Blazers hold on against Rockets, 110-102

by Kevin Nesgoda

In a game that I thought would be a huge blowout win for the Houston Rockets, the Portland Trail Blazers came out hot, played great team ball, and had big performances from both Gary Trent Jr. and Carmelo Anthony the Blazers gutted out a big 110-102 win.

The Blazers are now only 1.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for eighth place in the west.

First Quarter Thoughts

We all knew coming into the game that the Rockets were going to put up a ton of three pointers. That they did. They put up 12 in the quarter and only made four of them. Nine of those twelve shots were open shots. Houston was not able to capitalize on the Blazers wanting to pack the paint.

Speaking of packing the paint, the Blazers left eight points in the paint after both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins failed on four different chances when either of them were guarded by James Harden or Russell Westbrook. These are chances that the Blazers can’t afford to miss. All these shots came within three feet of the basket. With a team like the Rockets you can’t leave any of the points on the floor. They are one of the few teams in the league that can go on a 28-4 run.

Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum carried the Blazers in the quarter. Each scoring seven points each and had some smooth moves out on the floor.

I honestly expected the Blazers to be down by at least 14 to end the quarter. They gave up a ton of open threes (as I expected) but the Rockets were not able to knock them down. Really liked how the Blazers trapped both Harden and Westbrook as soon as they came over half court. I think that has slowed down the Rockets offense.

Blazers were up 29-24 at the end of one.

Second Quarter Thoughts

Gary Trent Jr. is the real deal and I want to see him start picking up more and more minutes. I love his intensity on defense and his outside shot is getting better and better. I am starting to think that he’s the future at the shooting guard spot in Portland. The Blazers need a solid wing defender and Trent is not a guy who is going to back down.

He and Melo also work really well off each other. There is a little magic brewing there. And as Charlie said on Twitter, would love to see how CJ handles defense once Rodney Hood and Trevor Ariza comes back, but I think Trent is going to be the next big star in Portland.

I’ve been impressed with Carmelo Anthony tonight. He’s been ballin’ smooth all night. There is a swagger in his step and there is a confidence that I’m seeing tonight that wasn’t there against Boston. He had a decent game against Boston and made some really clutch shots to help keep the Blazers in the game. Tonight, there is something different about him.

The Rockets started making threes in the quarter. The Blazers got up by 14 and Houston hit three of their next five wide open threes. Those threes were on consecutive possessions too. This was my biggest fear of the night. There was no way that the Rockets were going to miss a ton of threes and there was no way they were going to stay cold all night. They kept chipping away at the lead.

Lots of missed layups for the Blazers. These are going to come back to bite them in the ass.

Piss poor defense by Lillard and CJ in the final 2.1 seconds of the half that allowed the Rockets to score at the buzzer.

Blazers led 61-56 at the half.

Third Quarter Thoughts

Damian Lillard has been basically non-existent so far in the game. He has only four points at the beginning of the third quarter. Nurkic finally started making layups in the third and that has really helped keep the Blazers up early in the quarter.

James Harden has four offensive rebounds to start the quarter and somehow Houston is out rebounding the Blazers overall to start the third. The Rockets are just out hustling the Blazers on both sides of the floor right now.

CJ and Lillard have both been playing sloppy this quarter. CJ has been scoring points tonight, but both he and Lillard seem off tonight. Lillard hits a three off a pick and roll as soon as I finished typing the previous sentence. Then hits a fade away out of bounds the next trip down.

Harden picked up his fifth foul about half way through the quarter and the Blazers could not capitalize at all. They allowed more threes by Austin Rivers and PJ Tucker. This was a great chance for the Blazers to put some distance between them and the Rockets, but they kept failing to make shots in the paint.

Blazers up six, 86-80.

Fourth Quarter Thoughts

Portland started the quarter by not attacking likey were before. Lots of standing around and not doing much of anything. Meanwhile, the Rockets attacked the basket and ended up tying the game up at 88 three minutes in.

This has also been a Portland trademark this season. They get a lead and relax against the bench, give up the lead, the starters come back in and the Blazers proceed in getting blown out.

Somehow that did not happen tonight. The fourth quarter was pretty sloppy, but when the game got close Gary Trent Jr. and Carmelo Anthony hit two big threes. Damian Lillard iced the game with two free throws.

Next Up

Blazers play a banged up Denver Nuggets Thursday at 5:00 PM.

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