NBA: Batum lifts Portland past Rockets in extra time

 29 Apr 2014 - 1:06

Portland Trail Blazers’ forward LaMarcus Aldridge (left) drives past Houston Rockets’ centre Dwight Howard in second half of their Conference Quarterfinal NBA game at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon, USA, yesterday. The winner of the best-of-seven series will go on to face either the San Antonio Spurs or the Dallas Mavericks in the Conference Semi-finals. RIGHT: Nicolas Batum (88) of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with Earl Watson (17) after hitting a shot in the second half of Game Four. 

PORTLAND: Nicolas Batum scored five of his 25 points in extra time to lead the Portland Trail Blazers to a 123-120 overtime win over Houston in game four of their NBA play-off series.
Batum’s extra-time points came during a 7-0 surge that gave the Trail Blazers the lead for good in front of a crowd of 20,246 yesterday at the Moda Center arena.
“We talked about coming out strong and trying to be more physical,” said Trail Blazer forward LaMarcus Aldridge. “It is getting fun now.”
Portland seized a solid 3-1 lead over the Rockets in the best-of-seven series heading into game five in Texas tomorrow.
Dwight Howard’s dunk with three seconds remaining regulation sent the game to overtime.
Three of the four games between Portland and the Rockets have gone into overtime.
Aldridge tallied a game-high 29 points for Portland, who have never lost a play-off series in which they have won the first two games.
“I was just trying to turn it up,” Aldridge said. “In the first half I was passive so in third quarter I was trying to make up for it.”
The Rockets are trying to become just the fourth team in league history to win a series after losing the first two games at home.
In 44 minutes of playing time, Aldridge also had 10 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. Guard Damian Lillard scored 23 points and Wesley Matthews tallied 21 in the victory.
Howard finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Rockets who had three players with 25 points or more.
The Trail Blazers have not won a play-off series since 2000, the longest active drought of any team in the league.
Elsewhere, All-Star guard Stephen Curry scored 17 of his game-high 33 points in the first quarter as the Golden State Warriors added on-court misery to the Los Angeles Clippers’ off-the-court issues, thumping them to even the Western Conference first-round series at 2-2.
Game Five is scheduled for today in Los Angeles though it is unsure whether Clippers owner Donald Sterling will attend the game. 
He was asked not to show up in Oakland on Sunday after racial remarks attributed to him went public and were so powerful that even President Obama felt compelled to respond during a trip to Malaysia.
Clippers players made a silent protest during Sunday’s pre-game warmups when they circled mid court, threw their jackets on the ground which exposed T-shirts that were turned inside-out to hide any reference to the team.
Golden State built a 15-point lead after the first quarter and never looked back. Andre Iguodala added 22 for the Warriors.
Also yesterday, Trevor Ariza scored a play-off-high 30 points with six three-pointers and guard Bradley Beal had 18 points as the Washington Wizards defeated the Chicago Bulls to take a 3-1 series lead.
Marcin Gortat added 17 points and guard John Wall had 15 for the Wizards, who scored the game’s first 14 points, led 55-40 at halftime and by 23 in the fourth quarter.
Washington played without power forward Nene after the NBA suspended him for one game following a tussle with the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler during the fourth quarter of the third game.
The Wizards can clinch the series with a win in Game Five today in Chicago.
Taj Gibson set a career-play-off high with 32 points for the Bulls. The reserve forward made his first nine attempts from the field and finished 13-of-16 while his teammates went 22-of-62.
Led by guard DeMar DeRozan’s game-high 24 points, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Brooklyn Nets to even their Eastern Conference first-round series.
Kyle Lowry had 22 points and Amir Johnson added 17 points for the Raptors, who tied the series at 2-2. AGENCIES