The Rockets dropped their first game in the bubble Tuesday night in a 110-102 loss to the Blazers.
The team trailed for all but 12 seconds, but played tough throughout the game despite a poor shooting performance.
Houston shot just 39.1% from the floor and 35.8% from beyond the three-point line. Portland shot a smidge better at 41.1% from the floor and 38.7% from three.
In the second quarter, the Blazers rushed out to a 13-point lead and the rest of the game was an attempt to dig themselves out of the hole they created for themselves.
With 5:27 left in the third quarter, James Harden was called for his fifth foul, which landed him a spot on the bench next to Russell Westbrook, who usually sits in the third quarter.
This created a rare lineup with Austin Rivers, Robert Covington, Danuel House, P.J. Tucker and Jeff Green. If there was a bright spot in this game, the bench made up an 8-point deficit in the near seven minutes Harden and Westbrook were on the bench.
The Rockets kept it close with the Blazers during the quarter, but missed their final five shots in the last two minutes as the Blazers ran away with the game.
Throughout the game, the Rockets appeared to be missing a step with their game. The intensity was not as high as the first two games. It makes sense that the Rockets are unable to keep such a high intensity for every game in the bubble, but there was something lacking tonight in effort.
Harden and Westbrook combined for just 38 points on 12-31 shooting, which isn’t good enough to win a basketball game. Luckily, Jeff Green picked up some slack with 22 off the bench.
It was not the prettiest game for the Blazers either. Damian Lillard’s 21 were a team-high and Jusuf Nurkic added 18 points and 19 rebounds, but the bright spot for the team came off the bench in Gary Trent Jr., who scored 16 off the bench with four triples.
Despite all the ugliness the Rockets brought to the court tonight, they still had a shot to win. They had a good shot to win. The team just couldn’t execute. Two of Harden’s five misses from behind the arc came in the final minute of the game. Westbrook missed seven of his 12 free throw attempts. Covington went just 2-11 from the field.
The team needs to shrug it off and get these bad shooting games out of their system before a dangerous consequence comes with losing these tight games.
The Rockets face the Lakers Thursday night. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. CST.