Allen Crabbe believes the Portland Trail Blazers have learned how to lock down defensively during a surprising push that has them eyeing a playoff spot.
They've already shown that ability against the high-scoring Houston Rockets.
In a matchup between teams vying for eighth place in the Western Conference, the Trail Blazers hope to head into the All-Star break with their 12th win in 15 games and second victory in five days over the visiting Rockets on Wednesday night.
Portland (26-27) was nine games under .500 and in 10th place, two games out of a playoff spot, on Jan. 8 before an 11-3 stretch brought the club within a half game of eighth-place Houston following the Rockets' 123-110 loss at Golden State on Tuesday.
The Blazers have averaged 105.8 points - well above their previous 100.9 mark - during that surge. Damian Lillard has had four 30-point performances and six double-doubles, while reserve Gerald Henderson has scored in double figures in five straight.
Portland also has stepped up defensively in crunch time, allowing 40.7 percent shooting - far below its 44.8 season mark - in the final period of its last 13 games.
Lillard finished with 33 points and hit five 3-pointers Monday, C.J. McCollum had 21 with six assists and three steals and Henderson scored 16 in a 112-106 overtime win at Memphis. Portland held the Grizzlies to 2-of-13 in the extra period.
"We know how to close games out now," said Crabbe, who had 13 points and three steals. "We know what it takes now. Everybody is digging down defensively to get the stops we need. I think everybody's game has taken that next step."
The Blazers hope to continue that trend back home as they look to move past the Rockets and get back to .500 for the first time since they were 4-4 on Nov. 9.
Houston ranks among the league's leaders with 105 points per game, but has had all kinds of trouble knocking down shots in this series. After rallying from 17 points down despite shooting 34.8 percent in a 108-103 overtime home win Nov. 18, the Rockets shot a season-low 32.5 percent in Saturday's 96-79 home defeat.
They were outrebounded 54-43 and fell behind by 32 points en route to their third loss in the past four meetings. James Harden had 33 points but committed 10 of the team's 23 turnovers, while Dwight Howard finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The rest of the team scored a combined 50 while shooting just 24.4 percent.
Harden, second in the NBA with 27.9 points per game, has averaged 37 over his last five meetings. He scored 45 with 11 assists and five steals in the November win.
The All-Star overcame a scoreless first quarter to finish with 37 points against the Warriors. Trevor Ariza scored 19 and Howard added 16 with 15 rebounds.
''We didn't win the game but we gained some momentum. It was a competitive game against an undefeated team at home and we put ourselves in a position to win,'' Harden said.
The Rockets (27-27) will try to avoid their fifth loss in seven road games and sixth in their past eight overall. They've been awful defensively away from home, allowing an average of 120.8 points and 45.6 percent shooting from 3-point range in their last six.
Terrence Jones is likely to miss a fourth straight game with a concussion, while Portland's Noah Vonleh is probable after a three-game absence from an ankle sprain.