Updated at: 04/06/2013 9:35 PM
By ANNE M. PETERSON
(AP) PORTLAND, Ore. - James Harden had 33 points and the short-handed Houston Rockets edged closer to clinching a playoff spot with a 116-98 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night.
Jeremy Lin added 22 points to help the Rockets to their fourth straight victory. Houston (43-33) remained in seventh place in the Western Conference _ three games in front of the Los Angeles Lakers _ for their first playoff appearance since 2008-09.
LaMarcus Aldridge returned from an ankle injury with 32 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers (33-43), who matched their season-worst slide with a seventh straight loss.
The Rockets were without forward Chandler Parsons because of a right calf injury he sustained late in Houston’s 112-102 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday night.
Parsons, who led all scorers with 29 points against the Kings, is averaging 15.3 points and 5.4 rebounds this season. The injury does not appear serious.
Houston was also without Carlos Delfino because of the flu.
Aldridge appeared healthy after missing four games because of a right ankle sprain. But the Blazers were still without Nicolas Batum, who has a sore right shoulder. Victor Claver started in Batum’s absence.
Harden had 17 points in the first quarter. His jumper gave the Rockets a 27-22 lead but the Blazers stayed close, paced by Aldridge’s 14 points and six rebounds in the period.
Houston took off on an 11-0 run to go up 44-33 on Donatas Motiejunas’ layup and extended it to 59-40 on Harden’s layup with 3:40 left in the half.
Portland responded with a 14-1 run to narrow the gap to 60-54 and wound up trailing by 63-56 at the half. Aldridge led all scorers with 24 points and 10 rebounds at the break.
Francisco Garcia’s dunk made it 89-62 for the Rockets midway through the third quarter. Harden’s short jumper pushed the lead to 110-90 with 5:35 left, and Portland fans started streaming for the exits.
Rockets rookie Terrence Jones made his first appearance as a pro in his native Portland, playing for 14 minutes. Jones led Jefferson High School to three straight Oregon state titles before going to Kentucky, where he was part of the Wildcats’ NCAA championship team last season.
Before the game, Jones was asked how many tickets he requested. "A lot," he said.
It was Jones’ 13th appearance this season. He had 14 points in Wednesday night’s win over the Kings.
Notes: Blazers guard Damian Lillard on Friday won the league’s Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for the fifth straight month. He is the only Blazer to win the honor five times, and he’s the first NBA player to win it the first five months of the season since Blake Griffin in 2010-11. The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 21.3 points, 6.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds in March. ... Blazers forward Sasha Pavlovic made his first appearance in a game for Portland since late February. ... It was Houston’s 11th consecutive game with 100 more points.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)