When Wesley Matthews was playing youth sports, his mother always put him on teams that were two age levels higher than his own.

Matthews played soccer and basketball, always the youngest and the smallest player on the team.

“I always had to work that much harder,” the fifth-yeah Portland guard said. “I always had to keep up. I became a pretty passionate player.”

His hard work and passion have helped put the Trail Blazers in the driver’s seat as they prepare to play the Rockets in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with a 3-1 lead.

Matthews has become known for his passionate play in the NBA. Since going undrafted out of Marquette in 2009, he always has felt like he has something to prove.

In this series, he has turned heads thanks to his defense on leading Rockets scorer James Harden and for his timely shooting.

“I think Wes is a big reason we are up in this series,” Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. “His passion, his approach to the game. He is always studying guys he is going to defend. He doesn’t just want to lock a guy down; he wants to go at him on the offensive end so he is as complete a player as we have.”

While Harden has scored at least 27 points in all four games, he hasdone so in an inefficient manner. Through the first three games, Harden was shooting just 33 percent from the field.