mikebarrett

Apr 09

Rockets Put Away Blazers

By mikebarrett Posted in: j.j.hickson, LaMarcusAldridge, NicolasBatum, Rockets
Hanging by a thread takes its toll after a while.

It's draining, both physically and emotionally. That not only describes how Portland looked on Monday at the Rose Garden, but how they've appeared on too many nights recently in this final stretch of this condensed 66-game NBA season. 

Playing without Nicolas Batum, who was resting his overworked left knee, the Blazers simply couldn't have a night where they were out of sync offensively and key outside shooters were off the mark, and live to tell about it.  They didn't.  

This was a night where they needed to be sharp offensively, going up against one of the hottest teams in the Western Conference.  They weren't, and Houston made them pay, time and time again.  

The Rockets, who were looking to finish off a perfect 4-0 road trip and continue their great late-season run in the west, didn't take full advantage of what Portland gave them on this night, but did enough to deliver the knockout punch late in this game, and won it 94-89.  The Blazers led 5-3 early, and tied the score twice in the third quarter, but never got the momentum basket to carry them over the top.

It felt for a while like this was game was sitting there for them to steal, but as soon as those opportunities would present themselves, a missed shot or a turnover, or a bad possession would doom them.  There were plenty of missed open shots, fast-break situations that they didn't complete, and simple rebounds that they just couldn't get to.  The Rockets, road-weary, but riding enough of a wave of confidence, had enough answers to finally put the Blazers to bed.

Portland was shooting in the mid-30 percent range most of the night, but rallied to get that number to 40 percent by the end of the night.  Their outside shooters just needed to come up with a few more timely makes to get them in a position to strike.  As it was, Jamal Crawford (who got the start in Batum's place), and Wesley Matthews, were a combined 7 for 25, and as a team the Blazers were just 6 for 21 from behind the three-point line.

For Houston, Goran Dragic, who was named the Western Conference Player of the Week on Monday, did just enough to snuff out every Portland charge.  He scored 22 points, on 8 of 14 shooting, and also dished out 7 assists.  Yes, he'll be a free agent this summer.  Yes, I expect Portland to go after him in a big way.  In my opinion, he's a much more realistic option for the Blazers, and I think he'd be perfect addition to this team.  He's never been handed the keys to a team, playing behind Steve Nash in Phoenix, and behind Kyle Lowry in Houston.  But, he's ready to be put in the driver's seat to run a team.

For the Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge did what he could to keep his team within striking distance on this night.  He scored 20 points, but had only 6 rebounds.  He was helped by J.J. Hickson, who had 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Raymond Felton had a fairly solid game with 14 points and 8 assists, but this was simply a tale of two teams headed in opposite directions as we count down to the end of the season.

Portland continues this final multi-game home stand of the season on Wednesday night when the Golden State Warriors come to town.  Then, on Friday, Dallas will be in Portland.  After that it's at Sacramento and at Phoenix, before the Blazers host Utah in their final home game of the season on the 18th.  What follows that is a brutal final three games.  Portland will play at Memphis, at San Antonio, and at Utah to close things out.  We've said all season, you better not be in a position to have to need a run of wins in the final two weeks to make it into the post season, because that's not the place to get them.  But, that's right where they are- needing perfection to have a chance.

Talk to you Wednesday.

29 Comments

  1. Hey Mike: There were so many almost shots, that I thought that sooner or later was going to start falling. It would have been so easy to come up with the win.

    Well it is about time to start the try outs on a serious basis, to find out who is staying and who is going. JJ is the only one that I am for sure is a keeper of the new players.
    The Houston fans are wanting to keep Dragic and drop Lowry, So I am sure we would go after the one they drop.

    by Hg on 4/9/2012 11:24 PM
  2. When are our PGs going to learn to let the pick be set before starting their move? It's like some have never been coached or, maybe more likely, never paid attention. Hopefully a moot point after 8 more games.

