Hello, Blazer fans, Antonio here. As the Blazers round the corner and get ready for playoff time, they faced their last “easy” opponent of the season on Monday in the Houston Rockets. The Blazers took advantage of the Rockets, walking away with a 140-129 victory in front of the home crowd.
After two weeks of dismantling playoff opponents and curb-stomping tanking teams, Portland finally played a game where they didn’t look perfect. The Rockets chipped holes in the Blazer defense and made things much closer than they should have been. But what matters is the Blazers’ eighth win in nine games. Let’s take a closer look.
First Quarter Firing
To say that the Blazers were on fire in the first quarter would be an understatement. Portland shot 71% from the field and 75% from three. Five players combined for 12 three-pointers, tied for the most ever in a quarter in NBA history.
Not only was the shooting good, but the ball movement was excellent as well. Damian Lillard dished out five assists while the entire team had 12. For the team ranked dead last in assists, they looked like Russell Westbrook chasing his 10th assist for the first. 50 points in the quarter, and franchise record. Now that’s fun.
After weeks of wondering why Derrick Jones Jr. mysteriously fell out of the Blazers’ rotation, he finally made a return appearance with four minutes left in the first quarter and went on to play 23 minutes, scoring 11 points.
Terry Stotts has gone with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson over Jones Jr. since March 18th, but this time, Jones got the minutes. While his shooting stroke has still been off, he contributed with his typical Airplane Mode dunks and some stellar defense.
All of this is happening with Carmelo Anthony missing two straight games due to a turned ankle, so it’s unlikely that either Jones or Hollis-Jefferson will get 23 minutes come playoff time, but it’s nice to see how deep that Portland bench is.
Playing Down to Competition
The Blazers have been rolling since April 27th, and have been dominating opponents from Brooklyn to Cleveland. The defense has been up with Jusuf Nurkic and Norman Powell in the lineup, and there’s been very little to complain about.
But a large majority of Rockets players I’d never heard of dominated the Blazer D. Khyri Thomas and Armoni Brooks scored 39 points combined. These players are all playing for their NBA futures, and it was clear they were hungry for minutes.
So should the Blazer fans be concerned about their subpar defensive effort? Not really. Portland has been turning on the intensity in games where they need to. It’s hard to play full-boar each game, especially with how compact the schedule is this year.
This game against Houston was the last sure-win game on the schedule. The season concludes with Utah, Phoenix, and Denver, all tough games. The Blazers need to go 2-1 to ensure the sixth seed, otherwise hope the Lakers lose at least one game.
Next Up: The Blazers travel to Utah to face the Jazz on ESPN.
Help us build a sustainable news organization to serve Canby for generations to come! Let us know if you can support our efforts to expand our operations and keep all of our content paywall-free. #SwimWithTheCurrent!