HOUSTON (AP) — Anfernee Simons scored 32 points and Damian Lillard added 25 as the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Houston Rockets 107-95 on Saturday night.
Portland led by as many as 22 points before Houston closed the gap to 11 points in the fourth quarter with 2:09 remaining, prompting the Trail Blazers to put their starters back in the game.
Jusuf Nurkic scored 14 points and Josh Hart added 12 points and 13 rebounds for Portland. Lillard added 10 assists and two steals.
Portland won for the fourth time in five games. The Blazers entered December with a record of 11-11 and have gone 6-2 this month.
Jalen Green led the Rockets with 15 points, and Kevin Porter Jr., Kenyon Martin Jr., and Tari Eason each added 13 points.
Simons hit 11 of 21 shots from the field, including 5 of 14 from 3-point distance. He had a career-high 45 points two weeks ago in a 116-111 win over Utah.
“I thought it was the best defensive game of the year for him, in my opinion,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “He was locked in, he was physical, he was talking. I’m more proud of him for that than the 32 points because he can do that most nights.”
Lillard had a relatively quiet night after topping 35 points in four of the previous five games. He went 7 of 20 from the field, including 5 of 13 from 3-point distance. On Monday, he matched a career high with 11 3s on 17 attempts.
Lillard, however, did join the 18,000-point club and enters the next game just 21 points away from surpassing Clyde Drexler for most points in franchise history. Drexler had 18,040 with Portland.
The Rockets struggled from the field, especially from beyond the arc. Houston entered the fourth quarter 1 for 20 from long distance and finished the game 3 for 29.
“The first half, we were just missing shots,” Rockets coach Stephen Silas said. “In the second half, we didn’t take good shots, and that was a lack of ball movement. You’re going to have nights where you don’t make shots, but the ball movement just has to be better.”
Houston had a season-low 14 points in the third quarter, and Portland entered the fourth quarter up 20 points, 85-65.
“We adjusted well on defense in the third quarter, we were a lot more aggressive, and I think that bothered them a lot,” Simons said. “That changed the game for us.”
Trail Blazers: Jerami Grant was out with back spasms, Portland coach Chauncey Billups said before the game. … Justise Winslow had four steals.
Rockets: Houston outrebounded Portland 51-37, including 18 offensive rebounds. Sengun led Houston with eight rebounds, Porter added seven, and Usman Garuba had four offensive rebounds. … Sengun added three blocks. … Sengun and Smith were issued technical fouls.
ON THE LATE SUBSTITUTIONS
Billups was not pleased with his young reserves after having to put starters back in the game late in the fourth quarter.
“That should never happen. They’re young, they’re sitting over there for most of the game, but it’s a luxury to play in the NBA," he said. "I should never have to go back to our starters and risk an ankle tweak or something. But I’ve seen that movie too many times in the fourth where teams start to get momentum, and I wasn’t going to let that happen. It was a teachable moment for us.”
DAME IN THE GREATEST SHOOTER CONVERSATION?
Lillard on Saturday night passed Jamal Crawford for eighth on the all-time NBA 3-pointers made list.
“I always see stuff on social media where they talk about the greatest shooters of all-time, and they always act like it’s crazy for people to mention me,” Lillard said. “I think for how many 3s I’ve made, for how consistent I make them, the level of difficulty I shoot them for years and years and years, I just think it’s kind of crazy that people don’t mention me in those discussions. Obviously, I think Steph (Curry) is the greatest ever, but I think after him, I don’t see why I’m not clear-cut in that discussion.”
Trail Blazers: Visit Oklahoma City on Monday night.
Rockets: Host San Antonio on Monday night.