The Portland Trail Blazers find themselves down 48-56 against the Houston Rockets at halftime in Game 5 of the first round series. The two teams played very evenly through the first quarter, as both LaMarcus Aldridge and Dwight Howard exited with early foul trouble. Aldridge, shooting just 2-6 has been a non-factor when present, but all-star teammate Damian Lillard picked up the slack, scoring 18 points with six rebounds, four assist, and two steals by half. Lillard is the only Trail Blazers in double figures.
Turnovers have been a major problem for Portland. They began the second quarter (down 27-30) with four turnovers in five possessions; soon finding themselves down more than 10 points. Each run they attempted was promptly snuffed out by Houston’s energy and effort on both sides of the ball. I even saw James Harden play defense and force a turnover, granted, turning the ball over himself shortly after. Committing a total of 9 TO’s, the Trail Blazers are fortunate to be down just eight points after two quarters.
In the locker room, Trail Blazers Head Coach Terry Stotts must focus on transition defense if Portland is to stay in this game. The Rockets have been able to capitalize too easily on Trail Blazer mistakes, but are not executing well enough in their half court offense to sustain a lead. If Portland can prevent Houston from scoring in transition or, better yet, stop turning the ball over under minimal pressure, this game will tighten up real quick.
Offensively, the Trail Blazers must take advantage of Dwight Howard’s foul trouble. He picked up three personal fouls in the first half and will likely be forced to sit early once again if he picks up another quick one. By that token, the Trail Blazers’ offensive game must turn toward penetration and scoring inside. Now, back to the game.