Blazers Break Rockets' Hearts Once More
Kevin Martin scores 45, but Blazers rally in fourth quarter for 103-100 win
HOUSTON - Frustration. Elation. Despair.
Yes, Houston’s tilt with Portland ran the Rockets through the full range of emotions Wednesday night, sending the team from hell to heaven and back again.
One minute Toyota Center was hopping in eager anticipation of one of the Rockets finest wins of the season. The next it was filled with doom and gloom following an agonizingly painful defeat.
To be sure, such is life in the spurt-heavy world of NBA basketball. Highs and lows are inherent within this beautiful game in which the goal, more often than not, is to make sure you have the last run, or at least the more meaningful one. And on that front the Rockets came up empty, blowing a 13-point fourth quarter lead and wasting a monster 45-point scoring night from Kevin Martin as part of a 103-100 loss at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers.
“That was a very bad loss for us,” remarked Martin after the game. “We were down by 8 at the half, then up by 13 in the fourth and we blew it. It’s a very bad loss. Anything between that is just meaningless details.”
It didn’t have to be that way. Indeed, it felt as if it wouldn’t be that way.
The Rockets struggled at the start, spending much of the first half waiting for the ball to glide through the nylon netting after Portland makes. But Houston came out of the locker room at halftime a completely different team, with a resolve and intensity that seemed for all the world to indicate a win was in the offing.
For seven straight possessions to begin the second half, the Rockets shut down Portland’s offensive attack, rapidly transforming an 8-point halftime deficit into a 3-point lead thanks to an 11-0 run capped by a Martin triple that was but a harbinger of things to come. The man who might as well be known as Mr. Efficiency erupted in the period, blitzing the Blazers from all over the court. By the time his third quarter binge was over, Martin had scored 19 points in the frame on 7-of-9 shooting, and the Rockets were up 80-74.
Houston ’s lead only continued to grow as the fourth quarter got underway as Martin drained yet another triple, his 6 th of the game, and Chase Budinger tacked on one of his own, staking the Rockets to a commanding 89-76 advantage. Houston’s bench was beside itself. The crowd was going bananas.
And suddenly, somehow, everything changed.
Portland started hitting shot after shot. The beautiful ball movement and up-tempo play which helped Houston seize control ground to a screeching halt. Turnovers became a bug the Rockets couldn’t shake. And in less than three minutes, the Blazers had reeled off a 13-0 run of their own, changing the complexion of the game for good.
The contest had now become a game of half-court execution, suiting slow-paced Portland far more than it did the run-and-gun Rockets. The Blazers were perfectly content to hand the ball to LaMarcus Aldridge in the low post and let him go to work which is precisely what he did, wreaking havoc on his way to a 27-point, 13-rebound night – all while no doubt blissfully basking in the fact he did not once have to deal with his nemesis Chuck Hayes, who is out with an ankle injury. The Rockets miss Hayes’ presence every game but it’s hard to imagine them ever missing him more than they do when the Blazers are the opponent, given his uncanny historical mastery over Aldridge.
And while Portland’s power forward was having his way down low, Houston couldn’t buy a bucket. The Rockets went exactly nine minutes and 30 seconds without a field goal in the final frame, as the team’s offensive execution evaporated as quickly as its lead.
“Our execution in the fourth was poor,” said Shane Battier. “That was really the difference tonight. We played well enough in spurts to win the game but bad execution cost us.
“We have to remember what our strength is: our strength is getting out, pushing the ball and attacking early in the shot clock – that’s how we got the lead. We got away from that and became a slow-it-down isolation team and that’s not our strength. They’re long and athletic and it’s tough to score against a team like that when you try to do it (one-on-one).”
So now the Rockets must regroup once more. The schedule doesn’t get any easier with an Orlando-Utah back-to-back preceding a visit to Boston over the course of the next five days. This team has been here before and need only hearken back to the start of the season when it was left for dead after an 0-5 start for a reminder of how quickly things can turn. The NBA season, like the game itself, is full of streaks and runs. The key to survival lies in keeping one’s head amid the ever-changing, ever-raging sea of emotion in order to best chart the course that leads out of the abyss and into the light.
