Everyone knew Game 2 between the Rockets and Blazers was going to be a much closer game than the blowout win by Houston in Game 1. The question was who would make plays down the stretch and who wouldn’t. That’s really the main question in a series where the teams are evenly matched like they are in this one.
As expected, the game was tied 72-72 entering the fourth quarter. Houston made 9-of-18 shots in that quarter, which isn’t bad, but it really boiled down to a few possessions down the stretch. It also came down to Brandon Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge, who carried the load with 42 and 27 points respectively, making plays when Houston didn’t. Result: Blazers 107, Rockets 103.
Yao Ming was one of several Rockets who tried to slow down Brandon Roy, but to no avail. Roy would light up Houston for 42 points. Click here for more game photos.
I don’t know if you would call this a collapse by Houston as much as it was just not playing smart and making mistakes down the stretch. A collapse sounds so much worse because it makes you think they blew a big lead, which they never really had. Anyhow, I think this loss came down to a few important factors:
– Obviously not being able to stop Brandon Roy ALL GAME LONG. Before the series started, Houston fans had to feel good that their team supposedly had the two best defenders you could hope to find on one team to defend him: Shane Battier and Ron Artest. It didn’t matter. 15-of-27 from the field for 42 points is a good old-fashioned torching, and he was consistently doing it all game long, scoring 9 to 12 points each quarter.
If Houston had at least contained Roy, it would have been a W for Houston. Sorry, but I still think Battier’s defense is overrated. He’s a good defender, but I don’t think he shuts down his opponents as much as he used to be able to do. That’s another topic for another day.
– Not being able to stop Lamarcus Aldridge, either. He scored 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting.
– Five turnovers in the fourth quarter, including crucial ones in crunch time (as described later on at the bottom of this post).
– As Rick Adelman said after the game, Houston wasn’t “patient” all game long, jacking up “flyers” and not trying to get a better shot by getting the ball into Yao. Main culprit: Ron Artest, who was 2-for-12 after the first quarter, and missed all six of his 3-pointers after the first quarter. For example, late in the 2nd quarter, the Rockets led by 6 points, but then Artest jacked up two bad 3-point attempts in a row that helped Portland go on a 10-2 run while Houston went scoreless the last 3 minutes of the second.
Then in the fourth quarter, Houston went almost 7 minutes without hitting a field goal because of bad shot selection and turnovers, which helped Portland go on a 19-7 run to take a 98-90 lead with 1:03 remaining .
– Terrible calls by the officials, especially the terrible call on Yao from referee Joey Crawford, who fell for a flop by Joel Pryzbilla with 6:50 remaining in the 3rd quarter who flailed his body wildly on an offensive rebound while he was lightly entangled with Yao, handing Yao his 4th foul. That forced Yao out of the game, and the Blazers would make a run as the Rockets’ offense struggled. Thankfully Brooks would come through with 7 points late in the 3rd quarter to help keep the game tight at 72-72 entering the 4th quarter.
This was the second game in a row where Yao picked up his 4th foul on a bogus flop call midway through the 3rd quarter. It’s almost like the officials are looking at their watches saying, “It’s now time to give Portland a better chance to win this game by handcuffing Yao.”
– Adelman said after the game they need other players to step up when Yao can’t get touches. But I think he kind of hindered their chances when Adelman himself decided to pull Von Wafer, who was having a great game with 21 points, for Shane Battier with 2:47 remaining and the Rockets down 93-90. Of course, Battier didn’t take a shot, only taking 2 shots for the game and only scoring 3 points. I have a feeling when Adelman says other players need to step up, Battier is one of the players he’s talking about.
I predicted before this series that if the Rockets lose it and Battier doesn’t amp up his scoring output, the Rockets have got to think about trading him. He’s just too much of an anvil around their neck for other players to make up for his lack of offensive production.
– The Rockets missed 10 free throws, with Luis Scola missing 4 of them. They shoot around 80% as a team, but only shot 69% Tuesday night.
– Adelman also said they needed to have more presence at the rim. Having Dikembe Mutombo go down late in the first quarter with what’s probably a career-ending knee injury was very depressing to watch. Not having him in there to contest shots hurt things as they suddenly became much smaller inside the paint where the Blazers scored 40 points.
– With 1.5 seconds remaining, Aaron Brooks hit the 2nd of two back-to-back 3-pointers which closed the deficit to only 2 points. On Portland’s inbound pass, Rudy Fernandez fell down, and the refs called a foul on the Rockets just because they thought he must have been fouled! The replay clearly showed he wasn’t. If the refs had called that play properly, the Rockets would have had the ball and would have had a chance to win the game! Jeez!
Yao only scored 11 points on 3-of-6 shooting (5-for-5 from the line), but it wasn’t like his teammates completely ignored him. Artest scored 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting in the 1st quarter, so you can’t be too upset when another player is being that productive. You go with the hot hand while you can. Then once he cools off, you go back to Yao once he’s back in the game.
