PORTLAND - Portland’s Evan Turner knew what he was up against with James Harden.
Harden had scored 40-plus points in his previous five games and was coming off consecutive triple-doubles.
Turner, charged with Harden from the start, stopped that streak and managed to slow him — a bit. Harden finished with 38 points and the Trail Blazers snapped Houston’s six-game winning streak with a 110-101 victory on Saturday night.
“I just had to be aggressive and try to limit what he likes to do. He’s an amazing offensive player, he’s been on a hell of a run and obviously he’s the head of the snake, so I just tried to pick him up, wear him down, tire him out and not try to get any cheap fouls,” Turner said.
Harden was 13 of 35 from the field, and shot 5 of 17 from 3-point range, overcoming a slow first half that ended with just nine points.
Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said Harden is clearly on another level.
“It’s unbelievable. Now you grade him on that he wasn’t very sharp tonight, he only had 38. Now if he doesn’t get 40 it’s like, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ ” D’Antoni said.
Portland coach Terry Stotts weighed in: “Well, we held him under 40 so I guess that’s a win.”
Jusuf Nurkic had 25 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Blazers. CJ McCollum added 24 points and Damian Lillard finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds for Portland’s third win in the past four games.
Portland led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, but Harden started to show some life after a surprisingly cold first half.
Gerald Green’s dunk got Houston within 88-83 early in the fourth but Nurkic’s layup pushed Portland’s lead to 97-85 with just under 6 minutes left.
After Harden collected his fourth foul, McCollum hit a long jumper to put Portland up 101-90 with 3:10 remaining. Turner’s layup and free throw made it 106-95 and Moda Center fans started heading for the doors.
There was some controversy when Harden got three free throws on Turner’s foul that appeared to be on P.J. Tucker, and he made all three to close the gap with 1:02 left. After Lillard made a free throw on the other end, Harden’s step-back jumper got the Rockets within 107-101 with 34 seconds left — but it was a close as they could get.
Harden missed a layup with 15 seconds left that would have put him at 40 points.
“My shots were flat at the beginning of the game but I picked it up in that third quarter and the second half. I’ve just got to get off to a better start,” he said.
Portland was the last team to hold Harden under 30. He had 29 in Houston’s 111-104 home victory on Dec. 11.
In Other Games
Raptors 123, Bucks 116
Warriors 127, Kings 123
Nuggets 123, Hornets 110
Jazz 110, Pistons 105
Spurs 108, Grizzlies 88
Pelicans 133, Cavaliers 98
76ers 106, Mavericks 100