Fourth Quarter Dooms Blazers
It was a late arrival into Houston, as the Trail Blazers are getting set for their first set of back-to-back games on this six-game road trip. So, get some sleep, some much needed rest, and prepare for the game on Satuday night, correct?
One problem. The U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials were taking place on the street that runs past our hotel. So, starting at about 7 am thousands of fans, who lined the marathon route, begin cheering and screaming as waves of runners come through. It sounded like they were all in my room. I assume this was the case in the player's rooms as well. So, forget about sleeping in. It was a wake-up call no one wanted, or needed, on this morning.
The Trail Blazers play the second game of this six-game trip tonight in Houston against the Rockets, and if you see some yawning (from us, and the players) now you know why. Four hours of sleep doesn't cut it.
Last night in San Antonio the Blazers suffered through a brutal fourth quarter where they shot just 8 for 21 from the field. We've seen them weather storms like that before, but the problem this time was that as they were struggling, the Spurs were practically flawless. Portland's early lead in the quarter was completely erased when San Antonio shot 62% in the quarter, and outscored the Blazers 34-18.
For the game, the Blazers shot 41 percent. The Spurs, who fell behind Portland by 8 points early in the game, shot 51 percent, and improved to 8-0 at home.
To make matters worse, the Trail Blazers lost Marcus Camby in the first quarter to a sprained left ankle. He appeared to come down on Kawhi Leonard's foot, and his left ankle rolled over. He was helped off the court and headed to the locker room. X-rays were negative, and evidently there wasn't significant swelling, so that's a good thing. It's tough to tell how bad these things are initially, so we should learn more today. It's Camby's hope that he only misses a couple of games, but we'll see.
Ah, Friday the 13th. I don't believe in such things, but when Camby rolled the ankle he had played exactly 13 minutes and 13 seconds in the game. That stirred people up when I tweeted that after the game. Then, of course, you start remembering that Greg Oden hurt his knee against Houston, Joel Przybilla blew his knee out against Dallas, and now Camby versus San Antonio. Must be something about Texas teams.
The Rockets played last night as well, but played at home and rolled over Sacramento.
Obviously, without Camby, LaMarcus Aldridge's roll will change. He's done this before, however. He'll start at center tonight for the Blazers, and it's likely that Gerald Wallace will move to the power-forward position, and Nicolas Batum will start at small forward. Aldridge had a very solid game last night, scoring 29 points, but will have a tough time matching that tonight.
The Rockets will put Samuel Dalembert on Aldridge, and that's been a tough matchup for L.A. in the past. Dalembert is long, and is a very good shot blocker. It'll also be tougher for Portland to run, and get easy baskets, simply because Wallace, playing inside more, won't be able to lead the fast break the way he's used to. They'll need him to rebound.
Here's the obvious must for Portland- they've got to start hitting some outside shots if they want to have a chance in this game, and on this trip. Against the Spurs, Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton combined to shoot 8 for 28. And, the Trail Blazers were just 5 for 18 from behind the three-point line.
The Blazers this season have had very hot stretches, and very, very cold stretches. It's amazing how this team can hit stretches where they just can't hit a shot. That has to change.
You try to not place too much importance on any one game. We kind of fell into that last night. It was a situation where you felt if the Blazers beat San Antonio, they'd beat Houston, and get off to a great start on the trip. Well, they didn't beat the Spurs, and that makes tonight much tougher. Being a good bounce-back team is something they'll have to become if they want to leave Texas with a split of these first two games.
Time for game prep. I'll talk to you after the game in Houston tonight.