The injured Portland Trail Blazers could not manage a beautiful game tonight versus the Houston Rockets. He played a terrific quarter, took a big lead, then overcome it with a poor defense. When the chips were down, they moved to their old standby, three-point shots. He, and Damian Lillard’s 30 points kept Portland alive through the final seconds of the game, but in the end, they fell short of the final score of 104-101.
Derrick Jones, Jr. ruled the first quarter. High flying dunks were the beginning of this. He captured the Rebonds, interrupted the pass, and was an active component in the Portland attack. When Jones, Jr. was not destroying the rocket with energy, Damian Lillard did it from the perimeter. 10 points from the Dame in the first 8 minutes put Portland up 25-8. This was the first time a quarter was easy for him in at least two weeks. Lillard would finish with 13 points and 3 assists in the frame and the Blazers led 32–17 after one.
Unfortunately, the second unit could not accelerate early in the second quarter. The bench developed into bunch isolation or one-pass offense. Missed his shots. Rescue was not much better. The Rockets had to move down to the 5:30 mark. Lillard stopped the bleeding with a checkup, an assist and a small three. They ended up with defending centers inside the perimeter and defenders. He… is not going to work. Add in 11 fast break points for Houston — the value of an entire game in a period — and you can see that Portland’s former 20-point slipped. By halftime, Houston led 53–50 and it was a ballgame.
The story was not much better early in the third. Portland’s defense was abject; Houston increased its lead. Three-point shooting from Lillard and Gary Trent, Jr. kept the Blazers alive, but Portland fans were holding their breath, hoping it would catch on. It’s almost done. Held on the Blazers, mostly 28 points behind Lillard through three. They finished fourth with 77–86.
Inaugurating the fourth featured Trent, Jr. stepped in with a pair, bringing Portland back into it. For a while the margin fluctuated between 1–4 points. The good thing for Portland was that Lillard was on the bench during that period. The Blazers continued to throw, but did not defend them well. Jones, Jr. went down with an ankle sprain, which also increased Portland’s perimeter defense. But when it loses it is hard to lose. Trent and Anferney Simmons made sure they did.
Houston’s lead fell one point behind the 2:00 mark as the scoring went back and forth. It was there just past the 1:00 mark. Victor Oladipo, with 26 seconds left, made a jump on the Anse Kneeter, putting the Blazers down. Trent had a chance to return the favor on the next possession, but layoffs would not occur. After a foul and free throws, Simmons hit a three, but only 3 seconds remained on the clock. Portland was the only one, but there was not enough time for dishonesty and a good possession. After Houston was thrown free, the Blazers had 2 seconds left for the tied three. He was shot all night by a failure in the end as Simmons played a deep three balls. Portland did a good job keeping themselves in that position, but they still fell short.
Guards and Threes was the story of the game Lillard scored 30 runs in 5–11 shooting. Trent, Jr. put up 23 points, making 7 of 13 points. Simmons contributed 14, shooting 4-9 on the triple. Between them they hit 16 stars, scoring 17–41 for Portland night.
Shooting 41.5% from distance is enough to win most of the game, but the Blazers stayed out, did not foul, and allowed Houston a 9-point lead at the foul line. It made a difference.
Saturday night at 5 pm at the Chicago Bulls in The Blazers Windy City; 00, goes to the Pacific.