Tough loss. We didn’t come out and play the first half the way we needed to play. We had a bad four-minute stretch in the fourth quarter that cost us. Just a tough loss.
(deciding whether or not to double Aldridge): Down the stretch they hit three 3s and it puts us in a bad spot on the floor. He had 27 but he was in the teens during most of the game. You pick your poison, I guess.
Our execution in the fourth was poor. That was really the difference tonight. We played well enough in spurts to win the game but bad execution cost us.
(difference in the third quarter): We had to raise our energy and raise our level of play. Our level of play in the first half was unacceptable. We responded well in the third quarter and Kevin was cooking but it wasn’t enough.
(quality of shots in fourth): They were tough shots. We have to remember what our strength is: our strength is getting out, pushing the ball and attacking early in the shot clock – that’s how we got the lead. We got away from that and became a slow-it-down isolation team and that’s not our strength. They’re long and athletic and it’s tough to score against a team like that when you try do it (one-on-one).
I believe if you’re aggressive you’re going to get the calls. The best way to be aggressive is to run the offense and run your cuts hard. Unless you’ve got a superstar, which we’re lacking right now, it’s tough to get foul calls in isolation – that’s just the way the game is played. That’s another reason why we have to run our offense get more movement, especially at the end of games.
That was a very bad loss for us. We were down by 8 at the half, then up by 13 in the fourth and we blew it. It’s a very bad loss. Anything between that is just meaningless details.
(On the Rockets inconsistent play throughout the game) “We have to play like we did in the second half every night. You can't just play here and there because you're just going to lose most of the time. We just have to be more consistent on both ends of the court and try to pull these types of games out.”
(On the last shot) “He (Rudy Fernandez) did a good job of being there right on the catch. It was two seconds on the clock so when Shane (Battier) threw it I had to jump up and catch it and then come down. So, about that time there was one second and I was trying to get it off as quick as possible, get it up there towards the rim.”
(On losing the 13 point lead) “They ( Portland) were able to get stops. After that, we missed a lot of easy shots. They ( Portland) did a good job of executing going down low to (LaMarcus) Aldridge. He had a good game, all game. A couple of their guards like Rudy Fernandez hit a lot of tough shots.”
(feel like the way the game was called allowed you to defend Aldridge the way you wanted?): I really couldn’t defend him the way I wanted to because every time I tried a foul got called on me. When I tried not to get a foul he took advantage of it and scored.
When a big is good in the post you have to do your best to push him out. He’s looking to get low and as close to the rim as possible and if he does get that close, it’s all over. He’ll definitely score or get a foul.
I need to do more and do much better trying to push him off the block. They’ve got plays to get him into the low post easily, so I just have to be ready for it and try to attack it before he gets there.
PORTLAND COACH NATE MCMILLAN
(On staying with his bench in the 4th quarter) “That line-up had fought back for us in the game and we were going to stick with them for the stretch. They fought and were very scrappy and they had things going in a good rhythm.
(On his teams play) “It comes down to making plays. Last night we didn’t’ make them and tonight we did. We knocked down timely shots at the end. We kept fighting and executing down the stretch. It was nice because it gives us the tie-breaker with Houston. It would have been a sick feeling if we would have lost the game.”
(On the game) “I was tired from last night but I was really glad to see the way our guys stepped up. Rudy (Fernandez) came through and Patty (Mills) in the fourth quarter. Our bench guys were playing well and Coach hung with them and let them play. The bench played great. That’s what we needed. They were playing hard and smart and giving us the edge we needed to win.”
(On his last basket inside the paint in the 4th quarter) “I’m a hard right kind of guy so I was thinking about going left before I got the ball and it worked out well. I’m glad I went left, but I didn’t’ know what Houston defensively would do.”
