Rockets 99 Blazers 95
--It's hard to know exactly how to analyze this game. It typifies the Blazers' status so much. If they were a good team you would be pretty upset at the lack of effort and execution for the first two-and-a-half quarters. But since they're a comparatively bad team you look for the silver lining and say, "Whoa! What a comeback!" Praising them means they're sub-par. Criticizing means they're better than they showed. We'll just do a little of both and let you decide which is which.
--The big news from the game is that Ime Udoka is done for the season. They decided not to push his sore leg any farther. For the record that's now Joel Przybilla, Zach Randolph, Darius Miles, Ime Udoka, and Lamarcus Aldridge...in other words, everyone we intentionally started (or planned to start) in the frontcourt this year is gone. That ain't good.
--If you need a reason other than that for us losing, there were two. The first is that honest credit should go to the Rockets' talent. McGrady and Yao were both as good as they needed to be, Tracy scoring 32 and Yao with 27. We just couldn't stop them. Rafer Alston was also on fire, especially from beyond the arc, and ended up with 23 himself. They played well enough to win easily and their late-game letdown shouldn't overshadow that. The second reason, however, was that until the late third and early fourth quarter our offense was as bad as I've seen it since very early in the season. It was all one-on-one, from two to twenty dribbles (depending on who had it) and a shot. We looked worse than horrible...we looked lifeless. We're fortunate that the late rally erased that memory from our minds.
--Also on the bad side of the ledger were our point guards. Now Houston is a good defensive team so perhaps they can be excused somewhat from not getting us into our offense well. But combined Jack, Dickau, and Sergio shot 1-15. With their counterpart Alston scoring 23 all on his own you know that's not going to cut it. The only time we looked halfway decent was when Roy was handling the ball.
--On the plus side we shot pretty well considering the opponent. Ditto for the rebounding. Houston was also missing a bunch of shots which almost saved us. I'm not sure whether we were to blame as much as they were but we'll take it. As has been our habit late in the season we also took pretty good care of the ball, which is very encouraging to see considering it was a major problem earlier in the year.
--Again we got PLASTERED at the free throw line, the final attempts being Houston 41, Portland 22. It's hard to win like that.
--Brandon Roy almost looked a step slow tonight but he ended up with 20 points on 9-18 shooting plus 5 rebounds and 6 assists. It was a fine game from him and those are coming with clockwork regularity now.
--Freddie Jones was the one Blazer who came with full energy every moment he was on the floor. His line was 18 points on 8-13 shooting, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists in 28 minutes. He was a weapon tonight and I loved his sizzle.
--Travis Outlaw looked like he might start out having one of those off games but he actually ended up being a go-to guy of sorts. He scored 16 on 7-14 shooting and had 7 rebounds besides. The latter was good to see. Most of his shots were jumpers which makes his 50% shooting clip even more impressive. A couple trips inside could have netted him more free throws. He did hit a clutch three late to keep us hoping.
--Jamaal Magloire did a decent job tonight on Yao. He couldn't stop him but you wouldn't expect that. Magloire got 10 rebounds and also shot 7-8 from the free throw line (and that is not a misprint) to end up with 13 points. He only had 1 turnover too.
--Raef only played 18 minutes but once again when I watch him I just appreciate seeing a veteran out there. He knows where to be even when he's not touching the ball. He always seems ready to do two or three different things, whichever is needed. We really do need a couple more older hands on this team. 8 points and 5 boards isn't bad for that little playing time.
--Martell, on the other hand, got 30 minutes. In those 30 minutes he got 5 rebounds, which is pretty decent for a small forward, plus a steal and a block. However he only shot 6 times and only hit twice for four total points. I don't even know how to describe his game right now. Thread a needle, tie the loose end of the string to an elephant, and try to pull it through a keyhole. That's the kind of time he's having.
--Luke Schenscher had a nice game and got a new nickname, courtesy of JPop. Apparently in Australia (and some other places) "Ginger" is a term used for redheads. So tonight he became the Gingerbread Man. He actually played some credible defense on Yao, set some good picks, used every stinkin' one of his fouls, and hit 3 of 4 shots for 6 points. Way to go big fella!
--That just leaves the three point guards, and as I said before, other than some energy provided by Dan Dickau at the end of the game the less said about their collective games the better.
All in all I was pretty happy with the end result even with the dismal start. I mean, with all those injuries and not much left to play for, what do you expect? The Rockets' announcers were pretty impressed with the Blazers overall and had a lot of good things to say about their comeback. Hopefully someday that'll turn into something meaningful.