Rockets beat Blazers 102-88

HOUSTON — Portland’s Brandon Roy was so overjoyed about making the playoffs he refused to let Sunday’s loss to Houston bring him down.

Houston beat Portland 102-88 on Sunday night, just hours after the Trail Blazers got their first playoff berth since 2003 when Dallas beat Phoenix 140-116.

Asked if the loss tainted the playoff berth, Roy responded: “Nah. We’re in the playoffs. We’re happy about it.”

That’s not to say they’re OK with any loss, it’s just that they’re not going to dwell on this loss on their big day.

“Of course, we would have rather won, but we’re still in the playoffs,” said Joel Przybilla, one of the most veteran players on this young team. “For guys that have been here a while … through a lot of the downs, it’s very gratifying for us to know we’re going to get in the playoffs and hopefully get in there for a lot of years to come.”

Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he talked to his team before and after the game about its playoff berth.

“I congratulated the guys for getting there, but our work is still not done,” he said. “We have a chance for home court and we have to keep working at it.”

Yao Ming led the Rockets with 21 points and 12 rebounds in the win which moves Houston ahead of Portland into fourth place in the Western Conference with five games left in the regular season.

With their playoff spot assured, the Trail Blazers didn’t lead after early in the first quarter, but wouldn’t go away. They made a run each time Houston got a comfortable lead until the Rockets finally put it away in the fourth quarter.

Houston was ahead 72-65 entering the fourth before Portland cut the lead to 74-70 on a layup by Rudy Fernandez two minutes later.

Houston used a 6-0 run punctuated by a nifty reverse dunk by Von Wafer to make it 80-70 with 8½ minutes left and Portland didn’t get closer than eight after that.

“It was great to see, finally,” Shane Battier said of Houston’s fourth-quarter play. “At home, we expect to do those things and it’s great to see us finally do it. We need to put that in our memory bank and pull it out the next game.”

Luis Scola added 16 points, Ron Artest had 15 and Aaron Brooks added 14 for the Rockets.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and nine rebounds, but was slowed significantly by the dogged defense of Chuck Hayes. Hayes was his constant pest when he was in the game, helping limit him to 7-of-15 shooting.

“Chuck was terrific,” Rockets coach Rick Adelman said. “Chuck played him pretty well every time we’ve played them, so it was good.”

Aldridge fell on his right wrist late in the game, but should be OK. He said an X-ray after the game didn’t reveal any damage and that it was only a sprain.

Brandon Roy had 22 points and six assists.

Portland cut the lead to 65-60 after a pair of free throws by Aldridge capped a 10-4 run with about three minutes left in the third quarter. Houston answered with seven straight points in the next two minutes to push the lead back to double digits 72-60.

Greg Oden wasn’t on the court much in his first meeting with Yao. The backup to Przybilla, Oden played a little more than 11 minutes Sunday. When he did match up with Yao, it was no contest.

“You definitely learn how you have to play different players differently,” Oden said. “He’s strong, he’s big and he has a good touch. It definitely shows where I’m at.”

Late in the third quarter, Yao missed a hook shot over Oden before grabbing his own rebound and wowing the crowd with his dunk that put Houston ahead 69-60. Oden got four fouls trying to slow Yao.

The Rockets were up 44-39 midway through the second quarter before going on an 8-0 run keyed by six points by Scola to push the lead to 52-39. They led 54-43 at halftime.

Houston led 31-25 after the first quarter thanks to six quick points from Yao in the last two minutes. Yao hit consecutive hook shots over Oden less than a minute after he entered for the first time. The third time Yao went in for a bucket against him, he was fouled and sunk both free throws.

Oden finished with four points and no rebounds.

Notes: Dikembe Mutombo got a technical foul despite not playing after yelling at the referee from the bench after a foul on Brooks late in the first half. … Hayes had a season-high nine points. … Yao has a double-double in five straight games. … The Rockets are 31-8 at home this season, matching the best single-season record at the Toyota Center.

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