I couldn’t think of a better team for the Blazers to play right now than the Houston Rockets. I know in between complaints about the Blazers you muffled a ‘why’? Effort is a must if you want to beat Houston. We all know how hard the Rockets play. It is their identity, a word that is slowly turning into a question mark for this Portland team. They are going to hustle, scrap and fight for every single possession. One of the issues that has come into question for Portland during this ‘OMG we CAN lose three games in a row’ streak has been effort. Tonight the effort will have to be brought if the Blazers want to beat the Rockets. It is a must. Nothing else matters if Portland comes out flat again because it will more than likely lead to the first four game losing streak for Portland since 2008.
(And yes we haven’t lost 4 games in a long time. Kinda see how Blazer fans can come off like spoiled, whiny yeeotches to the rest of the world right now eh?)
In addition to the effort they bring, the Rockets are a pretty good road team, 7-3 away from H-Town coming into tonight. They know what it takes to come into an opponent’s arena and get a win. As a matter of fact they come into tonight having won three straight on the road and looking for a sweep of a four-game road trip. Personnel wise you know who is going to hurt you. Trevor Ariza is averagin 18, Scola is averaging 13 and 9 and Carl Landry is breaking out averaging 15. The catalyst? Aaron Brooks. Generally speaking when Aaron Brooks goes the Rockets go. He’s second in the team in scoring (17.1 PPG) behind Trevor Ariza but here’s a fun fact: the Rockets are 5-1 when Brooks scores 20+ points. Brooks comes into tonight playing some of the best basketball of the season, dropping 20 points in the past three games. And let’s not forget how Brooks salivates at the sight of Portland or more importantly Steve Blake attempting to get in some sort of defensive stance and ‘guard’ him.
Usually this is the part of the pre-thoughts where I like to say what Portland needs to do. Well…let’s scrap all that for a mini-rant. I’ve kind of bit my tongue during this whole ‘losing streak’ for a few reasons. It could have something to do with the fact that I don’t think the sky is falling and that’s not cool to say in Blazer Nation. It could be the fact that I will gladly take a three game losing streak with light at the end of the tunnel than go back to the Z Bo era. And mainly because every team has to face adversity at some point in their season. You had to believe that Portland was going to have some issues out of the gate with guys adjusting to different roles and positions. And I’m not saying ‘Andre Miller’ I’m saying the loss of Batum, the loss of Outlaw, the return of Martell Webster, the emergence of Oden as an offensive presence, teams no longer surprised but better prepared for the greatness of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. That’s a lot of stuff for a team to try and mold together. Now you add to the fact that effort has been an issue and you can see where there might be some problems. I’m not trying to excuse anything but Portland can and will get better. Consider this: are the Spurs freaking out? No. So why should we? The one thing I’m a little concerned about is that the Blazers have this weird, emo vibe about them. Seriously this Portland team is just kind of emo. And its kind of starting with Brandon Roy. Portland is kind of like a girl who got really pretty in the summer of her junior year. And everyone was saying how pretty she was but for some reason she didn’t believe everyone. I mean this Portland team is not having fun. There is no swagger. Maybe Quick needs to bring back ‘Behind the Locker Room Door’ or something. I watched that Cleveland game last night and say what you want about LeBron’s dancing but that’s a team that’s having fun. And they started 3-3. It just seems like the Blazers are so uptight and worried because people raised their expectations. Just go hoop and have fun.
Keys to the game
-Energy and effort from the start. I saw a stat in ESPN’s preview that said Portland has been outscored 93-60 in the last three first quarters. Portland needs to get it going early because you don’t want to have to work your way out of a hole against Houston.
-Defense, clap clap. This is the big one for me. Portland’s giving up an absurd amount of points during this stretch. The field goal percentages they’ve given up have been straight up Stankonia. We said it during the pre-season that if Portland doesn’t D up none of the pre-season hype will mean anything. It has been true. The defense has to show up. If it can’t against a team with limited weapons than the Red and Black attack is in trouble.
-Contain Aaron Brooks. 5-1 when he scores 20 or more. Need I say more?
That’s really about it. If Portland plays with energy, effort and D’s up they should be ok. And those are the areas of weakness in my eyes. This is an important game for Portland to win. They need to right the ship and not because of the losses but because it’s about to get tough. 8 of the next 10 games are on the road, two 4-game road swings sandwiching in two home games. Portland can’t take this broken show on the road or things could get uglier than Bubba Sparxxx ever imagined.