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Rockets can’t finish against Blazers, lose 117-107

The comeback bid falls short in Portland.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Rockets dropped tonight’s game against the Trail Blazers, losing by a score of 117-107 in Portland. All night, the Rockets were playing catch up, and ultimately, they could not catch Portland, who is fighting for the eighth and final playoff spot.

Going into the game, the Blazers needed this win a lot more than the Rockets did, and it showed in the effort displayed in the game. Portland got the lead early and never let it go. Tonight was their fifth consecutive win and the outcome of tonight really helps their playoff hopes, as they are now a game and a half ahead of the Denver Nuggets.

Leading the charge for Portland was their dynamic point guard Damian Lillard and their newly-acquired big man Jusuf Nurkic. Both had double-doubles and combined to score fifty points. The Blazers’ supporting cast was also very solid tonight. Allen Crabbe was 3-for-5 from downtown with 17 points and Moe Harkless also scored 17.

The Rockets had strong stats from James Harden, who scored a team-high 30 and Trevor Ariza scored 17, but ultimately fell short of the win. It was clear that the absence of Ryan Anderson definitely affected them. More than anything, Anderson on the floor creates space for Harden to manipulate the offense, and with Eric Gordon on the floor instead, Harden doesn’t have the same space to operate, which has shown in the lackluster offensive performance both tonight and Tuesday against the Warriors.

Tonight, whenever the Rockets took a step forward, they seemed to take a step back. They could not advance far enough. In the fourth quarter, it looked like they would finally break through when the Blazers could not hit a shot and Lou Williams was making his. Williams had ten in the fourth, including his own personal 6-0 run spanning the first three and a half minutes in the final frame. The Rockets ended up tying the game at 105 with 2:29 left, but the Blazers went on a 12-2 run to end the game and shoot the Rockets’ comeback bid to smithereens.

You could pin the blame on several factors as to why the Rockets have performed poorly this week. You could blame Harden’s wrist, because it clearly has affected him this week. Or you could also look at the circumstance. We are now seeing how important Anderson is to the offense, and you could also look at the fact that the Rockets played very hot teams this week. The Warriors have won nine in a row, and the Blazers made it five wins in a row after tonight.

The real question after this game though is, does any of this really matter? No.

These games leading into the playoffs are meaningless. The Rockets don’t have anything to gain and everything to lose in terms of health. We saw Trevor Ariza’s ankle in a shaky spot in the second half as he seemed to step on Nene. Harden looked to be in pain with his left wrist throughout the game, but shed his protective tape as he entered the fourth quarter. Despite a few scares tonight, it looked like Houston came out of the game unscathed. Even though the score doesn’t name them the winner of this game, they really didn’t lose anything.

Tomorrow night, the Rockets face the Warriors, who are looking to pad their lead for the first seed and win their tenth straight game. For the next two weeks, the outcome for these games, win or lose, will be the same. The Rockets have the three seed all but locked. These are meaningless games and they should try to get healthy before the playoffs. Let’s hope they don’t lose anything again tomorrow against Golden State. Tipoff is at 9:30 PM CT.