    Can't wait for the wheeling and dealing to begin!
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/10/2012 1:47 AM
  3. earlier in the season i read an article about this surging houston rockets team. the author made one point in particular that i found kind of fascinating. it was that Kevin McHale was basing his substitutions on those guys showing effort and getting results. the rockets were surging then and they are surging even more so now.

    my issue with the blazers is that our coaches -- Nate and now even Kaleb -- have adopted substitution patterns seemingly based on an obligation to play certain players regardless. it's not working. Jamal was 0-10 shooting prior to the fourth quarter. he was not passing effectively. he was being selfish with the ball. yes, i understand he is Jamal Crawford, but get him the hell out of there. Jamal is not a bad player, but it wasn't his night. it was time to trn it over to someone who was having better fortunes. i know everyone talks about Welsey hustling on defense and so forth, but his shooting was atrocious for most of the game. in fact, the two combined at one point for 2-15, then later on it was 6-25.

    there comes a time when you have to tell a player to sit, it's just not your night. this is like earlier in the season when we could not rely on our guards the way we needed to. we couldn't rely on them last night either. the problem is, both players were hingering -- not helpoing -- the team.

    prior to the game, i predicted Hot Hand Luke would see 22-28 minutes and, if you round up, he got 22. Luke was playing hard. he was playing like he wanted and treasured each minute. but instead of utilizing a guy who was shooting 3-6 and battling inside for boards, we put in a guy who dribbles out the shot clock and ends up with a wildly unbalanced shot. i'm sick of seeing that this season

    don't get me started on our defense last night. just don't get me started.

    we hear a lot how this is a tight locker room. is it? usually you see something like that translate to something a lot different on the floor than what we've been seeing. if this off-season is supposed to be an off-season of change, i really hope we see some major moves. at this point, there are only five players on my list from this team i would like to see brought back (LaMarcus, Nicolas, Luke, Elliot, and J.J.).

    and while we're at it, let's draft/trade/free agent hunt for guys who want to put forth effort and play intelligently. we're lacking a lot of that right now, as well as the staff which seems empowered or willing to keep those types of players on the floor.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 4/10/2012 7:09 AM
  4. Hey wonderful Kassandra, OR the famous Piranha, I surely can't debate with you on this post. My feelings exactly.
    I could say that Batum out of the line-up could have destroyed our rhythm on offense and defense, but that should not be the case. I think it was as you stated who we put in there for a replacement, Jamal! One bad apple on team D and team O can ruin the whole set. Another factor in McHale's play, is he uses a simple plug and play offense and defense. Anyone can plug in without hurting the flow.
    Do you find it disturbingly funny that Crawford, when playing for the top honors at the free throw line can hit 9 for 9, but can't make a lay-up. completely disrupts the offense with his show off dribbling and completely blocks out his teammates on offense and lets his man shoot uncontested threes.
    All year long I thought it was Felton, and maybe to some degree it is or was, but now I am leaning to blaming Crawford as much as Felton. Wesley is an off ball player, and when Crawford is in the game with him he completely destroys Wesley's game, that holds true for Nic also. Most of the up and downs of both players is due to the timing or selfishness that Crawford and Felton brings.
    Who is setting up our offense and to whom is he setting up for. LMA got his 20 but he only shot the ball like about 15 times. True they were playing him tough, but that is true with every team we play. we still have to use him.

    Wow, crank me up, Oh did I ever tell you that I miss you. and why don't you and Angi post at the same time. Are you alto egos LMAO?

    by Hg on 4/10/2012 9:26 AM
  5. Kassandra: Twice Crawford was argueing with a ref at one end of the court while his man was scoring at the other end undefended. Why was he left on the floor?

    Maybe we are starting to count ping pong balls in the lottery.

    by Ancientone on 4/10/2012 10:08 AM
  6. That was a tough game to watch. The inability to convert on three straight possession in the final 3:30 of the game, after getting 3 stops on the other end, was tortuous. They were down 8 and had THREE opportunities. One was LA's close-in shot that was just unbelievable it didn't go in. For me, sitting there watching it live in person (no commentary, no replay, etc.), it just seemed like even good shots were not going in. However, the fact they relentlessly shot from the perimeter over and over again was a part of that.

