The Portland Trail Blazers showed great fight in a loss against the Houston Rockets on the road, but major depth issues are becoming obvious.
In the first game of the Portland Trail Blazers 6 game road trip, they fell just short of a very professional and new look Houston Rockets. In this piece, I will be answering the key question I posed in the above-linked article and offering some analysis of the game.
The key question I had for this matchup was, “can the Blazers limit Houston’s offensive rebounding numbers?
The short answer is no, considering the Rockets grabbed 10 of them, 1.3 above their season average. However, the Blazers won the overall rebounding battle by 2, and with centers like Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins pounding the glass, that is a good result and far from the reason the game was lost.
It was a team-wide effort on the boards with Derrick Jones Jr bringing in 7, including an incredible putback dunk, Carmelo Anthony dragging in 9, and Anfernee Simons using his insane vertical to bring in 8 rebounds off the bench.
Now that the pre-game question has been answered, let’s dive into some of the key takeaways from the game:
Points in the Paint:
The Rockets shot an underwhelming 28% from behind the 3-point line, but the paint is where they dominated. 46 of their 104 points came from within the paint, with the WOW combination (Wall, Oladipo, and Wood) slashing hard and getting what they pleased within the painted area.
Despite Enes Kanter‘s obvious heart and effort whenever he steps onto the court, the Rockets’ quick and physical guards took full advantage of his lack of lateral quickness. They were able to attack his body to score easy baskets.
The Blazers often double-teamed off high screen and rolls, causing Christian Wood to become the playmaker in a 4 on 3 situation. To Wood’s credit, he made the right play more times than not and used his soft shooting ability to score multiple floaters from in the paint.
Gary Trent Jr is ready:
When C.J McCollum was struck down by injury, Blazers fans thought it was time to unleash Trent Jr. However, Rodney Hood came in and got the first start post-C.J injury. But with a quad niggle and subsequent minutes restriction, Trent has been given the starting role and shown he is ready.
After shooting 0-4 from beyond the arc in the first half, Trent bounced back massively, making 7-9 in the second half, willing the Blazers back from a double-digit deficit. His confidence and shot-making ability will provide Damian Lillard with much-needed rest during the road trip.
Trent is also a willing and enthusiastic defender. Is he a lockdown guard who will take on the toughest assignment of the night, every night? Not yet. But he shows a want to defend and doesn’t shy away from those matchups, which is what the Blazers need.
The injury toll is showing:
The Blazers have been hit hard by the injury bug once again, and it was obvious during this game. Despite Carmelo Anthony struggling to find his shot, Rodney Hood and Nassir Little couldn’t provide that punch off the bench, leaving Melo to force his way through his struggles.
Enes Kanter and Harry Giles playing as the only true bigs means they have to constantly play cautiously, staying out of foul trouble. This hurts Giles particularly, who is a natural rim protector and likes to play aggressively on defense.
Anfernee Simons provided a good foil off the bench, scoring 14 points, including some big-time 3-pointers. However, without Lillard on the floor, things looked rough for the majority of the night. The absence of C.J running the second unit, proving a huge loss throughout the game.
Overall, it was an up and down night for the Blazers, who both blew and then came back from a double-digit lead, but they couldn’t quite get over the line. Next up is Chicago, and with memories of the terrible loss earlier in the year, revenge will be on the mind.