Now, you want a bad game? That was a pretty bad game.
The Blazers lost because of a couple obvious shortcomings.
First their defense got exposed. And if your defense gets exposed by the Rockets, you got exposed. Aaron Brooks aside, the Rockets are populated with players who have about two moves apiece. Take away the basic options from any of these guys and they have trouble scoring. When a guy has two choices and you actually let him take one--or worse, both--you did something wrong. Yet the Blazers let the Rockets run a litany of basic plays tonight with nary a bother. My guess is you could use this game as a video lesson on running their playbook.
For much of the game the Blazers played defense by rote, almost as if they were running their schemes against NBA Team #4 instead of the Houston Rockets. To wit: Houston doesn't have a formidable inside attack. I know they can score there, so no hate mail from Rockets fans. But in general you'll take your chances with Scola and Landry providing all of the Rockets' offense. They might get buckets but you're not going to lose that way. However whenever the Rockets got the ball inside in the first half the Blazers collapsed like they had Dwight Howard and Shaq down there. One or two passes later...open three. And wide-open threes are on that "one or two" list for all of the Houston wings.
To their credit the Blazers tried to step it up as the game closed down. But they still couldn't create containment on enough possessions to stop the Rockets from rolling. They stayed home on shooters but couldn't stop the drive when those shooters took Option B. Once again extra men were required...this time to stop layups. Once again Portland couldn't recover. This time it was a quick flick for a close attempt for the help guy's defender or to a shooter. Either way Houston's point flow continued.
The story here is that the Blazers could either stop the inside game or the outside game tonight, never both. And sometimes neither. 107 points should be enough to beat Houston unless you're Golden State or Sacramento. Tonight we defended like Northern Californians.
Second, and this is far less explicable than the first, the Blazers once again got outhustled by an opponent. Granted Houston was playing their home opener. We mentioned in the preview that the Blazers weren't just going to be able to walk in and out-talent them. The Blazers should have known that too. If they did it didn't really show up when the ball was loose. We saw too many toss-ups go to the Rockets. They got too many offensive rebounds. They moved their feet quicker and sacrificed their bodies more. They were the mentally superior team tonight and it showed.
On the bright side the Blazers did shoot 51.4%, hit 33% of their threes, and got 31 free throws, hitting 25. The offense was well-run against a tough defensive squad. But if you let Houston shoot 50.6%, 50% from three (12 of 24!), and only gain a 6-point advantage at the free throw line and you're going to lose.
I have a long-standing practice that when the Blazers play a generally crappy game nobody gets individual credit or blame. They take it as a team. But since we're so new in the season and we're learning things each game I'm going to note some of the players who showed a different or noteworthy wrinkle.
Brandon Roy finally put together some shooting with his free-throw prowess, firing at a 12-20 clip, hitting all 13 of his foul shots, and finishing with 42. They couldn't stop him.
They couldn't stop LaMarcus either, so everybody can stop worrying about him on the offensive end. 13 for 16, a few post moves, 27 points.
Greg Oden did well enough in 22 minutes. He had 5 personal fouls but they got him for some touch fouls tonight. 9 rebounds, 3 blocks, and only 2 turnovers is just fine, plus he put the ball in the hoop a couple times for 6 points.
When Brandon Roy wasn't being Brandon Roy Andre Miller tried to step in as his understudy. He had 15 points, mostly from attacking the rim in the second half and drawing 9 free throws, hitting 7. He seemed to sense when the game could be turned and tried to do something about it.
The rest of the supporting cast shall not be spoken of, other than to mention that combined they hit only 7 shots out of 26 taken. Most of the flaws that you already know about with each individual came out tonight. Or, put another way, Brandon Roy had 9 more points than Trevor Ariza, Houston's leading scorer tonight. LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller each finished with 1 less point than the second and third leading scorers respectively. That left Portland +7 in their top three, and this despite career-like nights from the Houston guys. We took their best blow, responded and then some. But their ancillary players outplayed ours. Part of it was effort. Part of it was overall dependability. Part of it was that their supporting cast got better shots in the flow of the offense while ours went one-on-one because they broke down our team defense more than we broke theirs. But any way you slice it this wasn't a good way to lose.
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