The Rockets lost another close one Wednesday night, this time against the red hot Portland Trailblazers, 89-87. Although Portland has now won 5 in a row, if you looked at the Rockets’ schedule before this 5-game road trip started, you would think this is the one they would have to win because the Blazers werer still the weakest of all the teams on the trip.
The Rockets just got outplayed defensively. Portland had 8 blocks against Houston, the most I can remember against them in quite some time. Meanwhile, Portland’s Jarrett Jack (13 points) and Brandon Roy (9 points) did just enough to put them over the hump with a few big plays, including Roy’s tough shot driving toward the rim with 19.9 seconds remaining that put them up 86-82.
The Rockets were down 70-60 headed into the fourth quarter, and they made a run to get it close down the stretch. With about 41 seconds remaining and the Rockets behind 84-82, Luther Head had a chance to tie it, but he missed a fairly close jumper at the corner of the paint.
To me, that’s what it really boiled down to – the Rockets needing a basket to put big pressure on Portland to respond, but falling short. That’s what great team do, and the Rockets haven’t had much of that lately on this road trip with T-Mac out because of his back problems. Yao will always have a few opportunities in crunch time to do it, but when he’s double-teamed and the Rockets need a player to create his own shot off the dribble with the pressure on, they don’t have that.
The same thing almost happened Sunday in LA when they blew a lead against the Clippers and had a terrible possession at the end of the game that looked like the Keystone Cops, but got lucky when they were bailed out with a foul during a loose ball chase.
Yao continued to showe his dominance, scoring 34 points (17 in the third quarter alone), grabbing 9 boards and blocking 5 shots. But he did only score 4 points in the fourth quarter as Portland played pretty good defense on him.
Other than that, nothing stands out in the boxscore for the Rockets. Chuck Hayes scored zilch, Shane Battier scored two, Juwan Howard scored 8, and Bonzi Wells (6 points) missed 8-of-10 shots, which really hurt. If he could have made just 1 or 2 shots in the final couple of minutes, which you hope to get from an offensive force like him, the Rockets could have won a game that was there for the taking.
Click here for the game story from the Houston Chronicle.