Ming, Rockets take commanding 3-1 series lead over Blazers

The Sports Network

4/27/2009 2:05:18 AM

Houston, TX (Sports Network) - Yao Ming stepped up after two lackluster performances to lead the Rockets with 21 points and 12 rebounds, as Houston took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a hard-fought 89-88 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 4 of their Western Conference quarterfinals matchup.

Yao, coming off mediocre 11 and seven-point efforts in Game 2 and 3, respectively, has Houston one game away from winning its first playoff series since 1997, a span of six straight first-round exits.

"Needless to say it's a great win," said Houston head coach Rick Adelman. "Tough games we've had after that first one. Every game has been the same. Both team have just battled back and our guys persevered and stayed with it."

Game 5 is scheduled for Tuesday night in Portland, where the Rockets split the first two games before pulling out Game 3 at home.

Luis Scola continued his solid playoff stretch with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Shane Battier ended with 14 points, eight boards and six assists, including a pair of big three-pointers in the fourth.

Houston recorded 28 second-chance points, compared to 11 for Portland.

"We had some costly turnovers down the stretch," said Portland head coach Nate McMillan. "I didn't really look at the film, I don't recall all of the plays but we had some open looks that I thought we were a little bit hesitant to take but I think we had a couple of turnovers down the stretch."

Portland's Brandon Roy led all scorers with 31 points but was called for charging while attempting for the tying bucket late in the contest. LaMarcus Aldridge ended with 19 points and 10 rebounds for Portland, which has dropped 12 of its last 13 trips to Houston.

The Trail Blazers made all 17 of their free throws in the setback.

Portland used a big run in the third quarter to take a six-point lead into the final 12 minutes. But the crowd never wavered and boosted the Rockets to eight straight points at the midway point of the fourth, as Yao's hook shot had the Rockets up 79-77 with under six minutes to go.

Roy and Battier scored their respective team's next six points before Carl Landry hit a jumper for a four-point lead with 2 1/2 minutes left.

It proved to be the last field goal made, as Aldridge hit a pair of free throws for an 87-85 game and the teams tightened up on defense.

Roy had a chance to tie things after grabbing a Ron Artest miss with 24.9 seconds to go. The former Rookie of the Year drove to the basket from the left side with Battier hovering, but it was Chuck Hayes who stepped up just outside the half-circle and took a charge with 10.7 seconds left.

Aaron Brooks was quickly fouled and hit 1-of-2 from the line, giving the Blazers another chance, but Travis Outlaw's rushed three was off the mark and the Rockets held on for the win despite missing three of their final four free throws.

Scola's back-to-back jumpers polished off an 11-0 run midway through the first frame, which ended with the Rockets up 30-22.

Houston continued to lead in the second frame and took a 50-44 edge into the locker room.

Trailing 63-57 late in the third, the Blazers scored 13 of the final 14 points of the stanza, highlighted by a Steve Blake trey and capped by an Outlaw jumper, giving the visitors a 70-64 advantage heading to the final period.

Game Notes

Portland hasn't won a postseason set since besting Utah in the Western Conference semifinals in 2000...Artest finished with 12 points and nine assists for Houston, which shot 39.8 percent overall but a solid 9-for-16 from behind the arc...Blake logged 11 points and eight assists and Outlaw chipped in 14 points for Portland, which made 45.7 percent of its shots...Houston made 14-of-22 from the foul line.