HOUSTON – Both the Trail Blazers and Rockets got out and ran early and often on Monday night. Early in the game, it was all about who was more successful on the fastbreak and who could get to the free-throw line more.
The Rockets blew the game wide open in the third quarter.
Monday in Houston marked the first night of a back-to-back for the Blazers. Portland’s head coach Terry Stotts pulled his starters with 3:49 to go in the game. Houston led 120-99 at the point before the Rockets continued to roll to their 11th overall victory.
Here are three quick takeaways from Monday’s loss:
1. So much attention on Lillard opened up opportunities for others
The Rockets, as they do, switched on nearly all screens against the Blazers and with so much of their focus on Damian Lillard, the lane opened up for Nassir Little and Hassan Whiteside early in the game, but the Blazers had a hard time converting in the second half.
2. Harden doing what Harden does
Whether it was drawing fouls, especially on the young Blazer defenders, finishing at the rim, or knocking down threes, James Harden was putting up MVP-type numbers and leading his team to a victory.
Harden also took advantage of his matchup against Blazers rookie Nassir Little. Harden went to his bag of tricks to bait Little into fouling him from deep. Little racked up four fouls in the first half.
The connection between Harden and Clint Capela was also on full display. That’s what makes Harden so difficult to defend, he’ll get his buckets, but he’ll also find his teammates for the lob or hand-off down low.
3. Rockets overpower Blazers on the boards
Heading into the fourth quarter, Houston was outrebounding Portland, 46-32. The Rockets also had 23-second chance points after three quarters compared to the Blazers’ eight. Houston showed off its weapons on both ends and proved once again why the Rockets were predicted to be one of the top teams to beat in the West.
Up Next: The Blazers will play in their second leg of this back-to-back when they visit New Orleans on Tuesday night. The Blazers and Pelicans tip-off at 5:00pm PT.
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