(On if he missed Chuck Hayes tonight) “He is a great defender and, no, I wasn’t mad at all that he wasn’t playing.”
(On the key to the game) “The second unit was terrific. They provided the spark and that’s what won the game for us. This is a team game and we got the win and that’s all that matters.”
(On Kevin Martin’s play) “That’s nothing new. He’s been doing that in this league for a very long time. He’s got an uncanny knack for getting to the free throw line. He is one of the best scorers in the league and when he got it going, he is almost impossible to stop.”
(On his play and the bench’s play) “I came out and had fun. I was loose and ready to play. I let the game come to me and when I was open, I shot it and they were falling. I looked over at about the 6th minute mark in the fourth quarter and I was a little surprised and I said ‘hey, we’re still hooping and it felt good’.”
The Trail Blazers overcame a 13-point deficit (89-76 with 9:33 left) in the fourth quarter for a 103-100 win over the Rockets. It marked just the third time this season Houston’s opponent has returned from a double-figure deficit to defeat the Rockets.
Tonight’s win gave the Trail Blazers the season series and marked Portland’s first victory in Houston since an 85-78 decision on Apr. 6, 2007. Including the 2009 NBA Playoffs, Houston had won nine straight home games over Portland (six regular season, three playoffs). Prior to tonight, the home team had actually won each of the prior eight regular season meetings in this series.
Houston reached the century mark tonight, which was just the 10th time this season Portland has allowed an opponent to score 100 points.
The Rockets outrebounded the Trail Blazers by a 43-34 margin tonight. Houston has now pulled down at least 40 rebounds in each of the last 10 games. It currently stands as the second-longest active streak in the NBA ( Miami: 11 from 12/15/10-1/4/11, Houston: 10 from 12/17/10-1/5/11).
Houston was 11-of-20 (.550) from downtown tonight. After starting the season 9-0 when reaching double digits from beyond the arc, the Rockets have dropped two straight after making 13 of a season-high 30 (.433) 3-point attempts in a loss at Denver (1/3/11).
Portland placed seven players in double-digit scoring to just two Rockets with 10-plus points. It was the third time this season for an opponent to have seven players with 10 or more points.
Kevin Martin set the Rockets Toyota Center record in scoring with a season-high 45 points (13-18 FG, 6-8 3FG, 13-15 FT) tonight. The previous high was 44 points by Tracy McGrady vs. Utah (1/5/07) and 44 by Luis Scola vs. New Jersey (3/13/10). Martin reached 40-plus points for the eighth time in his career and his second with the Rockets. He also scored 40 points (12-19 FG, 3-6 3FG, 13-14 FT) vs. Cleveland (12/11/10). The Rockets are 6-2 in the last eight outings when Martin reaches at least 20 points.
Shane Battier recorded 13 points (6-9 FG, 1-2 3FG) and two blocked shots tonight. Houston is now 9-2 in the last 11 games when Battier has reached double-figure scoring.
Luis Scola finished with six points (2-8 FG), 12 rebounds, five assists and a career-high three blocked shots. Scola snapped his career-best streak of double-figure scoring at 30 consecutive games (11/6/10-1/3/11).
LaMarcus Aldridge, who posted 27 points (11-18 FG) and 13 rebounds tonight, has now scored at least 20 points in each of his last seven regular season visits to Toyota Center. He has also scored at least 25 points in four straight games (12/30/10-1/5/10) for the first time in his career.
Patty Mills, who scored a career-high 14 points (6-12 FG, 2-4 3FG) and nabbed a career-best five steals against the Rockets at Portland (1/2/11), matched that total tonight with 14 points off a 4-of-7 performance from 3-point range.
Andre Miller had 11 points (5-8 FG) and Nicolas Batum added 10 points (2-3 3FG) tonight, giving the pair a share of Portland’s top spot in double-digit scoring performances with 20 each this season.