Houston, is not the problem.

Disclaimer: This is my first posting of any kind, so if I've messed up the formatting or something, please be gentle and point me in the right direction. Thanks!

There are a couple of things that I took away from this game, one of which I am completely annoyed with, and the rest is just some basic obsercations that I just had to work out of my system. We all know there's no better place to do it than here.

First. I 'm not a determinist when it comes to the officiating, I understand that the refs don't actually determine the outcome of the game, as they affect only a percentage of the plays in it, however the argument that the refs can't really sway how a game is played, or how the flow of the game evolves from the opening tip on is weak to me. Within the first few minutes of this game there were several questionable non-calls that affected the Blazer's ability to be productive. Had those calls been made, it would have forced Houston to play less physical and would there would have been parity on how the defenses could be affective on the inside between the teams, however the calls weren't equal because within that same time frame in which Portland didn't get the benefit of the doubt, Houston was getting to the line against our defense and it wasn't because Portland was really doing anything different than Houston was.

With Houston's inability to actually foul the Blazers in the eyes of the refs tonight, it made it nearly impossible to establish an inside game or effectvely get room for the shooters to get their shots going and because of this, the offense and defense deteriorated. The game really wasn't played at all like the Blazers have played for the last month of the season after those first few possessions.

Some will say that it is up to the team to overcome those sorts of obstacles, well I'd just love to ask those people one simple question: How? When a team tries to defend the other as physically as they are  being defended on the other end and it ends up as a foul against one and two freebies for other consistently, what can a team possibly do? The Blazers tried to do the same in return and we see the ref is on the sideline hacking away, just trying to get that whistle back up where it belongs. The results are a non-call foul, no basket and Houston with all the momentum.

The argument I hear is that the more aggressive team gets the calls. Could that be because the refs are only letting one team be aggressive? What can a team do to possibly break that cycle, when "being aggressive" was what they were trying to do in the first place? The Blazers didn't come out onto the floor and start immediately shooting long jumpers and allowing Houston to do whatever they wanted. They were just as aggressive until they got into foul trouble and then couldn't be without the threat of losing key players.

The argument has never made a lick of sense to me whatsoever. A foul is a foul, regardless of who is doing it, regardless of who is being fouled and regardless of the manner in which the play ocurred - or at least that's how it should be. The obviously poor officiating has got to stop. We can only hope that the new crew for the next game - assuming it won't be the same group - will see things differently and allow both teams to play to the same standard.

The rest of my gripes really center around the fact that as the game went on, the team just looked worse and worse. There was virtually no ball movement and no one stayed on their defensive assignment. The Blazers were out rebounded with Yao not playing extended minutes. We looked like a totally different team out there than the one that shut down Denver and handed them a very convincing loss just a few days before.

I know it can't all be blamed on the refs, but I'm willing to bet that the calls and non-calls determined that this game was going to be played however Houston wanted to play it.

What does everyone else think?

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