Sunday, 27 December 2020 12:37

Staff Reporter.

An understrength Houston Rockets started their NBA campaign with a narrow 128-126 overtime defeat by the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Rockets had only nine players available - one above the NBA minimum - after two positive Covid-19 tests and four others were deemed close contacts.

Their scheduled season-opener on Wednesday against Oklahoma City had been postponed.

CJ McCollum's three-pointer with 6.9 seconds left sealed the victory.

It came after a three-pointer from James Harden with 15.3 seconds left had put the Rockets 126-125 up.

Harden, who finished with 44 points and 17 assists, matching his career high, returned after being fined $50,000 (£36,820) by the NBA for a breach violation of its coronavirus protocols.

Christian Wood added 31 points and 13 rebounds on his Rockets debut, while rookie Jae'Sean Tate managed 13 points.

We have a chance, "Harden said of the Rockets, with the hope they will have a more complete unit next week. "We just have to get things clicking faster than later.We all know the West is a very strong conference, there’s no nights off. We have to be prepared each and every game."