Houston Rockets Lose to Blazers:
View From Above
The Houston Rocket showdown with the Portland Trail Blazers proved that karma does exist. James Harden caught the wrong end of a strike below the belt and a late-game no call on Damian Lillard‘s turnover nearly resulted in a Trail Blazers’ loss.
However, karma did not reward the Rockets with an epic last second three pointer. Instead, the Trail Blazers hijacked the Rockets third seed as Houston fell to Portland once again in their first appearance in the Moda Center this year.
In the first two meetings of the ball clubs this season, Harden accrued 89 points, 12 rebounds and 15 assists. This time around he tallied 18 points on 7-19 shooting to go along with six assists and four turnovers. 14 of those points (some on fast breaks) came in the first half.
LaMarcus Aldridge demolished the Rockets as usual but foul trouble prevented him from exploding as he did in last year’s playoff series versus Houston. Despite committing two offensive fouls (to give him four total early in the third) he managed to finish with 26 points and 14 boards.
The Grudge Match
To begin the game, Harden and Aldridge ensued their battle which was to be expected. Afflalo had the one-on-one duty of limiting Harden’s production but his lack of offensive contribution earned him a trip to the bench midway through the first. Alonzo Gee inherited Afflalo’s task but failed miserably. Gee could not match Harden’s foot speed which resulted in eight of Harden’s 10 first quarter points. Aldridge had himself a show as well by scorching the Rockets for 11 first quarter points. Terrence Jones‘ size and Donatas Motiejunas footwork were no match for the nine-year player out of Texas.
The second quarter began with a huge dunk by Josh Smith that swayed momentum in the Rockets’ direction. Lillard’s pick and roll efforts with Robin Lopez and Chris Kaman managed to neutralize the Rocket’s attempt to make a run though. When Aldridge returned from the bench, Houston tried to double him. That ended up only being a temporary fix. The Blazers quickly adapted and unselfishly shared the ball to get open shots. Poor free throw shooting and bad defense from both teams kept the Rockets within one at the end of the half.
— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) March 12, 2015
I’m sure watching the beginning of the second half, Matthews even more desperately wished he was on the court to aid his team. After Aldridge picked up consecutive charges, he was sidelined and the Rockets went on an 7-0 run. The Blazers’ second go-to guy, Damian Lillard, had difficulty converting lay-ups without them being blocked.
When it seemed like the Rockets were going to pull away, Nicolas Batum and Meyers Leonard put their cape on and saved the day. The pair knocked down four treys within two minutes to gain a 68-67 lead halfway through the period. Aldridge checked back into the game during the final minute and got his feet wet immediately. He sank his signature fade-away jumper and converted a last second tip-in to put the Blazers up 80-74 to end the third quarter.
In the fourth, it was more of the same. Aldridge could not be contained and the Blazers’ pick and roll shredded the Rockets’ defense. Corey Brewer provided some late game heroics by scoring 17 straight points but missed the tying jumper with a few seconds left.
What To Take Away:
- The Rockets miss Dwight Howard more and more each game. They were unquestionably outmatched in the paint which led to being out-rebounded by 20 (60 to 40). Also, no one on the floor could guard Aldridge one-on-one which called for double teams and resulted in open looks.
- One category they aren’t missing of Howard’s is his devastatingly bad free throw shooting. Despite his absence, the Rockets still shot 56.5 percent from the stripe.
- Houston also needs to learn to make the most of every possession. There were a few instances where Josh Smith or Terrence Jones collected a rebound, brought the ball up the floor as if they were a guard and turned it over. Between the two of them, they had two assists and three turnovers. I think Houston can do without that.
- And most importantly, Houston needs to learn how to keep a lead. With Howard out, their offense is even more predictable so wasting possessions (offensively and defensively) is unacceptable. The couple of three pointers Meyers Leonard made were uncontested. Leonard is a 45 percent three point shooter. That type of mental lapse is not ideal for a team on the road in a Western Conference face-off.
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