The Rockets lacked energy from the beginning. In the first 3 minutes, Houston turned the ball over 5 times, a discouraging fact after the supposed improvement in recent games. James Harden usually does a good job of getting his teammates involved and going early, but to keep the game close in the first quarter, Harden was forced to try to takeover. He kept it close as the Blazers only led by 6 after a horrific Rockets quarter.
Then Harden checked out for some rest and that lead doubled with the bench unit on the floor. If the Blazers were doing anything right during that run, which they certainly were, it was simply just hitting shots, demoralizing an already lackluster Houston team. Only 4 Rockets scored in the first half, and it took 22 minutes to add that 4th as Patrick Beverly finally made a layup. One would also think a team with 2 technical fouls in a half would have some fire going, but a dumb after the play shove by Patrick Beverley and a dumber kicking of the ball by Trevor Ariza basically tells a different story.
The Blazers went on a few runs back to back and you can guess the rest. Up by as many as 32, the Blazers began to embarrass the Rockets to the point where I was surprised that J.B. Bickerstaff kept his starters in. This was frustrating to watch, and I believe I can say that as the only person crazy enough to finish this game. Harden was also visibly frustrated, though. He had 30 through 3 quarters, along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals, which are all real stats despite Houston's scoreboard.
It's like the Rockets keep finding different ways to be disappointing. The defense, I think, has been the biggest issue all year, and yet today offense was the issue. There's been a lot of flack thrown way of Harden and Dwight Howard, saying that their effort has been slacking all year, but today the bench literally could have not existed today and we wouldn't know the difference. That said, effort level and turnovers maintained their place at the top of the Rockets problems today and Houston turned the ball over 23 times.
This game is weird to write about because somehow, everything I just said can be completely true, and it is also completely true that the Rockets did in fact show some fight and effort in the fourth quarter. Truly, it was Corey Brewer who came alive, as he has done before, and helped cut down Portland's lead to as little as 11. Marcus Thornton hit a few shots. Montrezl Harrell, who got some real minutes tonight, hustled as usual. Harden went out with a finger injury, though it didn't seem as serious as it could have been.
The Rockets ended up losing 96-79. Clyde Drexler said he couldn't be disappointed in the Rockets because they didn't give up, which I think there is some validity to. That said, I do still disagree with him. A team is expected to not give up, especially when they start losing by so much so quickly. You can still be disappointed with this kind of showing for pretty simple reasons: it is one thing to lose by a lot of points, another to lose by a lot of points to a great team or a team who played well, but it is another thing entirely to lose a game by a lot of points when one team plays poorly and you play worse.
Rockets have to bounce back from this and show up to play for the full 48 on Tuesday night, as they face the Golden State Warriors in Oakland.