The Blazers played poor defense and mediocre offense against a Rockets team that was red-hot, trailing virtually the whole way and falling 126-113 in a game that felt a lot worse than the final score suggests.
LaMarcus Aldridge was so cold early that ice cubes snuggled together to keep warm. He was following his shot, however, and racked up a gaudy number of rebounds, and a double-double in the first half. The stats were deceiving on this one, as his 27 points required 26 shots, and 12 of his 20 rebounds were offensive. Normally that would be stellar, but a lot of those were because he followed his own. That’s a good thing, but the Blazers need his jumpers to be a threat to win. Tonight, they weren’t.
Damian Lillard is making a concerted effort to drive into traffic. I think I like it. He’s not getting the calls that, say, James Harden gets, but hopefully that will come in time. He shot 7-17, 3-8 from deep for 24 points and 5 assists.
Wesley Matthews also tried to be aggressive when the Blazers’ usual offensive tactics stalled. He shot just 2-9 from deep, but was 8-17 overall for his 18 points.
Robin Lopez just can’t guard Dwight Howard, though he did block the living daylights out of Dwight during the frustrating third quarter Blazer run that slipped away just as quickly as it came. He had 13 and a sorry 3 rebounds.
Nicolas Batum sometimes decides he can take it off the dribble. Other times, he convinces himself he’s not worthy, looking hesitant and afraid of the defense. The Blazers could really use the former Nicolas when nothing else is going right, but they had to make do with the former. His 6 points were supplemented by 7 asissts.
Mo Williams was disruptive… in a bad way. The eye test showed you he was a detriment to the Blazers tonight, and his team worst +/- of -16 agreed.
CJ McCollum looked okay for his 7 points. When you’ve been out so long with injuries, you get a pass from the more scathing criticism for at least a few weeks.
- Meyers Leonard checked James Harden in the 2nd quarter, who flopped to the ground like a fish, but was unhurt enough to immediately pop back up and challenge Meyers. Not surprisingly, things died down pretty quickly.
- CJ McCollum was second off the bench, after Mo Williams and before Joel Freeland.
- Houston scored more points in the first half (71) than any other Blazers opponent in any half this year. Ouch.
- Matthews fouled Harden on a three early in the third. Matthews stayed to argue, but quickly walked away, realizing that video replays wouldn’t lie. Harden hit all three.
- The Trail Blazers cut the Houston lead to 6 in the 3rd quarter, but frittered it away very quickly. It’s demoralizing when, instead of making a run and holding, you make a run and let the other team make an equal run back. It wears on you, both as a player and as a fan.
The first half was a bucketful of ugly. Houston was having their way outside, inside, and everywhere in between, shooting 67% from the field and 10-13 from deep. Robin Lopez trying to stop Dwight Howard looked like Nate Robinson trying to stop Hakeem in the post, and Freeland didn’t do any better, collecting 3 fouls in the process. A mini-run by the Blazers made it look closer than it was, trailing 71-56.
The biggest problems in the first half were an unwillingness to get a hand up on Houston threes, an inability to stop anything or anyone in the post, and untimely turnovers that led to 18 Houston points. The lone bright spot was LaMarcus Aldridge, whose shot wasn’t falling, but whose willingness to follow his own shot gave him a first-half line of 16 and 13, with 7 offensive boards (more than twice Houston’s first-half total as a team).
The third quarter saw the Blazers pull it to within 6, beefing up their defense, getting to the paint, and hitting a good number of their shots in the first part of the quarter. Unfortunately, like dandelions in the wind, that effort was blown away effortlessly by a Houston team that just didn’t want to miss a whole lot of shots. The lead was back to double-digits by the end of the third, and it never got any better. The Blazers went down with a whimper, letting the Rockets strut and stroll over them like Portland has done to so many others this year.
There’s no rest for the weary, and the Blazers face the Thunder tomorrow at 5pm PST in Oklahoma City.