In the second quarter, Yao rested most of the quarter like he normally does, and the bench of Wafer (10 points), Kyle Lowry (6) and Carl Landry (4) scored 20 points collectively, especially Wafer and Lowry who continually attacked the basket all game long. Not bad, and the Rockets were competitive, only trailing 53-51 at the half.
That 3rd quarter was where Yao could really inflict some damage, but he was robbed from being able to do that when Crawford fell for Pryzbilla’s flop, forcing Yao out of the game. By the time he came back early in the 4th, the team chemistry was out of whack.
Aaron Brooks played well, except for two crucial turnovers late in the game. He led all Rockets with 23 points on 9-of-12 shots, including those 7 points in a row late in the 3rd quarter to get them back into it. He also hit a couple of spectacular 3-pointers when the game was basically decided, but it shows he’s a competitor. Just as important, you can tell his speed is being respected by the Blazers, who are making sure they send help to defend him when he drives toward the basket. He made them pay by dishing 5 assists, but those two TOs late in the game were killers.
Wafer was super-aggressive, attacking the basket consistently that led to 21 points on 7-of-13 shots, and 6-of-7 free throws. Wafer was one of the players Adelman must have been referring to saying that they weren’t patient, especially late in the game, by launching “flyers.”
Looking ahead to Game 3 Friday night, the Rockets should be pissed they let this game get away, not helped at all by the refs calling bogus fouls throughout the game, especially that 4th one against Yao. Having that chip on their shoulder will help. Also, playing at home is huge, especially since Portland is only 2-11 on the road against the other 7 Western Conference playoff teams. And when two players like Roy and Aldridge have to score 69 points collectively to win a playoff game, your chances of winning a series go down. Remember the past two Rockets-Jazz playoff series when the Rockets didn’t have enough firepower across their lineup to win those series?
Now without Dikembe, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes and Luis Scola are going to have to step up their defense, and Yao is going to have to log a few more minutes than he normally would to give them some size. That’ll mean staying out of foul trouble, and for the league NOT to assign Joey Crawford to officiate that game.
It also wouldn’t hurt if the players dedicate themselves to try to get their fallen teammate, Dikembe, a ring in his final season as he watches the remaining games of his storied and illustrious career from the sidelines.
Okay, here’s a review of the how the final minutes played out down the stretch that killed the Rockets…
6:36 – Scola misses a jumper. He’s missing lots of open jumpers that he normally makes. Houston still leads 85-81.
6:19 – Roy hits a fadeaway jumper. Why he isn’t being double-teamed is beyond me. Houston leads 85-83.
6:05 – Lowry is fouled and he goes to the line and misses 1-of-2 free throws. Houston 86, Blazers 83.
5:42 – Aldridge hits a running jumper. Houston 86, Blazers 85.
5:27 – Aldridge fouls Scola, who goes to the line and misses 1-of-2. Scola is now 2-for-6 from the line. Terrible. Houston 87, Blazers 85.
5:11 – Battier fouls Roy on a controversial call. The network doesn’t replay it (the Portland broadcast team are homers), but Battier is complaining harshly about it, and Houston’s radio announcers are saying it’s bogus. Roy goes to the line and makes both free throws. 87-87
5:00 – Aldridge fouls Yao, who goes to the line and makes both free throws. 89-87 Houston.
4:45 – Greg Oden grabs an offensive rebound in mid-air and slams it through. 89-89
4:20 – A PASS INTO THE POST TO YAO FROM ARTEST GETS KNOCKED AWAY FOR A TURNOVER!….
4:00 – THEN BLAKE SCORES BY TAKING IT STRONG TO THE HOLE. 91-89 PORTLAND.
3:39 – Nice give-and-go between Scola and Brooks, who is fouled at the basket. BUT BROOKS MAKES ONLY 1-OF-2 FREE THROWS! 91-90 Portland.
3:35 – Travis Outlaw hits a jumper. That’s only his 4th and 5th points of the game, and he does it in the clutch! 93-90 Portland.
BROOKS AND WAFER MISS CONSECUTIVE 3-POINTERS.
2:47 – BAD CALL BY REFS SAYING THAT A LOOSE BALL WENT OFF THE ROCKETS, WHICH ISN’T TRUE.
2:24 – ROY HITS ANOTHER 3. JEEZ. 96-90 Portland.
2:12 – BROOKS DRIVES TO THE HOLE BUT MISHANDLES IT AND IT GOES OUT OF BOUNDS FOR A TURNOVER.
1:38 – ARTEST MISSES ANOTHER 3. THEY SHOULD BE GOING TO YAO. THE LAST 2 SHOTS THEY HAVE JACKED UP ILL-ADVISED THREES. POISE PEOPLE, POISE.
1:03 – BROOKS THROWS A PASS OVER SCOLA’S HEAD, WHICH IS STOLEN AND LEADS TO A DUNK THE OTHER WAY. 98-92. A KILLER. BLAZERS HAVE GONE ON A 13-3 RUN TO BASICALLY CLOSE OUT THE GAME.