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Blazers Trim The Beard, Beat Rockets 95-85

The Portland Trailblazers defeat the Houston Rockets 95-85 (F-OT).

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

The Houston Rockets continued their trend of coming out slow and relying on James Harden to produce much of anything. The rest of the Rockets seem intent on making the mental errors you expect out of a young team. The first quarter showcased a bit too much over-enthusiastic play, errant passes, and overly exuberant drives (Read: energetic but ultimately stupid). Patrick Patterson was a difference maker in the first quarter by showcasing hustle and bailing out the team at some key moments.

I, for one, am happy to see Patrick’s inspired play because I legitimately did not expect much of him this year. It looks as though he has set out to make me look like a blowhard. Asik continued his rebounding dominance to start, that’s going to be a given. Unfortunately Asik needs to learn when you’re three feet from the basket, the shot goes in. What’s really impressive about these Rockets is how everyone has bought in to the team. Players are hitting the floor for loose balls and rebounding like the ghost of Dennis Rodman possesses them. The offense is taking whatever the defense gives them (Fast breaks, half court offense, execution, iso, etc…), and finally, everyone seems to know the pecking orders emerging.

The second quarter started with the usual woes. The Rockets bench came in and sent everyone into fits. Thankfully, Cole Aldrich decided to forget that he was bad and played with some skill and tenacity to kick off the quarter. Toney Douglas even managed to can a shot. It was at that point that every Rockets fan had to check their calendar, there was no way it could be April 1st already.

The second unit is coming together. It’s not pretty. It’s not quick. Lord knows if it’ll be consistent but it’s sputtering to life. The most terrifying thing about the second half performance is that the Rockets bench had actually managed to stretch the lead to 12 at the 7:40 mark of the game. All good things must come to an end and between Toney Douglas’s All-NBA style performances and the love affair with the three point shot, the Blazers slowly clawed their way back into the game. As soon as the starters checked back in the entire tone of the game changed from "Awww, this is a cute pick up game to "This ish just got real." Harden, Lin, and Asik came out and decided to start punishing the Trailblazers for beating up on their back ups. Harden started to cool off towards the end of the second quarter but the Rockets headed into the locker room ahead 45-37.

The Rockets started the second half a bit slow out of the gate. The starting five didn’t seem to be minding their defensive assignments or show patience on offense. The Blazers slowly started to cut into the lead put together by the Rockets. The only saving grace of such a sloppy start is that the Blazers had a hard time capitalizing on this play. The Rockets changed pace almost halfway through the third by running their offense strictly off of James Harden. Jeremy Lin canned a three with 8:23 left to go off the new direction.

Harden gave us a bit of a scare when Harden turned his ankle on Patterson’s foot. The Rockets were treated to a block party towards the end of the third because pump faking is a foreign concept since Luis Scola was amnestied out of Houston. Lin took the burden of running the offense for a bit and his playmaking was on display, unfortunately his teammates weren’t converting. Of all the coincidences to take place, the interjection of Marcus Morris to the Rockets towards the end of the third seemed to have sparked a run. The third quarter ended with the Rockets trailing 64-63.

Omer Asik opened the fourth quarter by giving us shades of Brad Miller’s point center routine with an attempted alley-oop that he almost made. Marcus Morris continued the fourth quarter as a useful spark in Houston and put the Rockets up by 1 with 9 minutes left to go in the fourth. This team shows signs of beauty when everything comes together, make no mistake about it. It’s still rough and coming together but the play of the fourth quarter was gritty, contested, and hard-nosed.

The offense simmered down and managed to show a modicum of control that was sorely needed. The surprise of the quarter goes to Toney Douglas. For a guy who tends to play awful he seemed to come into his own as soon as he decided he was going to contain Damian Lillard. The play that stood out to me was Jeremy Lin’s drive at 1:17 in the fourth quarter. You could sense the frustration in the building that turned to elation when he canned the floater through the lane. Sadly, our story does not end here. The Blazers tied the game at 81 a piece and Harden opted to put up a three that was knocked away from him and the Rockets entered their first overtime game of the season.

The overtime period began with James Harden gassed in the corner and Lin having to force a shot that he never should have been forced to take. Two quick three pointers forced the Rockets into an awkward spot and ultimately did the Rockets in. Damian Lillard’s cold-blooded three to push the Blazers up 93-85 was the swan song for this game. In a way, the Rockets needed to take a loss on the chin. This team needs to learn how to piece together the pieces when Harden has nothing left in the tank. There is one take away from this game that all fans need to acknowledge that is not likely to happen often. The Rockets will not tend to miss this many layups on a regular basis.

Random notes: The Rockets three point shooting has started off sluggish for two games but they seem to always manage to hit them when they count. It’s really a thing of beauty. This team is not getting flustered and I don’t know if that’s Kevin McHale’s steady hand or their faith in James Harden. It could be both and much more and I’m not questioning what it is. Harden (24pts/5ast/6reb), Lin (13pts/7ast/3reb), Asik (4pts/15reb/2blks), Parsons (9pts/12reb/3ast).

Final - 11.3.2012 1 2 3 4 OT 1 Total
Portland Trail Blazers 17 20 27 17 14 95
Houston Rockets 19 26 18 18 4 85

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