Houston (CBS Houston) – Despite erasing a 17-point deficit to tie the game in the fourth quarter the Rockets dropped their Sunday showdown with the Portland Trailblazers.

After exchanging leads to start the game the Rockets started to find their groove. With the game tied Donatas Motiejunas would lead a coast-to-coast fast break laying it off to Joey Dorsey for a thunderous dunk.

The Rockets would lead 14-11 after a pair of Motiejunas free throws. The hustle plays would energize Houston in the first. After tipping the ball around on the miss Patrick Beverley would corral it and find Harden who swung it to Josh Smith for his first three points of the night. The following play Harden would steal the ball from Steve Blake and again assist Smith to make it 19-11. The Trailblazers would outscore the Rockets 15-8 from that point cutting Houston’s lead to just one after one.

The second quarter saw the two teams trade buckets with primarily the second units on the floor. The Blazers backups would best the Rockets leading to a four point Portland lead. The starters would re-enter the game for the Rockets but Blazerz backup C.J. McCollum would stay in and stay perfect from the field with two more buckets. The run on the Rockets would be stifled by a James Harden deep ball with just under four minutes left.

Trevor Ariza would trim the lead to eight points with a three pointer, but Portland keep the Rockets at a distance and add to their lead. The Trailblazers would lead Houston 61-48 at halftime after a 35-21 second quarter.

The disappointing end to the first half would doom the Rockets.

“We can’t put ourselves in that situation,” said James Harden who finished with 40 points. “We played really well in that second half and we played much harder. Against a good team like Portland we’ve got to do that for all four quarters.”

The third quarter would see the Blazers maintain their lead until the mid-way point when the Rockets began chipping away. With the lead at fifteen Jason Terry made a three pointer and James Harden turned a Trevor Ariza steal into a layup. Smith’s three point jumper followed a Blake bucket for Portland. Harden would again turn an empty Blazers possession into a layup.

Terry and Motiejunas dropped in a three and a two respectively to answer two Aldridge free throws. Damian Lillard and James Harden would trade free throws as Houston cut the lead to three. A Harden layup would get stuffed but he would keep the ball and find an open Josh Smith to tie the game from deep. An Aldridge layup and a Harden free throw would see the Rockets trail by just one, 81-80, headed to the fourth.

Harden credits the defense stepping up with the comeback.

“That’s how we play,” he said. “When we get stops, we get out in transition. If we don’t get stops and we’re not into it then any team can beat us.”

The fourth quarter saw the two teams trade buckets until James Harden hit his ninth field goal of the night to improve his total to 38 in just over three quarters. Portland would be too much for the Rockets late in the game. The Rockets would trim it to a four point Portland lead but the Trailblazers would hold on for the 109-98 win.

Head coach Kevin McHale didn’t like the unorganized play while defending.

“We didn’t trap when we were supposed to trap at times in the post and take the ball out of Aldridge’s hands,” he said. “We were unable to contain the pick and roll. They were coming downhill on us. We made an inordinate amount of mistakes defensively, especially in that first half.”

Harden blamed the team’s effort for the disappointing defense. Jason Terry echoed those sentiments.

“I thought the effort was poor,” he said. “The execution was very poor. You’ve got to look at yourself first and then each man individually…I call it shoot around defense. That’s the kind of defense we played in the second quarter and it’s unacceptable.

Houston is now 35-16 on the year and will travel to Phoenix to take on the Suns Tuesday.

Follow Stoots on Twitter – @Cody_Stoots

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