The Portland Trail Blazers are back on the road tonight as they take on the Houston Rockets. The Blazers are currently 10th in the West, but incredibly close to a playoff spot. There are only four games separating the eight through 14th seeds in the West. None of those teams have a winning record. The winner of the 8th seed will get to be swept by the Lakers or the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs.
I think I’d rather take a higher pick in a really, really bad draft.
Instead the Blazers used their defense to propel themselves to a 117-107 win and held James Harden to 13 points tonight.
Carmelo Anthony is back in Houston where they ran him out on a rail a couple years ago. I expect a big game from Carmelo Anthony tonight.
Neither team looked great in the first quarter. Portland was 1-9 from three and both Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum both had flat starts. You know, that seems to be a theme this year. Either Dame is hot or both are off. It’s rare that either of these guys starts off a game hot.
Russell Westbrook has decided he’s going to run Lillard into submission tonight. At this rate Westbrook is going to have 30 points but on 70 shots.
The 2nd started with Anthony Tolliver knocking down a couple buckets and lo and behold he had outscored the whole Houston bench by himself for about a minute, then Eric Gordon knocked down a three-pointer. Carmelo abused whoever the unlucky soul was that decided to guard him in the post to get a few more points.
CJ decided to take James Harden to school in the mid-ranged and a three-pointer by Dame got the Blazers up by 14 with about three minutes to go in the half.
The Blazers have been actually playing the three-point line well tonight. The Rockets and especially James Harden have gotten few looks at a clean three. The Blazers are really on top of their rotations. I’ve only seen two where they completely blew the rotations and that led to threes by both Gordon and Ben McLemore.
Houston was held to 33% from the field in the first half as the Blazers took a 60-47 lead into the half. I’ve seen a few of the Rockets last few games and there seems to be something off about the team. The starters are looking a little gassed and D’Antoni has only been playing eight-man lineups. Twice in the last week, Houston has been held under 50 points for a half and it’s been three times total for the year. The legs might not be there right now.
Kent Bazemore starts the 2nd half off with an easy bucket. There wasn’t a single Rocket on that half of the court. He could have done a monster dunk but decided to have a super soft dunk.
The Rockets are making the Blazers pay to start the third with Clint Capela lobs. They are double teaming Russell Westbrook or James Harden (whoever is bringing the ball up) and they will drive and get a lob to Capela in the paint. On the other end, Melo is getting some easy post-ups and Dame has abused both Westbrook and Harden and got six quick ones.
Lillard has shown up in a bit way in the third quarter. He has 12 straight points for the Blazers. Then we see back-to-back threes by Nassir Little and Kent Bazemore and the Blazers get their lead back up to 16. LIttle has been pretty active tonight. I’d like to see him on either James Harden or Russell Westbrook to give CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard a little break.
Damian Lillard at 16 in the quarter and the Blazers hold on to their 13 point lead as they head into the fourth, 90-77.
Russell Westbrook has been a menace tonight. The Blazers have zero answers for him in the second half. He’s getting into the paint and scoring or passing to the right guy. He looks like the old Westbrook and not the Westbrook that has had to carry a franchise and a city on his back for half a decade.
The Blazers went cold in the middle of the fourth and Houston cut the lead down to four points. Then threes by Carmelo Anthony and CJ McCollum pushed the lead back to 11 with four minutes to go. And that is as close as they would get.
The Blazers take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.