PORTLAND, Ore., Nov. 26 (Ticker) --
Despite all their troubles and all their firepower, the Portland Trail Blazers have been winning with defense.
NBA TV highlights from|
The Blazers had their best defensive performance of the season and used a balanced attack for a 77-71 victory over the
Houston Rockets, their fourth win in five games.
Coach Maurice Cheeks has juggled his rotation, having Damon Stoudamire join fellow point guards Jeff McInnis and Antonio Daniels on the bench and giving more playing time to young power forward Zach Randolph.
"After seeing Damon, I wanted to try Jeff," Cheeks said. "In the second half, I wanted to try something else, because I think we were just in a funk."
"Coach is getting a lot more confident in me," said Randolph, who scored six points in 15 minutes. "He's calling plays for me more times when I'm getting out there."
Through it all, the Blazers have continued to defend, allowing an average of just 84.1 points over their last 10 games and
surrendering more than 88 just once in that span. It was more of the same Tuesday as Portland limited Houston to 35.5 percent (27-of-76) from the field.
"Offensively we're struggling in a lot of areas," forward Scottie Pippen said. "Bonzi (Wells) putting up the numbers he's been putting up. Damon's numbers haven't been up and I don't think Sheed is going as well. We have to find other ways. Offensively might not be the answer. Being able to stop teams is important to us."
Rasheed Wallace scored 16 points, Pippen added 14 and Derek Anderson 12 and nine assists for the Blazers, who avenged an 86-83 loss at Houston on Nov. 12.
Steve Francis scored 19 points and rookie Yao Ming added 10 for the Rockets, who have dropped two in a row. Houston used a zone defense for much of the game.
"Us being short-handed, we felt it was going to be hard to match up athletically through the whole game, so we gave the zone a shot," Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "We hustled on the boards, we got more free throws, but we didn't put the ball in the hole."
In the 7-5 Yao's matchup with 7-3 Arvydas Sabonis, Yao made 3-of-4 shots but just 4-of-10 free throws. Sabonis had six points, nine rebounds and six blocks.
Portland, which shot just 41 percent (32-of-78), took the lead for good at 22-21 on a jumper by Pippen with 8:11 left in the
second quarter. The Blazers led 34-32 at halftime and 57-53 after three periods.
"Tonight was one of those games when neither team really shot the ball well," Pippen said. "I thought we could have made some shots, could have really helped to open this game up, but we weren't able to do it. But we were able to gut game out.
Defense was the key."
A jumper by McInnis, two free throws by Anderson and baskets by Randolph and Sabonis gave Portland a 68-57 lead with 6:15
remaining. Houston went scoreless for more than 3½ minutes.
Another jumper by McInnis, who had seven points in 10 second-half minutes, kept the lead at 73-63 with 3:15 left.
Francis had a three-point play and driving layup around a free throw by Yao to make it 73-69 with 1:46 to play, but Wells -- who had been 1-of-8 from the field -- hit a jumper with 1:28 left.
"When you're missing, it doesn't matter," Anderson said. "You've got to keep shooting and these guys make sure they know
we are the ones who are going to be shooting the ball."