    As for substitutions, I was mystified when Kaleb subbed in most of the 2nd unit, as a group, with 3 minutes left in the 1st quarter, with the game tied. It was pretty obvious it was going to be a tough night offensively, but the starters were at least holding even. What was most shocking to me was seeing Thabeet come in. I looked at my brother and said, "well, here comes the deficit they will fight to get over the rest of the game." Thabeet was out by the beginning of the next quarter, but sure enough, the Blazers were in the hole. Then, those bench guys STAYED in, for far longer than was necessary. The same thing happened later in the game. I have been baffled by Jamal staying in the game for several games now, especially when Nicolas is on the bench. In my opinion, even putting in Wes, who is slumping again, is a better move, simply because he at least puts some effort into D. And Luke can shoot it, plus REBOUND, which JC just doesn't do much of either. If I could really get an answer to something from Coach, it would be that: why is JC in there? To me, it almost seems like appeasement, in the hopes JC will opt to remain with the Blazers after this season (which I also don't understand, since he's been mostly a disappointment here).

    Mr. Barrett - on Dragic, I think he would be a decent consolation prize for the Blazers, albeit one that meant adding a year or two to the ultimate goal. I heartily hope and believe the Blazers will go after an ELITE PG, even if that's an aging Nash. If it doesn't pan out though, Goran would be better than what they have now and have had in the recent past (excepting Dre of course).

    Looks like this season is done, so hope the guys have some fun now. Also, serious prayers for LA's hip. With the playoffs off the table, I am really hoping he can make the Olympic team

    by SisillaRiann on 4/10/2012 10:38 AM
  7. Kassandra, you and I are on the same page here. Rotation, rotation, rotation it has been a huge problem for us. Take out the hot player and put someone in just to be putting someone in. Also agree on your assessment of Crawford. Totally disrupts the offensive play and forces everybody to help guard his man on defense, leaves us with four players on defense instead of five. I pray we get a great point guard who knows who the other players on his team are and can get them the ball. I am worried that Jamal is going to opt to stay and that we will continue to have this problem next year. Please, just buy him out.

    by Mieke Appel on 4/10/2012 11:21 AM
  8. Kasandra you know by now that Crawford & Falton was sent to us by the NBA gods to punish blazers. I get so mad when I have to watch crawford wipe his shoes then lick his fingers while he supposed to be on defence.

    by carmenL on 4/10/2012 12:14 PM
  9. Hg: My sister and i have different schedules. she is in college and i am in high school. we don't call each other before we comment to coordinate our times. That's kind of weird.

    I am thinking of signing my posts like she does with her

    ~KMM

    Mine would be:

    - ANM

    by Angi on 4/10/2012 1:29 PM
  10. I think this was an ugly game. I agree with my sister that we should have taken guys like Craford out when they were not doing very well. I do not know why our coaches insist on keeping in guys when they are cold and taking out guys when they are hot. That just does not make sense unless Coach Canales has instructions from the management.

    We have some guys who need some playing time to prove what they can do. I am glad to see Babbitt to get some playing time. I think he has done well. It is like you can see big improvement from him from when the coaching change happened to now. He is getting better and better before our eyes. Hickson is playing really well and I hope we keep him next season. It seemed like everyone was so in love with Flynn for a while that I did not know if we would ever see Nolan Smith play much this season. I am glad to see he got minutes.

    The other puzzling thing to me is that Craig Smith and Kurt Thomas are not getting into games. I am sure there are just not enough minutes to go around. It is sad though because I think each of those guys could have helped us last night.

    I hate to say it but I think it is time to let the younger guys play more. We need to really find out what we have in these last eight games. It would help if we culd see that now.

    Dare I?

    - ANM

    by Angi on 4/10/2012 1:49 PM
  11. NEW JERSEY WATCH
    7th worst record
    21-37 .362

    This is the longest shortened season I've ever seen.

    by Divotking on 4/10/2012 2:47 PM
  12. @Kass, et al: I too am disgusted with Jamal's overall play and hope he's not here next year. Too much dribbling and too many times he's not passed the ball to open shooters, particularly Nic Batum and Luke Babbitt.

    As for not playing Rhino and Thomas lately, I think it's due to the coaching staff and front office needing to decide who the keepers are. They know what Rhino and Thomas can do but need to find out more about the others in order to make intelligent decisions down the road.

