Had they come out with a victory in last night’s game, the Portland Trail Blazers would have been flying high and looking like one of the better teams in the Western Conference. Having just downed the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs in back-to-back games, the Blazers were riding a bit of momentum into a big matchup against Houston.
Unfortunately the momentum stopped last night as Portland couldn’t hold back the relentless attack of Dwight Howard and James Harden.
Not saying this was a terrible loss, however, as the Blazers did manage to keep relative place with Houston and were actually very impressive at times, they just couldn’t put any of their own mark on the game.
Here’s what we loved and hated from the contest.
Can’t Stop Scoring
The greatest asset the Blazers may have so far in 2013 is their ability to sink the ball in the net. Though they converted 41.4% of their shots, they managed to hit 10-of-31 from beyond the arc while keeping pace with their impressive offensive statistics this year. While it would be great for them to get their shooting percentage a bit higher, Portland currently ranks 6th in the league with 105 points per game, a pretty impressive average considering the strength of their opponents in the early going of this year.
It’ll be interesting to see if the Blazers can keep up this kind of offensive effort throughout the year.
Bench Play Improving
It’s still early on in the year but I’ve been relatively unimpressed with Portland’s bench play until last night. While they did combine for 26 of the Blazers’ 101 points, the quality of play on the court was a little more evident, especially with Robin Lopez facing foul trouble throughout the game.
Can’t Stop Scoring
Conversely to how great it is to see Portland putting points on the board, it is hard to watch their defense at times. Right now the Blazers are giving up an average of 105.8 points per game, ranking 25th in the league in that statistic. They’ve had trouble establishing dominance against teams who can really shoot the ball and have failed to contain some key players such as Harden and Howard.
If Portland is to become a true contender this year they’ll have to step up their game on the defensive side of the ball, especially in the paint.
Last night Houston seemed to be able to do anything they wanted inside and the Blazers clearly have to address that issue.
Portland’s shot at winning last night’s game was effectively lost once Robin Lopez started getting into foul trouble, forcing bench players to attempt to try and stop the ferocious Dwight Howard. And, as expected, they couldn’t.
While there were other Blazers who did exhibit a knack for getting into foul trouble early on, Lopez saw himself collect just 18 minutes of game action with no points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal, and three blocks. Yet he also have 5 fouls — much of them early on — that rendered him useless.
A big man like him needs to learn to play smarter and understand the context of being able to play an entire game, not getting caught up in early momentum.
Luckily last night’s loss will be followed by a trip to Sacramento where the Blazers will take on a dreadful 1-3 Sacramento squad who is still lucky to have an NBA program.