FINAL: Houston Rockets 103, Portland Trail Blazers 96

Call it tired, call it a hangover, call it lazy, it doesn't matter, it's still an embarrassing loss. The Portland Trail Blazers struggled to stay close to the Houston Rockets all night, raising hopes with a second half comeback only to collapse in the fourth quarter. This was a night where the Rose Garden crowd probably felt they didn't get their money's worth, as the Blazers slide further down the conference standings.

Gerald Wallace led the team with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. LaMarcus Aldridge, knowing we'd recently discussed his consistency, struggled to 13 points on an off-night. Jamal Crawford, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum also scored in double figures.

Let's keep the first half recap short: It was ugly. The Rockets short nearly 60% from the field, including (often open) three-pointers. The Blazers shot 51% themselves, but those 12 turnovers added up fast. Houston looked like a playoff team, and the Blazers did not, losing 60-46 at halftime.

The third quarter started with a turnover, and it didn't get better from there. By the time Nate took a timeout, another Houston three pushed the lead to 17. The lead reached 19, when the Blazers changed moved their defense past the half-court line and attempted a comeback. Soon, a Crash layup cuts the lead all the way to 7, which remained the deficit at the end of the quarter.

The fourth quarter opened with a bang, as Portland scores the first 7 points, completing the comeback with a nice Crawford pass for an Aldridge dunk. However, they ran out of steam, as Houston quickly took an 8 point lead again, leading to another Nate timeout. Portland made another push, as a Crash three-point play cut the lead to 4 with 4:30 left. However, they promptly gave up an open three-pointer, then a three-point play, to stop the run. No more comebacks remained, just the pain of watching repeated fouls, while the Blazers kept shooting two-pointers, until the Rockets steal one last pass to put the remaining fans out of their misery.

Read the box score, then stay tuned for Ben and Dave. The next game is Friday in New Orleans, a game that takes an increasing level of importance after a disappointing turn in the season. -- Tim

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