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Blazers pick up their intensity, pick up third win

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge goes to the basket against Houston's Omer Asik during overtime.Guard Wesley Matthews and the Trail Blazers were less than pleased with their first-half intensity Sunday.

“In the words of Charles Barkley, we were playing like woosies,” Matthews said.

Houston's dribble penetration was obliterating Portland. The Blazers again weren’t handling the business of defensive rebounding. Houston shot 55 percent from the field, scored 14 second-chance points, made seven 3-pointers and tallied 61 points to build a 10-point lead through two quarters of the NBA playoff game at Moda Center.

“We just had to pick it up," Blazers guard Mo Williams said. "We felt like they were the tougher team in the first half."

After the break, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge attacked the paint and looked for his shot, Matthews flew all over the court and Portland did a better job containing Houston’s dynamic offense.

"We answered the bell," Williams said.

Houston scored 45 points in the second half, with one second-chance point and 41-percent field-goal shooting.

Then, in overtime, the Blazers forced three turnovers en route to a 123-120 victory that gave them a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Matthews didn’t describe what the Blazers discussed at halftime, but he did say they were trying to motivate each other to play with more ferocity.

Forward Nicolas Batum said the Blazers just talked about playing hard.

"We wanted to keep fighting and to never give up,” Batum said.

The Blazers' increased aggression ratcheted up even further when Williams received a technical foul after confronting Rockets forward Terrence Jones after the they battled for possession.

“When both teams are competing at a high level, you’re going to have those altercations,” Williams said.

The Blazers played with controlled aggression, though.

“Anytime you’re in the playoffs, anytime you’re in a game, you really want to keep a level head,” Portland center Robin Lopez said.

Statistically speaking, Batum made the biggest defensive stride between halves. Before the break, Rockets forward Chandler Parsons torched Batum for 19 points. The rest of the game, Parsons scored seven points.

Parsons had proclaimed that he is the best small forward in the series.

“I don’t really care about what he says," Batum said Sunday. "My goal is to be on the best team, not to be the best small forward.”

Batum carried over his strong play from Friday's Game 3, finishing Sunday with 25 points, six assists and six rebounds.

“That’s the 'Nico' we need. It just takes pressure off L.A. and 'Dame',” Williams said.

Batum said he expects the Rockets to bring everything they have on Wednesday, when the teams meet at 6:30 p.m. PT at Houston.

“Their two best players (Dwight Howard and James Harden) went to the NBA finals. They know what they have to do and what it takes,” Batum said. “They have no choice now. It’s either win or go home.”

Williams said that, like every game in the series has been, Game 5 will be a game of inches.

“Basically," he said, "whoever takes that last inch is probably going to win."