HOUSTON -- Chris Paul, a point guard advertised as being born to assist, cringed a bit when asked about the 29 field goal attempts he hoisted Wednesday night.
Actually, it matched the most shots Paul has attempted in a regulation game in his 13-year career. He launched 33 shots in a 2008 double-overtime win over current Rockets coach Mike D'Antoni's Phoenix Suns.
"It kind of felt like it, too," Paul, who also had 11 assists, said of his shot volume against the Blazers. "Like, goodness, I felt like I missed a lot. That's what I'm mad about."
Paul didn't miss when it mattered most. He has certainly had more efficient shooting nights than Wednesday's 13-of-29 outing, but he was flawless when it was winning time, hitting three shots in a span of just more than two minutes after Portland went on a run to pull within three points late in the fourth quarter.
Paul's midrange pull-up with 3:30 remaining ended a three-and-a-half-minute scoreless drought for the Rockets, an eternity for a team with the NBA's second-ranked offense, even with league scoring leader James Harden wearing street clothes while nursing a hamstring strain. Paul knocked down a pull-up 3 with 1:45 remaining to stretch Houston's lead to seven. He followed that with a dagger drive the next possession, on which he hit a spectacular scoop shot in traffic, putting a little english on the ball as he managed to get it off the glass between a pair of long-armed Portland defenders.
"He kind of knows how to do it," D'Antoni said of Paul playing the closer role. "He's only been doing it for 20 years."
Paul took one last shot -- an uncontested layup with 12.8 seconds remaining -- that perturbed Portland, particularly star point guard Damian Lillard. Paul was confronted in the final seconds by Lillard, who barked and tried to swipe the ball away from him.
"As far as sportsmanship goes and, you know, respect, if the roles were reversed, I don't think they would have liked it," Lillard told reporters.
Paul shrugged off Lillard's angst. The rest of the Rockets certainly didn't have a problem with Paul temporarily playing the role of volume scorer.
"He shot 29 times?" Trevor Ariza said, surprised at the stat. "Good. He should."
As for the moment with Lillard? "That's different, but you can't even tell. It was in the flow of the game. We need him to be aggressive."
That's especially true with Harden on the shelf, which will be the case at least until next week. That's more than 32 points per game the Rockets need to replace.
It isn't as if Paul has to do it all himself, though. Eric Gordon, who is starting in Harden's place, had his second 30-point performance in the past four games. By comparison, Gordon scored 30-plus in two of his first 109 games with Houston.
But with the Blazers determined to keep Houston from hurting them from the 3-point line -- starters Ariza and Ryan Anderson combined to go only 1-of-7 from long range -- Paul pounced on opportunities to create his own offense.
"He's taking what's there," D'Antoni said. "That's what's given to him, and he took it. He got 37 and 11. I'm not going to say a whole lot other than 'great.'"