In a Nutshell
The Blazers rebound strong, run, and hit the paint hard for a by-the-numbers pasting of the Rockets. Aside for a few moments in the second period the game never looks out of Portland's control.
This game started on slightly shaky ground for the Blazers as Houston moved the ball and got inside early in the first period while Portland went 1-on-1, perimeter, or both. A layup each for LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller were the only Blazer conversions within 15 feet in the first six minutes of the game. But Houston only rode the advantage to a 14-10 lead, in part because the Blazers stayed solid on the boards, a refrain which would repeat throughout the evening. With rebounding as a stubborn, un-greased fulcrum the teeter-totter could only swing so far. A slight improvement on interior defense was enough to shift the balance towards Portland. A couple of Blazer threes fell, the Rockets missed shots but got a last-second three from Aaron Brooks, and Portland walked away with a 27-25 lead after one.
The second period started sloppy for both teams. Each took care of the ball like they were allergic to it, foisting turnover after turnover towards the opposition. Patty Mills had three steals on three consecutive possessions in less than a minute at the 7:50 mark of the period. This was the gooey center in the delicious sandwich cookie that was his quarter. He scored before and after the triple-thefts, notching 9 points and an assist in a little over 7 minutes of play. The Blazer bench has been frightening of late but on the odd occasion that they do produce it makes the team plenty dangerous. Portland built a 10-point lead deep in the second. Only a late-period barrage from Kevin Martin kept the Rockets afloat. Still the Blazers led by 6, 54-48, at intermission.
The third period was pivotal to the game as the Blazers choked out Houston's offense, rebounded like a pack of drunken divorcées, and started taking their offense on the run and/or inside. Of the 25 points the Blazers scored in the quarter, a Nicolas Batum three provided the only ones that came outside of 5 feet. In the four-minute stretch between 6:00 and 2:00 Portland went on a 12-0 run, effectively finishing the Rockets for the game. (Houston scored only 14 in the entire period themselves.) The Rockets either turned over the ball directly or indirectly via long jumpers and easy Blazer rebounds. Every Blazer on the floor seemed invested in administering a communal spanking and the Rockets took it and asked for more. The Blazers led by 17, 79-62, after three.
Any hope for a Rockets run in the fourth died early when Patrick Mills and Dante Cunningham made back-to-back steals which got converted for dunks. Both teams put it in cruise control (fun for the Blazers, dejected for the Rockets) through the rest of the game and Portland emerged with a 100-85 victory.
The offensive continuity evidenced in previous games came through again, but the Blazers looked equally tight on the other end this game. Portland suffered some leakage, but it was isolated and minor. The Rockets just never got consistent traction. The Blazers are doing a better job defending perimeter players this year than they have since time immemorial. Against a team like this, that's 3/4 of the ballgame.
LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast again tonight, scoring 25 on 10-22 shooting, ripping down 11 boards, and defending well and widely while committing no personal fouls against a team that lives by drawing them. He's so active nowadays that it's almost starting to look unremarkable. Compare it to tapes from a season ago, though. Super effort.
Patty Mills may have stolen the show but Nicolas Batum proved a strong guest star, scoring 21 on 8-12 shooting. How about next game too?
OK, let's get to Mills. 6-12 shooting, 14 points, 5 steals, and 5 assists in 23 minutes. He changed the game in the second quarter and continued the barrage when he got back in late. He thoroughly outplayed once-superstar-to-be Aaron Brooks, at least for this game. And by "thoroughly" I mean "took him to the cleaners, got a claims ticket, and then ate it 'cuz he wasn't coming back for rags".
You expect Marcus Camby's 13 rebounds. You might expect Marcus Camby's 3 blocks. But 8 assists? Was that Andre Miller's line?
It was not. Miller had 7 with 6 rebounds. He only had 3 points but riddle me this: did the Blazers look better late last year when Andre was scoring 20+ in many games and standing out like a sore thumb or do the Blazers look better now when he's not generating eye-catching point totals but everybody else around him is?
Wes Money was one of the few Blazers who had a rough night, shooting only 3-12 for 14 points. He drew 7 foul shots and converted them all. He added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. More importantly Kevin Martin, Houston's uber-scorer and Matthews' counterpart, scored only 15 himself.
Rudy Fernandez also went through a tough shooting night, going 4-13 and missing 5 of 7 threes attempted. He appeared to be a reluctant shooter tonight, though he did have fun on a couple attempted drives. That means he was an eager passer though. He scored 10.
Dante Cunningham also scored 10 with 3 steals and a block in 23 minutes. His sneakers should say Stella because it looks like he's got his groove back.
Stats of the Night
- Portland 46 points in the paint, Houston 28
- Kevin Martin 6-17 shooting, 15 points
- Only 2 Rockets--Chase Budinger and Luis Scola--shot decent percentages. Budinger went 4-6, Scola 5-8. That left a lot of bad Houston shots.
- Blazers 29 assists on 38 made shots
- Houston attempts only 75 shots total
Odd Notes and Links
The Dream Shake is no doubt having a rough night.
See your Jersey Contest scoreboard here and enter Tuesday's game there.