw. Aldridge got rolling with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Rockets closed the gap to 70-68 late in the third quarter when Howard hit a pair of free throws and dunked. Omri Casspi tied it at 70 on free throws with 2 minutes left.

The game was tied going into the fourth quarter, but Portland scored 10 unanswered points to go up 86-76.

''I think we go into games with a certain level of confidence, but, at the same time, we realize that we're playing hard and our success is because we're playing hard,'' Portland coach Terry Stotts said. ''Our record is what it is, but it's not easy. You have to compete every night.''

NOTES: Aldridge has four 20-20 games, making him the fourth Blazers player with that many. He is the only NBA player with two this season. ... Houston's Terrence Jones went to Portland's Jefferson High School. ... It was the opener of a three-game road trip for the Rockets. ... The Blazers embark on a four-game trip starting at Philadelphia on Saturday. ... Former Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas threw mini footballs into the crowd to promote Portland's new Arena League team, which begins play next season.

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The Associated Press
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