(SportsNetwork.com) - The Portland Trail Blazers will once again try to eliminate the Houston Rockets when the two teams meet at the Moda Center Friday night for Game 6 of this Western Conference quarterfinal.
The last time the Blazers won a playoff series came in the 2000 Western Conference semifinals against the Utah Jazz. They fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games in the conference finals, but Portland has since lost six times in the first round.
Portland had a chance to close out the series on Wednesday night in Houston, but fell, 108-98.
"I think we may have underestimated how desperate they were going to come out. I'm excited for Game 6 and I know that they will come out with a greater level of intensity and confidence and we will have to try and match it to overcome it," said Blazers center Robin Lopez.
Houston's James Harden shook off another tough shooting night with some clutch baskets down the stretch. He missed nine of his first 12 shots before scoring eight of his 17 points in the final four minutes to help keep the Rockets' season alive.
Houston trailed 3-1 in the tight series, with three of the first four games going to overtime. Wednesday's meeting was also close, but the Rockets ended the game on an 8-0 run to secure the must-win.
Dwight Howard led the Rockets with 22 points and 14 rebounds, while Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons chipped in with 21 and 20 points, respectively, for the victors, who outscored Portland in the paint by a 60-40 margin. Omer Asik recorded a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
"Our guys came out and battled," Rockets head coach Kevin McHale said. "They really wanted to get back to Portland and get another shot at them."
Wesley Matthews netted a game-high 27 points, and Damian Lillard totaled 26 with eight rebounds and seven assists for Portland, which received just five points from its bench. Lopez and Nicolas Batum had 17 and 15 points, respectively, for Portland.
LaMarcus Aldridge, who came in averaging over 35 points in the series, finished with just eight on 3-of-12 shooting.
"We need LA on the offensive end," Blazers head coach Terry Stotts said. "We're better when he's got it going."
Portland, which never led in the second half, trailed 82-77 entering the fourth and pulled within one point three times in the final quarter.
After Lillard's dunk cut the Blazers' deficit to 95-94 midway through the frame, Parsons made a free throw and put in a layup after Howard grabbed the rebound of his missed second attempt.
Lillard answered with two free throws, and Matthews missed chances to tie the next two times down. Harden, held scoreless after halftime to that point, got a reverse layup to fall and followed that nifty maneuver with a 3-pointer for a 103-98 Rockets lead with 3:16 remaining.
Terrence Jones' layup made it a seven-point game with 2:11 to go, and Portland missed its last eight shots to come up short.
If the Rockets can extend the series, Game 7 will be Sunday in Houston. If the Blazers defend their home court, they will await the winner of the San Antonio Spurs/Dallas Mavericks series, which could also end Friday with a Spurs win.
If both teams advance on Friday, Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals will be Sunday.