    @Divotking: You got that right! Seven weeks of the season were wiped out which translates to about 30%. A normal season is 82 games and 70% of 82 is roughly 57 games. A 57 or 56 game season would have been more fair to everyone, but of course, there's more money to be made in 66 games. Just your basic, greedy money grab decision.
    --
    don

    by dgpdx on 4/10/2012 5:06 PM
  13. Why does Crawford shoot every time he gets the ball. He rarely looks for an open man.
    And his shooting is off more than it is on.

    As much as I like Wes, I don't think we get enough from him.

    Whats up with Nic, so frail.

    I don't understand why JJ and Luke aren't in the game more. They are the most aggressive rebounders.

    It seems to me that Ray is the best at layups. i am amazed at how often the taller guys miss them.

    Why doesn't anyone know how to draw a file like Brandon did. That should be Jamal's job on the court.Going in for a lay up that draws a foul. Not that outside shooting he loves to do and miss.

    I too am looking forward to the rebuild.

    by allie-oop on 4/10/2012 5:20 PM
  14. Could we beat New Jersey to the lottery and get two high picks?

    by Ancientone on 4/10/2012 8:50 PM
  15. I say rest LMA. We rode this horse too hard and put him up wet. He's already put in more minutes that most other players and has earned his rest so we can see the real LMA next year.

    by Ancientone on 4/11/2012 8:18 AM
  16. The best the Blazers can hope to do now is play spoiler for some other teams trying to get into playoff position.

    It will be nice to see Portland get 2 high draft picks and I totally agree that Dragic would be a perfect fit for this team. Go after him, go after a center and a small forward in the draft and trades. Dump Crawford, Felton and Thabeet. We'll probably have to give up a much more important piece to get much on trade, but it's a start.

    by soulseeker on 4/11/2012 8:51 AM
  17. It's a long time since I last posted here, but I always read this blog and all (or almost all) the comments from my fellow Blazers. It's always good have at least a grasp on your perspectives, since you live in the States (some in Portland, in fact), and may have seen all the game (I don't have League Pass so I just watch Highlights).

    I think it's pointless to point out, but I'll point it again: This season is over, let's pray for the lottery gods and the GM gods too so they bless us with a good GM and number 4 pick from NY Nets, and keep cheering for the Blazers.

    As much as Jamal Crawford's attittudes offcourt seem well intentioned and kind, I agree with all of you that said he's part of the problem with this team, specially on court. Batum and LA are obvious keepers, JJ seems to be putting out good effort. I don't like EW or LB that much, but I don't mind if they stay... Chris Johnson was cut off, and I liked his effort, I like Craig Smith's too, but I guess JJ Hickinson already covers his spot, so...

    Well, good luck next season Blazers, I'll always be a Blazer Maniac

    Cheers from São Paulo

    by Tiago Torigoe on 4/11/2012 10:45 AM
  18. Sorry the double post ><

    Eowyn Amarie: I don't think Dragic is a consolation prize, any step up is a good move for the Blazers, right now. It's hard to find an "ELITE" PG this days (ok, it depends on the concept of ELITE), but I guess Dragic would do. He doesn't seem too much selfish too (putting good performances, on his former and his former former team), and that's all we need... We don't need another promissing PG with great stats but poor attittude (Felton). This way, hopefully we can upgrade the SG and C positions too, and build slowly, OKC-like if we get lucky, or trying to be a solid team like Pacers, Rockets are now (heck, even Jazz and Suns have a good rotation).

    Angi: Are you really Kassandra's sister? And as for substitution patterns, he could be receiving "orders" from management to give this or that player X minutes of play (or to start, or to finish games), or maybe he simply is not commanding enough to sit Crawford (or other cold player) out when he's cold, and give a rookie more minutes or to finish a game. I don't know wich of the options is the worse, anyways... Hope he hear our councils and try to give more chance to whoever is hot and willing and hungry at the games, no matter who.

    Ancientone: I like the idea of resting LMA... I think we shouldn't be unprofessional to try and lose games, but resting LMA has reasons. Like u said, he already played a lot of minutes this season. And he still is hoping to be part of USA national basketball team.

    by Tiago Torigoe on 4/11/2012 10:59 AM
  19. Ancientone;
    We may very well beat New Jersey to the Lottery. The Blazers are going into full tank mode now. LMA out. Batum out ?
    The rest of the team will play hard. Athletes at this level can not lose games on purpose. It's not in their DNA. Same goes for Kaleb.
    Look for Jamal to cast up shot after shot. Felton too. They will try to pad their stats. Won't be good basketball. Won't be fun to watch. Will be really cheap to go to a game. Watch for smoking deals at the RG. Pick a team you want to see play.

    by Divotking on 4/11/2012 2:30 PM
  20. I like either Robin Lopez or Chris Kamen as the Blazers' starting center next season. With those two 1st-round picks we should be able to land one of them, with something extra thrown in.

