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Steals help Blazers take Game 4

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews knocks the ball away from Houston's Patrick Beverley in the final seconds of Portland's 123-120 overtime playoff victory Sunday at Moda Center.In a game defined by in-your-face aggression, steals by Trail Blazers guards Mo Williams and Wesley Matthews fooled the Houston Rockets and made possible Portland’s 123-120 overtime victory Sunday at Moda Center.

Late in regulation, as Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin tried to bring the ball up the court after a defensive rebound, Williams pounced.

“It was desperation," Williams said.

Williams said Lin might have been worried about Portland guard Damian Lillard.

"I think 'Dame' was about to foul him," Williams said.

Williams "saw an opportunity to get a hand" on the ball, as Lin dribbled it near the sideline.

“That’s just dog right there," Matthews said. "Mo made a hell of a play to get the steal.”

The takeaway, with 29 seconds remaining, enabled the Blazers to erase a 104-102 deficit and wind up in OT. Moments after the steal, Williams sank a 25-footer for a one-point lead.

Williams had scored just four points before making the shot.

“I had been struggling to shoot the ball all day, but at that point, I shot it with confidence,” he said.

Then, in the final moments of overtime, Matthews sealed the victory with his swipe. It came with

2.9 seconds left and Houston needing a 3-pointer to tie.

James Harden, Matthews' defensive assignment, attempted a halfhearted screen on Lillard. Seeing an opportunity to surprise (Rockets point guard Patrick) Beverley and go for a steal, Matthews lunged at the ball, which bounced back toward the Rockets' basket.

“He didn’t see me at all,” Matthews said, of Beverley.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Wesley Matthews wrestles the ball away from Houston center Dwight Howard during overtime Sunday, as Portland captures Game 4 of their NBA first-round playoff series 123-120 to take a 3-1 lead.Matthews had a productive and eventful night. In the fourth quarter, he won a wrestling match for the basketball with “Superman” Dwight Howard as both rolled on the floor.

“It’s the playoffs — I’m not going to shy away from anybody,” Matthews said.

Matthews also had tons of contentious confrontations with Harden, including a play in the first half where one of Matthews' hands got tied up by Harden’s off-hand, causing Matthews to fall over. Harden wound up draining a wide-open 3-pointer.

Harden scored 28 points, but Matthews was in his grill every step of the way.

“That’s all I want to do, make it tough for whoever it is I’m guarding,” Matthews said.

The work hasn't gone unnoticed.

“He knows how appreciative we are of the job he’s doing,” Williams said.

Mathews also had 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals in Sunday's Game 4. However, the stat he might be happiest about was that he held Harden to below-50 percent shooting for the fourth consecutive game.

“If I don’t score a point and I play great defense, if we win, it’s cool," Matthews said.