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Howard, Lin lead Rockets over Blazers 108-98

(Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

By KRISTIE RIEKEN

AP Sports Writer

HOUSTON (AP) Jeremy Lin was so unhappy with his performance in Houston's Game 4 loss to Portland that he hardly slept at all after the game.

Lin should sleep like a baby after his work in Game 5.

Dwight Howard had 22 points and 14 rebounds, and Lin came off the bench to score 21 points and help the Rockets beat the Trail Blazers 108-98 on Wednesday night to avoid elimination.

"I just tried to be aggressive," said Lin, who had four points and three turnovers in Sunday's overtime loss. "I felt like I needed to be a spark for the team."

The Trail Blazers lead the first-round series 3-2 entering Game 6 on Friday in Portland.

A basket by Damian Lillard got the Trail Blazers within two points before James Harden stepped back and swished a 3-pointer to make it 103-98 with about three minutes left. The shot brought the crowd, which was clad almost completely in red shirts emblazoned with the words "Clutch City" on them, to its feet.

That started an 8-0 Houston run to close it out. Harden finished with 17 points and seven assists.

"I really hadn't did anything the first two quarters, so it was time for me to step up and make plays," Harden said.

Houston finally slowed down LaMarcus Aldridge, limiting him to eight points, after he averaged 35.3 points in the first four games. Wesley Matthews led the Blazers with 27 points and Lillard added 26.

"We had opportunities to make shots, but we didn't make certain shots that we needed," Aldridge said. "We didn't get the big stops that we needed. They played well down the stretch and we didn't."

Lin got extended minutes on Wednesday night with Pat Beverley dealing with a 101-degree fever. Beverley had five points in 21 minutes.

The Trail Blazers said the two shots Lin hit as the shot clock expired were deflating.

"He threw up some crazy shots," Lillard said. "That's when you know a guy is having a good night. They would put one up at the end of so many good defensive possessions, and it's going in. That let you know what kind of night it was."

The Rockets led by as many as 17 points in the first half. Portland cut it to one point three times in the fourth quarter, but never went back on top.

Terrence Jones added a basket for Houston after the big 3 by Harden before Howard got after Aldridge on the other end. He blocked his short jump shot, sending it out of bounds. Portland got the ball back and Aldridge got the ball again, but he badly missed a shot with Howard in his face as the shot clock expired, leaving Aldridge yelling for a foul.

The Rockets were up by nine early in the fourth quarter after four quick points from Lin before Portland used an 8-0 run, with the first four points from Nicolas Batum, to cut the lead to 91-90 with 7:39 remaining.

Matthews had 18 of Portland's 29 points in the third. Howard and Lin combined for 18, including Lin's long two as the shot clock expired with Lillard right in his face. Lin finished off the quarter with a three-point play to make it 82-77 entering the fourth.

Robin Lopez received a flagrant-1 foul when he fouled Howard in the air while fighting for a rebound and pulled him to the ground by the shoulders on the way down.

Houston led by three after one and used an 11-0 run to start the second quarter and go up 41-27. Jones scored the first four points in that span and rookie Troy Daniels capped it with a 3-pointer.

The Trail Blazers had six turnovers while the Rockets built the lead and didn't score until a pair of free throws by Aldridge with about nine minutes left until halftime.

Howard picked up his third foul soon after that and went to the bench.

The Rockets built the lead to 51-34 before the Trail Blazers ended the first half with a 14-5 run, with eight points from Lillard, to cut the lead to 56-48 at halftime.

Aldridge had just six points at halftime after sitting out about half of the first quarter after getting his second foul.

NOTES: The Trail Blazers wore patches on their jerseys to honor Hall of Famer Jack Ramsay, who died on Monday at 89. Ramsay coached the team to an NBA title in 1977. The plaid patch has the words "Dr. Jack" and a "77" to honor the championship team. The Blazers will wear the patch for the remainder of the postseason. ... Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon watched from a courtside seat. ... Chandler Parsons added 20 points for Houston.

Updated May 1, 2014

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