    For my money, the sure keepers are:
    LA
    Nic Batum
    JJ Hickson
    Joel (if he wants to stay)
    Wes Matthews
    Eliot Williams
    Luke Babbitt
    Ray Felton (unless we get a better PG this summer)

    That's seven players to build around with new additions. Our biggest need is a long-term center -- one of the above or better. The Rhino and Kurt Thomas could also stay depending on trades and what happens in the free agent market.

    by dgpdx on 4/12/2012 2:11 AM
  21. i agree with you on keeping felton because he has been playing a lot better and i don' think it will be easy to get a better one this summer. i think nolan can become a decent backup if he puts in the time over the summer. and that makes

    by lrac on 4/12/2012 4:27 AM
  22. the center position the one we should pay the most attention to. i would like to see the nets drop a bit in the standings so we might be able to get drummond. he would be a scoring threat down low and take pressure of lma, what would make us a lot better because as of right now other teams just leave pryzbilla completely to help on lma

    by lrac on 4/12/2012 4:30 AM
  23. Hey Don. I agree with your players to come back other then Felton. Not because he is not good enough, but because of the fans. He single handed divided the BlazerFanDome. I have read on many blog sights that if they bring back Felton, they will not by tickets next year. The FO tried to ship him out at the deadline and I believe they will drop him at the end of the season. I say it is just to bad that his selfish attitude, including coming to play out of shape, has destroyed his credentials. I for one don't care how good he plays in single games, I just don't know if I could trust him. Same thing with Jamal, he had a fantastic game last night with him being the number one scorer, but when LMA is playing he will pout again and jack up shots or will not shoot at all because he can't show off.

    by Hg on 4/12/2012 4:43 AM
  24. lrac: As stated above, I disagree on Felton, I do agree with you on the center aspect though, I don't agree with your reason's though. Joel can't play enough minutes to be effective, On offense he will be able to rebound and get more put backs when he gets in better shape. He sets terrific picks and is one of the reason's many teams wanted him this year. But his age and beat up body makes him a terrific back up center.
    BTW, he can score ok off a pick and roll if we have a guard that can get him the ball high enough or close enough to catch and dunk; him and Van Axel had a pretty good duo going and he was averaging games in the 20's

    by Hg on 4/12/2012 4:53 AM
  25. Last night Jamal played a watch me game. When he got the ball if someone with the same color uniform (note I don't say team-mate) wide open it was tough luck you're not getting it. Watch me.

    by Ancientone on 4/12/2012 7:43 AM
  26. Ancientone:

    I agree, but I've also seen where that was his game from day 1. If he got the ball it was rare to see him pass it up. Which is ok if he's on and hitting shots, but for most of this season I've felt like he was more of a liability than a help. Hence why I say dump him.

    by soulseeker on 4/12/2012 10:28 AM
  27. At least you cannot call Jamal Crawford passive unlike some other players on this team

    by cmeese47 on 4/12/2012 1:25 PM
  28. You will see that the rest of the year. Jamal will cast up shot after shot after shot. If he wants to be an all star on a cellar dwelling lottery pick team, thats fine. We all saw what he can do when games count. 0-10, 2-11, 4-16. A defensive liability.
    Luke Babbitt just might find a way to stay in this league. He brings a little more game every night. He certainly has weaknesses. He looks like a gym rat. I can see him work in the off season.

    by Divotking on 4/12/2012 2:12 PM
  29. soulseeker: I agree.

    cmeese47: So you haven't seen him play defense? Come to think of it I haven't seen him paly defense either. Twice the other night he stood and argued with an official while his man scored at the other end.

    Divitking: Kind of an upgraded Kyle Korver?

    Best wishes to LMA. I hope his surgery goes well and a speedy recovery.

    by Ancientone on 4/12/2012 4:47 PM
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