Recap: Portland Blazers 105, Houston Rockets 95

Last night, I observed that the game against Atlanta was one we should have lost.  Tonight, this was a game we should have won.  However, the Rockets came undone less to the mistakes of youth and instead more to sheer fatigue.

If there had been anything to worry about James Harden’s performance for the last few games, it was the amount of minutes that he logged.  44 and 40 minutes respectively is not even remotely sustainable, and for that to occur on the first game of a back to back just meant that it was probable that he would come back to earth on the second game.

For better or for worse, he did.  Harden started off extremely strong, scoring 6-10 for 15 points, but from there one could see the effects of fatigue on him throughout the entire game.  He missed three pointers and stopped driving quite as much as he normally does, and a stretch where he missed four consecutive layups over the game served to emphasize this problem.  Still, he finished with 8-24 with 24 points on the day, and while it was not a game to be remembered, but the fact that he still managed to score 24 points on what was ultimately an incredibly ugly game between two tired teams (Lamarcus Aldridge was even worse from an efficiency standpoint, needing 29 shots to score 27 points) ended up in a highly irritating Rockets defeat.  Houston led for most of the way and managed to come back to take a six point lead midway through the 4th quarter, but the offense broke down to nothing more than the one play Mr. Drexler seems to know, “the high pick and roll,” and Harden isolations which ended poorly.  Combined with hot Blazer shooting in the overtime period, the Rockets gave away a game which truly would have energized the fanbase in their home opener.

Still, there are plenty of encouraging signs to be taken away from this defeat.  First and foremost should be the contributions from the bench.  While one should temper his expectations with the knowledge that Portland’s bench is even worse than ours (as can be proven by the mere fact that Jared Jeffries actually played serious minutes at all), the Kansas duo of Morris and Aldrich played significantly well on the offensive end.  Aldrich demonstrated some serious post moves such as a spin to the basket past a befuddled Meyers Leonard and had another spectacular dunk.  Morris in the meantime had a good all-around game as he hustled, played defense, and finished with 13 points.  Even Douglas, while as offensively incompetent as usual, managed to play good defense and prevent Mr. Lin from playing 40 minutes a night again.  In addition, the team is clearly showing signs of defensive cohesion as Patterson and Asik make a very good defensive frontcourt (offense is a much, much different story as they repeatedly flubbed layups) and Lin contributed with his usual steals.

While the goal of 82-0 may be broken, the Rockets will have three days off before they face off against their toughest opponent yet in Denver.  Hopefully, the rest and some practices will help create better cohesion against a team that currently still suffers from lapses in discipline.

  • There may be players I may despise more, but there are few players who personally irritate me in this league as much as Nicolas Batum, which is all the more unreasonable given that it is for reasons completely beyond his control.  All fanbases have the tendency to massively overrate their young prospects, which combined with the rabid fervor of Portland fans, served to elevate the young player’s trade value and discussion about their potential to ludicrous heights.  Batum was the unfortunate victim of this phenomenon, where Blazers fans and their management at one point seemed to hesitate including him in a theoretical trade for Chris Paul.  Batum is far from alone (Rodrigue Beaubois and currently Derrick Favors are the latest targets of my irritation), but that sort of overrating of potential has always given me a sour taste in my mouth regarding him.  However, their reasons can be understood when one examines his play as well as the fact that the Blazers seem to win or lose depending on his consistency.  Tonight, he played well, shooting 4-6 from the 3 point line including one which gave the Blazers in overtime.  Batum ultimately was the difference between the Blazers’ first and second halves.
  • One may understand it when Marcus Morris begins shooting three pointers (though not in the volume that he tried against Atlanta), but it is a different matter when Patrick Patterson does it.  Patterson did possess a semblance of a 3 point shot at Kentucky, and he clearly is attempting this with the favor of Coach McHale.  Still, the fact that he is only 1 for 6 for the season makes you wonder whether this is the best solution, as Asik cannot be expected to rebound the ball against two players.  While Patterson’s field goal percentage and +/- may suggest that he was terrible, he and Asik combined to generally hound Aldridge throughout the game and especially in the 4th quarter.
  • While it was hardly a surprise, it is good to see the crowd energized for the home opener.  Houston, for better or for worse, is a bandwagon city in the field of sports, as merely a quick glance at the Astros can reveal.  Still, while this team is not going to be winning any rings this year, it is a team that has a clear direction and clear upside, and that should hopefully be enough to attract new fans.  Combine that with the fact that our two stars are easy to identify and market for completely different reasons and one can hope that even in a year where this city will be consumed by title hopes in football, there will be those who can pay attention to the Rockets.

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Total comments: 11
  • sircharles says 3 months ago 95-85.
  • Adi1008 says 3 months ago Was the game 105-95 or 95-85? ESPN, Google, Houston Chronicle, and Bing Sports all say it was 95-85.
  • Johnny Rocket says 3 months ago I totally agree with the consensus here--fatigue, lack of depth, poor shooting, and lack of practice time were key in this loss. We do indeed lack depth, especially at PG, but in the medium-term I am not at all concerned. If there is one thing we know about Morey, it is his talent for finding inexpensive but solid role players. This year's team is the mirror-image of last year's team--depth was one of our strengths last year, while this year it is having an all-star (bordering on superstar) in the line-up. It is amazing how our-long term prospects are now so much brighter.
  • feelingsupersonic says 3 months ago I don't see how this is a McHale third quarter problem. It is debatable that inserting more inexperienced bench players (rookies) would have just made the loss much uglier and I believe that is no way to assimilate them into quality on court time that can lead to good team building.

