About that offense. It didn't show up Sunday night. Perhaps Portland and their 95 points allowed per game had something to do with it.
Kevin Martin had one of his rare poor performances, taking 17 shots to score 15 points. Luis Scola attended the game for a little while, but mostly to turn the ball over four times. He did make five of eight shots, but um, he only took eight shots. Aaron Brooks played the role of bricklayer, going 3-10 from the field and 1-6 from range (sidenote: doesn't it seem like Brooks constantly misses his open shots, yet makes the tough, contested attempts?). He also declined to give much effort on defense against Patrick Mills, who absolutely torched him. Jordan Hill seemed disinterested after making a few buckets in the first half. In fact, we'll cut to the chase and point out that Jared Jeffries and Terrence Williams each got playing time. Eight minutes each.
Yup, this thing was done early. The only positive in the result is that the starters got an extra eight minutes of rest in preparation for the Denver Nuggets tomorrow. That's the positive.
In no particular order: ten takeaways from the 100-85 loss to the Trailblazers, Portland's twelve steals aside:
1. Terrence Williams got to play in front of his hometown fans and did some good things while he was on the floor. He should have finished with assists on two impressive passes, but the finishes were either botched or resulted in a foul. With time, he could be a very productive player in this offense, finally giving the Rockets a perimeter player who can make those backdoor passes. Good performance, for what it was: a garbage stint in a fifteen-point blowout.
2. As if these two franchises weren't more alike, Portland pulled the scrappy card on the Rockets and simply ran them out of the building. Patty Mills was one step quicker to loose balls. LaMarcus Aldridge's giant hands took up passing lanes, blocked shots and poked a few away from Brad Miller. Marcus Camby put the lane on lockdown. What's troubling is that these could easily be observations from the first quarter, when the Rockets scored 25 points, as opposed to being from the third quarter, when Houston was held to fourteen points. Portland came ready to play. Houston showed up for a bit, but when they finally hit a wall, they weren't able to muster enough courage or energy to find a way over or around it.
3. Kevin Martin was just off. It was going to happen at some point. Ironically, he managed to sink one of his most impressive shots to date, pulling a Devin Harris as he was fouled in the lane. Upon bumping shoulders with his defender, Martin momentarily lost the ball in the air, but before he came to the ground, he managed to grab the ball once more and hoist up a floater from the free-throw line that found the net. It would be a Sportscenter Top 10 play, but nobody who produces media of any kind really cares about Kevin Martin outside Houston or Sacramento.
4. I've pegged LaMarcus Aldridge as an 18/8 guy for life -- he never appeared to have an interest in doing anything more -- but in Brandon Roy's absence, he has managed to put up great numbers for Portland and has really carried what remains of their offense. His 25 and 11 was just too much for the Rockets' bigs.
5a. Speaking of those guys, I liked what I saw from Patrick Patterson. He missed two jumpers that he'd normally make, but they were smart shots and weren't forced. He also grabbed ten rebounds and was one of the few Rockets who genuinely gave a crap for the entirety of the game. We're taking baby steps in grading Patterson, but there were some good signs.
5b. Jordan Hill made a few crisp, original post moves -- something that he has really started to do nicely, as counter moves are the necessary second step in the development of a big man -- but he keeps inducing headaches too often on defense. Sunday night was no different. It began with a bad rotation in the first quarter that resulted in a layup, it continued with a slew of Dante Cunningham jumpers and it ended with a free-for-all in the lane that Patty Mills took to as if it was an Australian beach jamboree.
6. Chase Budinger dropped ten points with another great shooting night. He's picked a great time to showcase himself for a trade. I still think he's the first to go.
7. Come to think of it, what Portland really managed to do well was rotate and harass ball handlers, preventing Rockets from moving the ball freely, something they've done all season long. Sure, the Rockets missed a few open threes when they squeezed a pass through defenders to the outside, but the point is that Portland made them work for just about everything. In fact, Houston only took 75 shots. It was smart, dedicated, aware defense.
8. Stats time:
- Portland: 29 assists (EIGHT of which came from Marcus Camby. EIGHT!?!). Houston: 18 assists.
- Portland: 47 rebounds (fifteen offensive rebounds). Houston: 40 rebounds.
- Rudy Fernandez shot 4-13 and Houston still lost by fifteen.
9. Courtney Lee needs to chill out on offense. His defense is intense and fiery -- that's a good thing. He gave Wes Matthews fits. But whenever he goes up to finish on offense, or whenever he attempts a jump shot close to the rim, he lights up like a Christmas tree and catapults the rock with 100% adrenaline and very little precision. Control yourself, Courtney. Just relax a little.
10. This is the last plea for Brad Miller to stop thinking that he is a point guard. Crazy, awkward drives into the lane aren't good for the offense, yet Brad keeps going Rogue Runaway Center on everyone. He'll miss a bad shot attempt, beg for a foul, and REPEAT. It's driving me crazy.
The Rockets travel to Denver to play the Nuggets on Monday night. Something tells me this could be a bounce-back game for the Rockets, unless Nene tears Houston's frontcourt to shreds, which could very well happen. The Rockets don't have a great history in Denver, either: they've lost four of their last five games at the Pepsi Center. But I still think it can happen. Remember: the Rockets have a better chance against the running teams. This isn't your stagnant Rocekts offense of old, except for nights like Sunday night