HOUSTON – The Trail Blazers are building off a win.
Even though Portland has compiled winning streaks this season, the Blazers haven’t discussed, in-depth, how they learned from the previous game and had their minds right.
They hadn’t done that... until now.
Heading into Wednesday night’s matchup against the Houston Rockets, some thought the Blazers were in for a long night. It already was because of the 8:30pm local time tip-off.
Instead of following the narrative of -- the Blazers are having a rough season; the Rockets should roll just like they did last time against Portland -- the Blazers had other ideas.
The Blazers held off the Rockets down the stretch, defeating Houston 117-107 Wednesday night.
Trail Blazers team captain Damian Lillard, who led the Blazers in scoring with 25 points, was not only pleased with his team's effort, but also mentioned how, as a team, they had their minds right.
With the Blazers playing three games in four days starting in Houston, the Blazers elected not to have a shootaround earlier in the day. Instead, they elected for a more relaxed team meeting.
From the sounds of it, the team meeting was something this team really benefited from in Houston.
We just had good fight, we had good energy, and a good presence about us, I think. Even in our meeting today, we kind of talked through stuff. Before the game, it was pretty quiet. You can tell, coming off the win against Charlotte – we came into this trip wanting to start off on the right foot and I thought our effort on the floor showed that. -- Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard said postgame
This game could easily be looked at as the Blazers best defensive performance thus far.
But for Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, he couldn’t help but emphasize his team’s decision-making overall.
“[Houston] made their run, hit some threes, but we kept our composure, made good decisions at the offensive end, it was a good win,” Stotts said postgame.
It’s no secret that Portland has had its fair share of issues on defense, but the Blazers were able to come together on that end of the floor on Wednesday. They limited James Harden to just 13 points on 3-of-12 shooting.
The Blazers defensive effort was strong for the entire game.
Lillard felt Wednesday’s game was a very complete game, which has been hard to come by for the Blazers this season.
“In the first half we played well," Lillard said. "It wasn’t like we went into the half down and then had a big second half. It was like we just kept putting quarters together, quarter after quarter after quarter, and I think if we can sustain that and approach every game that way, we’ll have a great chance in a lot of these games."
Coming off the win over the Hornets, where Portland allowed Charlotte to get back in the game in the second half after the Hornets hit four quick three-pointers, that could’ve easily happened again against the Rockets.
But, it didn’t .
As CJ McCollum put it, “when you get a lead, you have to hold onto it, try to extend it. We did that tonight.”
The Blazers biggest lead was 17.
And, as many point to what Portland was able to do on the defensive end, holding the Rockets to just 39.6 percent from the floor, Coach Stotts was also happy with what his team was getting on offense.
“I was pleased with our offense all night. I thought our passing; we did a good job of passing. We tried to attack certain matchups... I was pretty pleased with the shots that we were able to get,” Stotts said.
There are nights when every single player from one to eight is on the same page, and that’s what happened Wednesday night.
Having Anthony Tolliver and Gary Trent, Jr. step up and make timely three-pointers is what the Blazers have been looking for from the second unit.
For veteran Carmelo Anthony, who returned to play against the team that he last played for (even if it was just 10 days), believes that he and the Blazers wanted this game more.
“We had a great game plan," Melo said. "We stuck to it, guys was on the same accord. We were locked in defensively, we’re locked in offensively and we stuck to it tonight. This was a game that we felt like we could come in here and get and we did that."
Anthony finished with 18 points on an efficient 7-for-10 shooting night to go along with 12 rebounds.
Even though he wouldn’t come out and say that this win over his short-lived former team felt better than other victories, the Blazers as a team showed in the locker room how much this win meant. From Jusuf Nurkic in the locker room making jokes to the tone of the postgame interviews – everyone knows how big of a win it was in Houston.
As Lillard said, it’s now time to have some real carryover.
Next up the Trail Blazers face Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks Friday night on NBCSNW.