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Blazers Fly High, Crash Land in Houston

Portland blows a 20-point first quarter lead en route to a 104-101 loss to the Rockets, despite a fine showing from the starting backcourt.

Portland Trail Blazers v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

The Portland Trail Blazers suffered a disappointing loss to the new-look Houston Rockets on Thursday, blowing a 20-point first quarter advantage in the 104-101 defeat. The game went down to the wire, but was ultimately lost in the second quarter, when the Blazers were outscored 36-18 thanks to an energized Rockets attack.

Damian Lillard and Gary Trent Jr. combined for 53 points for Portland, but didn’t get enough help from the rest of the depleted lineup. Houston was led by the 25 points of newly acquired Victor Oladipo, who hit a late second-chance layup to help seal the win.

First Quarter

The Blazers jumped out to a hot start, starting the game on an 8-0 run as the Rockets started 0-7 from the field and didn’t score until the eight-minute mark. Portland looked to get everyone involved, as their first five shots were hit by five different players. As the Rockets launched enough bricks to build a small dwelling, the Blazers kept their foot on the gas offensively—led by an aggressive Lillard—who had 13 points in the frame.

At the end of the game’s opening stanza, Portland held a 32-17 advantage, with Houston going just 7-25 from the field, including a paltry 2-16 from three-point land.

Second Quarter

Portland’s offense stalled in the opening minutes with the second unit in the game, allowing the Rockets to quickly pull within single digits. Houston’s up-tempo attack was able to take advantage of a lackluster Blazers defense as their shots started to fall and they attacked the rim with ease. Portland’s struggles continued as the starters begin to check back in, as turnovers exasperated an already cold offense.

Christian Wood and John Wall were particularly effective for the Rockets, who trimmed the once 20-point deficit to a single point by the three-minute mark, and took their first lead of the game a minute later. Houston was up 53-50 as the halftime buzzer sounded.

Third Quarter

The Rockets came out confident to start the second half, quickly extending the margin to double-digits as the Blazers struggled to find a rhythm on either end of the floor. Momentum started to shift around the seven-minute mark, as a string of defensive stops and back-to-back triples from Trent Jr. pulled Portland back within a single possession.

The Rockets were able to stop the bleeding, however, taking advantage of a sagging Blazers defense looking to contain the drive, but giving up far too much space for the Houston shooters in the process. When the dust settled, the Rockets took an 86-77 lead into the last 12 minutes of action.

Fourth Quarter

Portland started the frame on an 11-0 run as Trent caught fire with three consecutive three-pointers. The teams then went back-and-forth as the game’s intensity increased. The Blazers ratcheted up the defensive pressure, despite Derrick Jones Jr. not being able to finish out the game due to a reported foot strain. The Rockets held a one-point lead with just a minute remaining, and were able to take advantage of a key offensive rebound from P.J. Tucker, leading to a Victor Oladipo layup to push the lead to three with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game.

On the ensuing Blazers possession, Trent missed a contested layup. After Wood split a pair of free throws, Anfernee Simons hit a clutch three to pull Portland back within one with three seconds on the clock. Eric Gordon connected on a pair of free throws, setting up one final chance for the Blazers to tie the game. Simons’ attempt missed everything, and the Rockets held on for the 104-101 victory.

Notes and Observations

  • Portland’s second unit struggled mightily to find a rhythm offensively in the second quarter, allowing the Rockets to race down after a miss before the Blazers defense knew what hit them. Houston had 15 fast break points in the pivotal frame, and came out with energy defensively despite the early deficit.
  • While the Rockets only shot 28% from three—usually a recipe for a Blazers victory—they did almost half their damage in the point, with very little resistance. Houston had 46 paint points, as Wall and Oladipo were able able to get to the rim pretty much whenever they wanted.
  • Carmelo Anthony had a dreadful night, going 3-15 from the field and giving up far too much space on defense. Despite a hot start, Enes Kanter wasn’t able to do enough offensively to make up for his own defensive deficiencies. He overpowered Wood early, but the Blazers stopped going to him as the game wore on, while Wood took advantage on the other end of the floor.
  • Anfernee Simons looked rough early, but contributed some clutch moments to keep Portland in the game late, while also pulling down eight rebounds. His scoring has been stellar, but running the offense in the second unit continues to be a struggle as he adjusts to an expanded role.
  • Derrick Jones Jr., who played hurt (and left hurt), looked solid over his 27 minutes. His offensive role continues to expand, as he reached double-digit scoring for the third time in the last five games.

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Portland’s road trip continues on Saturday as they take on the Chicago Bulls. The game is scheduled for 5 p.m. PT at the United Center.