It’s not hard to picture the Rose Garden faithful chanting Goran Dragic’s name. Much like Gerald Wallace or Marcus Camby previously, Dragic’s name is just asking to be followed by a “clap clap, clap clap clap.” Seeing as how Dragic has been linked to the Blazers as a potential free agent acquisition, it wouldn’t have been surprising if Blazer fans started the recruitment process early and got the chant going tonight.
When the options are cheering for the opposing point guard or Raymond Felton, the choice is pretty clear.
Goran is not the miracle answer, of course, but watching a player fight his way through a game is a welcome change. Felton, at the first sight of a screen being set on him while on defense, routinely just stopped playing tonight. He planted his feet, left LaMarcus Aldridge to try and guard two opposing players on the pick and roll, and often the defense was unable to shift and recover.
There was one stretch with about four minutes left in the third quarter that was absolutely maddening. On successive trips, Felton just stopped on defense entirely. Not even a step in the direction of the ball. Four easy points for the Rockets, and Felton found himself riding the pine shortly thereafter.
“We have to understand that we have to get it on the defensive end of the floor, not the offensive end,” said coach Kaleb Canales. “We didn’t play consistent defense for forty-eight minutes tonight.”
Tonight’s loss does not rest on Felton’s shoulders, though—he just usually provides the most glaring examples. What it really comes down to is effort. And the Rockets have effort in spades.
Just look at Houston’s roster. It’s comprised of late round picks and cast-offs and spare parts and Luis Scola. There’s not a star among the bunch, let alone a player most casual NBA fans could name. And yet they are playing out of their minds, in the thick of the Western Conference playoff hunt.
They are a well oiled machine, one where everyone has a very specific and defined role. They play within themselves, are excellent passers, and are going to give some team in the playoffs serious fits.
The Blazers are currently comprised of quite a few spare parts as well, they just lack the same fluidity and efficiency as a team like the Rockets. They haven’t found that balance. After nearly sixty games, it’s safe to say they won’t this year, either.
On a night where Nicolas Batum sat due to injury, Jamal Crawford started in his place and went four for fourteen from the floor. Wesley Matthews finished three for twelve, including one for six from distance. The bench didn’t fare much better, their collective plus/minus numbers headache inducing.
Tonight seemed to be the night where it finally sunk in for Portland that the playoffs were out of reach. The hope is gone, the fight dead. They didn’t roll over, but they sure didn’t care afterwards either.
The players were in and out of the locker room with nothing to say, interviews dying out before they even began.
There are only eight more games left for the Blazers this year, a number that is surely on the front of each of their minds. Just a few more weeks before this lost season is completed, a few more games until some much needed rest.