Rockets beat Blazers for fourth straight road Win

Associated Press
4/10/2012 12:45:46 AM
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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Goran Dragic insists he wasn't auditioning.

Houston's point guard had 22 points, seven assists and three steals to lead the Rockets to a 94-89 victory Monday night over the Trail Blazers, completing a perfect four-game road trip.

Portland happens to be looking for a point guard, and Dragic will be a free agent this summer.

"It is going to be a crazy summer for me, but now I just want to be focused and play hard in every game," he said. "We are focused on the playoffs with Houston."

Chase Budinger added 15 points off the bench for the Rockets, who beat the Bulls, Lakers and Kings before visiting Portland. Sitting in sixth place in the Western Conference, Houston (32-25) has won six of its last eight games overall.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 20 points and six rebounds for the Portland (27-31), which trailed by as many as 14 points. The Trail Blazers, who are seeing their playoff hopes dwindle, have gone 7-8 since firing coach Nate McMillan.

"It's getting closer and closer," Aldridge said of the point when the Blazers can rule out a post-season. "But we've got to keep working, keep getting better and continue to build."

Houston is a game up on Dallas and Denver for the No. 6 seed. The Blazers are 4 1/2 games back of Denver for the eighth and final spot.

Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry played his second game after missing 15 because of a serious bacterial infection. He finished with 13 points in 23 minutes.

"I'm fine," said Lowry, who was averaging 15.9 points and 7.2 assists before the infection, which landed him in the hospital. "I would ask for more but I'm going to pace myself. It's a long rest of the way to go, hopefully."

Dragic, who has been starting in Lowry's absence, was named the Western Conference player of the week on Monday after averaging 20.7 points, 8.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds last week. He's scored in double figures for a career-best 19 straight games.

He said that before his recent surge he didn't get many questions about free agency, or about Portland. Blazers acting general manager Chad Buchanan has said that one of the priorities for the team during the off-season is to bring in a point guard.

"All the doors are open," Dragic said. "We will see what is going to happen this summer."

Rockets coach Kevin McHale, when asked if he's worried he'll lose Dragic in the off-season, quipped, "I worry about my golf game in the off-season."

The Rockets were playing the second game of a back-to-back, after defeating Sacramento 104-87 on Sunday night.

"When you looked at the schedule, you went 'Ooof.' You said, 'Man, we're going to have to find a way to win some of those games," McHale said. "We won them all, which is great for us. Now we have to go home and we have four huge games coming up."

The Rockets host Utah and Phoenix before visiting Denver, and then hosting the Nuggets.

Marcus Camby, dealt by the Blazers to the Rockets at the trade deadline, hit a 3-pointer to give the Rockets a 24-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. Houston extended it to 36-25 on Patrick Patterson's long jumper before Budinger's 3-pointer made it 41-27.

The Blazers trailed 49-40 at the half, but pulled within 49-47 on Joel Przybilla's layup. Raymond Felton tied it with a jumper, but the Rockets never surrendered the lead and were up 71-65 going into the final quarter.

Budinger's dunk midway through the fourth made it 86-73. Aldridge hit a 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left to pull Portland within 92-87, but it was too late.

The Blazers were without Nicolas Batum, who has tendinitis in his left knee and is day-to-day. Jamal Crawford started in his place, finishing with 18 points.

Camby, who finished with nine points and 11 rebounds, said that when he was in Portland, he felt the Blazers could make the playoffs.

"We're definitely two teams going in two different directions right now," Camby said. "Our spot in the playoffs is not solidified, so we have a lot of key games coming up and we're going to need a lot of help from a lot of different teams."

Notes: Former Oregon running back and NFL draft prospect LaMichael James was at the game, as was former Blazer Clifford Robinson. ... The Rockets are 18-0 this season when they keep an opponent under 90 points. ... Crawford hit all nine of his free throw attempts, upping his free-throw percentage to 92.8 per cent, best in the league. ... Houston swept the Blazers for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

Goran Dragic (Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)


(Photo: Sam Forencich/NBAE/Getty Images)
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