The Blazers started this game fairly well. Portland looked to be playing with energy and Aldridge seemed intent on getting into the paint. Portland jumped on Houston early, shooting 55% from the field for the first quarter and only allowing Houston 33%. Portland ended the quarter up by 10. However, that lead quickly evaporated as Portland started settling for jump shots and ended up shooting just 26% from the field in the second quarter. The Blazers were unable to slow down the penetration of the Houston point guards which lead to Houston doubling Portland’s field goal percentage at 52% and getting to the line 11 times. Both teams went to the locker rooms thinking that they were tied at 49 apiece, however, earlier in the game the officials had thought that there was an error in how many team fouls the Rockets had when Aldridge had been fouled earlier and awarded Aldridge two free throws to make up for it. Aldridge sank both shots and Portland took the ball out of bounds. Upon review, the original team foul count was correct and the free throws were waived off. Portland came back to the floor down two points 47-49.
During Halftime I received the report that Kyle Lowry had sprained his left knee and would not return. Since Lowry had scored 11 points in the first half, it seemed like this news might bode well for Portland’s chances. However, Scola and Brooks combined for 19 points in the third quarter and led by 13 with 3:22 to go, a flurry by the Blazers lead by Blake and Fernandez’s shooting cut the lead to 3 with 44.9 on the clock. Portland allowed an offensive rebound and turned the ball over twice in 44 seconds and the Rockets capitalized by scoring four unanswered points bringing the Rockets lead to seven going into the fourth quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Carl Landry shot 12 free throws and scored 15 points. As a team, Portland shot five total free throws. Rudy Fernandez scored 13 points in the fourth on some very clutch three point shooting, but no one else could step up enough and the Blazers never got closer than down two points. Houston outscored Portland nine to two on second chance points in the fourth quarter and paraded to the foul line even before Portland started fouling to stop the clock. As Jason Quick said, this is Exhibit A for why Portland needs a center. Blazers lose 100-104.
Looking at the HoopData boxscore for the game, Houston wasn’t especially dominant in any particular area other than from the free throw line, where Houston had more than double Portland’s attempts. In fact, Houston made more free throws than Portland attempted. That's all folks. Portland battled back valiantly, but the story of the night was free throws. Before you can make them, you have to take them.
Before the game I asked Nicolas Batum whether running the point for the French national team has helped his game. He replied:
“Last year I just played mostly defense, and this summer I played more in the offense and that really helped my offensive game.”
Apparently, Batum wasn’t kidding. Batum dished out a career high five assists and pulled down nine rebounds. In the last three games Batum has played at a very high level, especially for coming off an injury. If he can continue anywhere near this level of production, Portland will be in good shape at Small Forward.
Before the game I also spoke to Rudy Fernandez
On his back injury:
“Feels good, feels great, right now, you know, I need conditioning, but yes I’m ready to play hard and I’m back.”
On whether he feels more pressure to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim with Roy out:
“You, know it depends on the situation in the game but probably yes I focus more on going to the basket and staying aggressive against a read, you know. But probably when Brandon is on the floor, Brandon he needs a little more space so I go to the corner and get ready for the shot.”
On whether his injury weighs in the back of his mind on aggressive drives:
“I don’t want to think about my injuries, you know? Because I need to focus on my play and on my game. For sure, sometimes I think about it and I am scared (to make an aggressive move) but I feel great and I can play like Rudy Fernandez.”
On whether the back injury came from the Ariza foul last season:
“Probably, because it’s in the same zone (as the Ariza injury) but I just forget about that and focus on the regular season and my recovery.”
Coach McMillan Post game Interview
On late game execution:
“Well you know it’s a lot of timely possessions throughout a ball game, certainly late, that make a difference, you don’t get some rebounds and certainly that last possession was a big possession but there were probably two or three of those in this 4th quarter where we made runs, we played good defense but they out worked us getting to some of these balls. Making those plays down the stretch is the difference between winning and losing you gotta make those things happen by working your behind off to rebound that ball, beating guys to the spot, and then you get down on the offensive end, executing, making shots when we have them and take care of the ball. We just had some timely possessions where we didn't run down some balls, we had a breakdown when we went for some steals and they got a layup and then we had a couple turnovers.”
On struggles against point guards the last few games:
“We’re not guarding these point guards the last couple games guards have just blown by us and that is on our guard and guys who are guarding the ball.
It starts on the ball and the weak side has to come over, but some of these blow bys, the weakside doesn’t have enough time to get by and right now we’re not guarding anybody. This team shot 43 free throws so they were in the penalty early which put us on our heels, so we had to go to a zone and that allowed us to get back into the game, but we’ve got to bend our knees and guard somebody.
Right now we haven’t gotten our unit to play well. We’ve gotten 3 or 4 guys to play well but were just not having both units to play well and that’s not good enough.”
On Landry down the stretch:
“I thought we played good defense and late in the shot clock we allowed deep post position as opposed to fronting him and denying the catch. I think it was about 3-4 possessions where the defense was pretty good, we kept him on the outside and then late we played behind and gave him deep post-up position and most of the time he scored, you gotta make plays defensively the game plan was to deny both him and Scola, certainly when the shot clock is running out.”
“I know I’m not a center but I just try to do things we need, that a center would do. It’s going to be a little bit harder because it not in my nature but I’m going to what it takes to win”
On scoring 14 points in the first half and just six points in the second:
“I got off to a slow start in the third I was kind of tired, but then I got my wind back in the late third early fourth and then they started double teaming me. When I started to find my rhythm again, they started double teaming me so I just had to make the right pass.”
On whether he was making a conscious effort to get into the paint and to the foul line:
“Yeah because that’s what we need, without a center I’ve got to try to be that guy in the paint trying to get to the line and be that presence down low and it worked out for us, they started double teaming and we started getting open looks on the perimeter.”