Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports

In Depth Recap: Houston Rockets 104 – Portland Trail Blazers 111


Rockets lose tough contest in the House that Bowie Built. Oh and Joey Crawford sucks, but what else is new.

I’m going to format this recap a little differently than usual because it was a unique game. It was a disappointing loss with many mistakes and missteps on the Rockets’ part but at the same time there were some blindingly bright spots. So a short recap and then I’m going to talk shop for a while.

The Skinny

Two of the highest scoring teams met for tonight’s game but in the 1st quarter really neither of them looked like they had done this whole “basketball” thing before. However it seemed as though each team struggled for a different reason. The Rockets struggled with their shooting because the Trail Blazers were closing out on shots insanely well. The Blazers struggled with their shots just because that sometimes happens in basketball. It wasn’t that the Rockets defense was atrocious but they really didn’t force many mistakes. The poor shooting plagued both teams all the way through the 1st half.

One of the offensive themes of the night was that there wasn’t going to be very many easy shots. The Blazers played hard in transition and on the perimeter. They challenged Dwight Howard to make them pay down low and he collected like a pissed off loan shark. This will be something I highlight later but Dwight played the post like AN ACTUAL POST PLAYER and it was a lot of fun to watch. I wonder if there was an “ah ha!” moment in all of this for him.

The second quarter was much of the same and I’m sure the national audience was thinking to themselves “I wonder if Jack In The Box is closed…” Which is silly because of course it’s not, I just checked on my way home. Jack, you really nailed it on the halfsies fries idea, solid stuff yet again. Despite how slow and plodding everything felt, the Rockets gritted their way to a one-point lead at half time. The Rockets only had 8 turnovers but really I look at that as a negative. Their offense never moved fast enough to make the type of mistakes we are used to seeing so therefore less turnovers.

The 3rd quarter started with a 3-pointer from Chandler Parsons who had struggled the whole night (6-18 overall) and for a second you thought “Here, we, go.” Buuuuut that turned into an 11-0 run by the Blazers and the Rose Garden was bumping.

With more extremely gritty offensive play from Howard and Harden we were able to pull it back to even by the end of the 3rd. Most of the night Harden threw himself at the basket trying to create some positive plays and it worked in the 3rd.

At this point it is appropriate to mention LaMarcus Aldridge, because he was fantastic tonight (31pts, 25rbs). Houston really only made their runs when he went out of the game. Sampson played Harden and Howard over 40 minutes because if they weren’t in the game, we got absolutely killed on both ends. LMA hit shot after shot and fought for boards against the rest of the Rockets while Dwight had his hands full with Robin Lopez. A transcendent performance from LMA.

At the beginning of the 4th, Sampson finally sat Howard and Harden, so the Blazers took advantage. The Rockets never really dug themselves out after that. Portland got the lead to 12 and that was all she wrote. Howard finished with 32 points and 17 rebounds and quite possibly his best game of the season while Harden picked up 25 points and 7 assists.

Positives

Dwight Howard’s post game

Dwight Howard did something tonight that I don’t think he has had a chance to do all season. He was able to use post move counters. He executed his initial post moves so well that we was then able to play a mind game with Robin Lopez and use counter moves to get Lopez out of position. If you watch old tape of Kevin Mchale and Hakeem, you see this type of thing all the time. They execute their predictable moves at the beginning of the game so that they can set up counter moves later in the game. Hit a hook shot a couple times then the third time fake the hook, switch pivots and go with an up and under. The fourth time fake the hook then fake the up and under then spin baseline for the reverse layup. Once you counter enough times the defensive player has to stay on the ground and that gives you more room for the shot that started it all, the hook shot. Dwight wasn’t doing it on Mchale and Hakeem level yet but you could see the gears spinning in his movements.

Beverley’s Defense

Patrick Beverley rendered Damian Lillard completely useless. Covered him like a Cliff Paul insurance policy. Unfortunately Pat provided one of the game negatives as well.

 

Negatives

 

Not having Omer Asik

All this talk about trading Omer Asik is killing me. I honestly don’t believe there is a realistically available player that is anywhere near as valuable as Omer Asik. If we didn’t have Omer Asik I think we would be hoping to acquire a player of his caliber to help this team. BUT WE DON’T HAVE TO BECAUSE HE IS ALREADY HERE FOLKS. Nobody has a team like ours when he is healthy and tonight we needed him badly. LMA ate Terrence Jones alive while during the last matchup Asik damn near shut him down.  I do not think Greg Smith can handle any such backup center duties and honestly without Asik, I think a 1st round playoff exit is completely realistic. On top of all this, if we trade him for picks and no immediate talent I might lose my damn mind. I see value in players like Thadeus Young but I see more in Asik. Alright I’m done.

Not having Kevin Mchale

All of Red Nation and House of Houston send our condolences to Kevin Mchale and his family tonight. He has had a rough year and in the grand scheme of things basketball is still just a game. It did hurt not having him out there tonight I think. I tend to think that Sampson gets caught up in the moment occasionally and isn’t always able to think clearly towards the ends of tight games. Maybe I’m giving Mchale to much credit when I say this but I think he would have made much better personnel moves tonight. If Jeremy Lin wasn’t on a minutes cap then he should have been playing most of that 4th quarter. Beverley had served his purpose defensively but was atrocious on offense and really struggled even getting the ball to the height of the rim. Howard was totally gassed with about 3 minutes left in the 4th and I think his minutes could have been managed better as well.

 

Well 1100 words later that’s all I have on tonight’s contest. What did you think of the game? Share in the comments.

The statistical knitty gritty is here.

The Rockets do it again Friday (today?) against the Warriors at 9:30PM CST.

 

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