Nights like these are a reminder. A reminder that even with all the talent, all the depth, all the potential for greatness, that this Blazer team is one thing right now: a work in progress.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. At this point in the season the Blazers are not supposed to be a well-oiled machine. No one really is. All the new faces, roles and new responsibilities will take a while to gel. Last night was a shining example of that. The first of 41 road games was tough loss. I would make a Halloween joke about the Blazers being haunted by the Toyota Center (or Houston in general) but let’s be honest when you get to a certain age 10/31 becomes more about booze and breasts than ghosts and ghouls. Last night could be considered a bitter reminder of the issues that plagued the Blazers last year. We’re three games in and something about the two losses the Blazers have suffered could leave a bitter aftertaste in your mouth. You know that feeling when you take a bad shot of alcohol and it takes a couple extra seconds to get over it. That’s what these two losses were like.
It’s clear why the Blazers took (what feels like) their 156th consecutive loss in Houston. Offensively it was Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge getting little help. On the other end it was a defense that was leakier than whatever girl the Ying Yang Twins were talking about in the song ‘Salt Shaker’. Combine those two things and it’s going to be tough to get a win on the road against anyone. Especially against a team that works as hard as the Rockets. There were times where it just felt like the playoffs all over again. Houston making shots, Blazers missing and struggling. It was an unfun deja vu.
I can see why Blazer fans would be disappointed. Its never easy to see a team go through the same issues, especially after an off-season of moves made to make sure it didn’t happen. Tonight just proved the point that the Blazers are going to have to step up the D if they want to make some noise this year. It will come but some of the stats would make you want to crumble up a box score. I mean its hard to be too disappointed in a loss when you’re letting a team shoot 50 percent from the field (40-for-79) and from behind the arc (12-for-24). Giving up those kind of numbers are just going to make it a super uphill climb. There was no answer for Aaron Brooks and Trevor Ariza. The argument can be made that Ariza had a career day, but on the other end when a team really only has two guys who can create you have to be able to lock them down. That wasn’t a possibility. Brooks was penetrating at will, breaking down the Blazer D and the majority of the Rockets just couldn’t miss.
Offensively, as I stated earlier, there just no help for the superstars. You can’t say much else about the performance of B-Roy and LMA. If you doubted their — specifically LMA’s — ability to perform after getting their money, you should feel silly after last night. Aldridge had 27 went 13-for-16, Roy with a brilliant 42. Peep the line: 12-for-20, 5-for 7 from 3, 13-for-13 from the line. It was pure joy to watch them go to work, especially Roy. The rest of the squad, not counting Big Joel and Oden, went 10-for-33. Ewwww. They were like the people who say ‘party at our house’ but have no beverages, no food and no music. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record but the Blazers need guys to consistently step up alongside Roy and Aldridge. Tonight that didn’t happen. Its funny because people criticized Coup after Game 1 for not bending over backwards to compliment Travis Outlaw’s big game. Nights like these when Bad Travis shows up are a reason why. Andre Miller had his good moments (beasting Lowry) and his bad (ill advised jumpers and running over Aaron Brooks on a fast break). Oden was working down low but I wish someone would tell him to never try the quick spin against an undersized defender. It just isn’t going to work.
Early in the season every team has their share of struggles. You learn as the season progresses what the strengths and weaknesses are. I like that this team has had some things exposed early. The room for growth is immense and if takes some losses early so be it. Right now its defense and finding a consistent balance offensively. On the positive side, Portland is finding a way to be in games they really don’t have business being in. What do I mean by that? Game 1 we turned the ball over 20+ times and won comfortably. Thursday we were ice cold from the field and Denver was marching to the free throw line for the majority of the night and we were still there. Last night, Ariza has a career night, the Rockets can’t miss, we’re struggling and we still had chances. That tells me this team has the talent we just need to put it together.