    To me I saw poor shooting (35%) on regular buckets probably due to fatigue. I saw too many 3's attempted (also due to fatigue) and missed (19%). At the stripe the Rockets shot 66%. None of those dismal stats and the story they tell have anything to do with Mchale.

    It might be really simple though. Barkley might say live by the 3 die by the 3.
  • Rahat Huq says 3 months ago Could not agree with you any more on Batum, Paul. Nothing has driven me more crazier in years past. The past few years, almost any time a superstar has been on the market, its almost inevitable that news would be leaked that the Blazers had rejected a deal for said player on account of not wanting to part with Batum. It was almost to the point where you felt it was some intentional leak for the purpose of driving him up as a player.
  • Jeby says 3 months ago Don't know if I've ever seen a game that was so disappointing overall, but so encouraging in the particulars.
    We blew a game that we should have won, and we continued with McHale's trademarked third quarter collapse.
    On the other hand, MMorris is proving the doubters/haters wrong (I'm one of them), which is great to see. James Harden had a "bad" night where he put up 24/6/5. You know how many other guys that would be a "bad" night for? Kobe, LeBron, and Durant. That's the list (No Melo. If Melo has five assists in one night, then you know he only did it by accident).
    And the way we lost is easier to stomach than a lot of the losses last year. Last night we were buried by a hot streak of threes (PDX shot 40%, we shot 19%). Last season we would lose because the other team would stop playing around with about five minues left and start waltzing into the lane for layups (hey, Luis). Thank God those days are over.
  • Brookaveli says 3 months ago Bigtkirk - I agree about our weaknesses.

    Assuming that a good or max chunk of our remaining cap space is put towards a stud PF, we aren't going to need so many on our roster, so it seems likely that 2 or 3 of the current group are shipped out. Is it possible that 2Pat and MM are being highlighted now because these are the guys we'd like to trade? We are going to have a heck of a time asking other teams to accept trade value in guys who have been given 0 minutes. Normally I wouldn't expect McHale to coach in a way that facilitates Morey's strategy (McHale has always seemed like he is coaching to win today), but I thought I'd throw it out there.
  • Sir Thursday says 3 months ago @Brook: Yeah, IIRC they rejected an Amare-Hickson trade straight up (or at least, that's what was reported). Hickson then got traded to Sacramento where he couldn't even get on the court...

    Tonight's game was all about fatigue. Harden missed at least 6 layups that he would normally have made, and any one of them would have won us the game in regulation. It's a clear sign going forwards that McHale must ration Harden's minutes a bit more. 37-38 minutes a night is probably sustainable, but nothing more.

  • Brookaveli says 3 months ago Great point about Batum being overrated by his fanbase, although I'd say they have been in love with him for several years and at least he appears to be continuing to improve. J.J. Hickson on the other hand.... remember when Cleveland wouldn't include Hickson in trade talks back when they were desperate to win in hopes of keeping LeBron?
  • Bigtkirk says 3 months ago The lack of solid backups at PG and SG, and McHale's reluctance to develop the Rocket's rookies, are going to be this team's biggest problems. Delfino is a one-trick pony and Douglas is a below replacement level PG.
  • Dan G says 3 months ago For the second straight day I did not get to watch the game and it was a disappointing loss especially since it was our home opener, but those type of games are bound to happen. It didn't help our home opener was on the second day of a back to back, but Portland had a game last night as well although their stars have not been receiving as many minutes as ours.

    Morris did indeed build on his good performance from last night and with PPat back from injury and in the starting lineup, Morris has now become the most consistent scorer off our bench, which is surprising and good news. The only thing I wish now is for the Rockets to once again experiment with playing Morris at the 3 and giving Jones, Motie or White some minutes as the backup 4.

    I am glad to see the crowd energized for the home opener as well and I hope this enthusiasm continues. I just hope it wasn't a case of opening night nostalgia and in the coming home games the crowd will start to dwindle down.

    I agree Houston is pretty much a bandwagon city, but to me the Astros are a different story. I actually like baseball more than basketball and to see what has become of the Astros is sickening and frightening. The Stros used to have around $115 million in payroll and now it is down to around $20 million. Granted the Astros are still paying significant amount of money to some of the veterans they traded away like Carlos Lee, but their payroll for who is currently left on the roster is around $20 million. I know they are trying to rebuild their farm system and I understand their overall strategy, but in order to put butts in the seats (and in particular mine), they need to have someone on the team that people want to pay good money to see. The more of those guys they get the more butts that will suddenly appear in seats. It's not rocket science. The closest thing the Astros have to a main attraction is Jose Altuve. I love the guy but at this stage he doesn't exactly scream main attraction to me and many Houstonians agree. I don't care how they get more watchable players whether they get them through the farm system, through trades or through free agency, but it is hard to watch a team lose nearly every night with very little hope of them getting better in the next few years.

    I'll get off my soapbox about the Astros for now, but I guess my main point is I will start watching or attending Astro games when they once again can at least beat AAA teams on a consistent basis. For now though, I am really excited about the direction of both the Rockets and the Texans are going, so those are the teams I will direct my main attention to.
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