The Portland Trail Blazers got revenge for a November loss to the Houston Rockets with a 111 - 104 victory propelled by LaMarcus Aldridge's MVP performance.
Through three quarters the Rockets and Blazers traded offensive runs until a tie game was broken open by 10 unanswered points from a Portland team who continues a franchise best start.
Dwight Howard and James Harden both contributed all-star performances tallying more than half the Rockets total points, 57 of 104.
The Rockets were hampered by long stretches of defensive ineptitude and paltry contributions from a bench who pitching in with only 14 total points. Tonight's eight man rotation brought Omri Casspi, Jeremy Lin and Francisco Garcia on the court to rest Beverley-Harden-Parsons-Jones-Howard.
On offense the Rockets failed to find a rhythm. We shouldn't overlook the fact that Howard performed well in the post and Harden got to the basket, but the team lacked any off-the-ball movement and perimeter passing.
After this loss Houston now faces a tough challenge against the Warriors in the second half of back-to-back. Howard and Harden each logged 42 minutes in the loss to the Blazers. Expect the eight man rotation to be tired tomorrow night in Oakland.
From the first quarter you'd never know the Rockets and Blazer rank at the top of the league in most offensive ratings. The two teams combine for 18 total points in the first six minutes.
Harden showed life in the first quarter by constantly moving to the basket and posting 8 points on 4 of 10 shooting. His three point selection was poor, but his drives were our sole source of offense for much of the quarter.
The Rockets failed to find open shots in the period and recorded a single assist on a Cisco corner three pointer.
The Blazers and Rockets traded offensive runs in the second quarter. Chandler Parsons set the tempo for the Rockets with several fast breaks. His back is clearly not well. He looked particularly irritated after a twisting second quarter layup. Chandler toughed out the pain to play 38 minutes.
In the third the Blazers appeared poised to run away with the game after a 9 - 0 run built on offensive rebounding and second chances. But the Rockets responded. The night's most effective pairing was a third quarter Harden-Parsons-Casspi-Howard combo that went on a 12 - 2 run.
Terrence Jones never found a way to contain, stop, re-route, delay, slow or defend Aldridge. It just wasn't pretty.
In the second half Aldridge never let off the gas. The Rockets were able to match him in the third period, but failed to answer his dominating performance or the three point shooting of his supporting cast in the final frame.
Portland put up ten straight to start the fourth and never let the Rockets closer than five points after that.
Terry Stotts does not respect Dwight Howard's post game.
In November, Howard tallied 29 points on 10 of 19 shooting as Stotts and the Blazers refused to double team him in the post.
Tonight was no different. Howard never received a double team and posted 32 points on 14 of 22 shooting.
The Blazers allowed him to go to work in the post as they focused on cutting off passing lanes and denying the Rockets the familiar kick and swing passing that creates so many open three point looks for Rockets shooters.
A wide majority of Rockets three point attempts were either forced, an attempt to beat the shot clock or a James Harden hero ball moment.
I'm not going to knock Howard's post moves. He did he good job of going to work against Robin Lopez.
However, I will echo Hakeem Olajuwon's critique about the amount of time it takes for Dwight to make a decision. Many times Howard took so long to make a move to the basket the Blazers could have sent - retracted - and re-deployed a double team. His moves came only after the unquestionable acknowledgement the defense would not collapse on him.
Catch the entry pass and make a move.
Jeremy Lin's Return:
After two weeks out with a sprained knee Lin returned to the court a step slow. Lin logged only 15 minutes, but five, ten or twenty more minutes of play wouldn't of helped him find his offensive or defensive stride tonight.
On offense Lin lacked an explosive first step and failed to create any space with his defender. His shooting was also off, evidenced by a third quarter airball from behind the arc.
On defense Lin made Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews look like Usain Bolt. Lin's not known for his defense but tonight's matador impersonation belonged in a Spanish corrida.
There's no doubt Lin would have played more if the Blazers had Jose Calderon instead of Damian Lillard, but Lin looked slow regardless of who was played point guard for Portland.
Lin will recover and tonight's loss is not on his back. He needs a week to get re-acclimated to the speed of the game and to regain confidence and strength in his knee.
Kevin McHale is taking a week away from the Rockets after his mother passed away. The Rockets are being coached by assistant coach Kelvin Sampson in the interim.
Why didn't we see Aaron Brooks? He's not a savior, but Beverley was ineffective offensively and Lin appeared to have come back from his injury a few days early. It's clear Brooks is a defensive liability against Portland's bigger guards, but the Portland offense was all LaMarcus and Lilliard was shooting poorly with or without Lillard on him.
- The Rockets lost despite keeping their turnovers under control. They gave the ball away only 8 times.
- LaMarcus Aldridge sure would look good in Rockets red (keep dreaming, readers). After starting 1 of 8 from the floor he finished 11 of 14. Oh, he had 25 rebounds also.
- Dwight Howard missed his fourth consecutive game with 18+ rebounds. In the second half Dwight exchanged words with Chandler Parsons after the two knocked a potential rebound away from one another.
- Patrick Beverley posted a career high 11 rebounds.
- Cisco shot 1 of 5 from three. He saw few quality shots. Often getting the ball with a defender on top of him or while the shot clock was expiring.
- The Rockets over came a significant early rebounding deficit to lose the glass battle by only four boards.
- Omer Asik missed the game with a thigh injury.
- Greg Smith didn't log any minutes. He's recovering from a sprained knee.
- Aaron Brooks did not play. He was available.
- I expect many comments to reflect the thought "Omer Asik would have saved us this game." I'll let folks argue about that.