Trail Blazers

After 50-point first quarter, Blazers win over Rockets wasn't easy

Trail Blazers
Norman Powell against the Rockets
USA Today

The Trail Blazers got a nice workout Monday night in Moda Center, as the Houston Rockets dropped in to continue their nationwide Tanking Around the League Tour.

And the Rockets probably provided a little more opposition than the Trail Blazers expected, given Houston showed up with a string of 42 losses in its last 47 games.

The game ended in a 140-129 Portland win, during which the Trail Blazers posted a franchise-record 50-point first quarter and spent a lot of the rest of game squandering leads.

For their part, the Rockets – with most of their best players sitting this one out with assorted injuries – did as well as could be expected. Or maybe even a little better than that.

They are the worst three-point shooting team in the NBA, averaging 33.7 percent from distance, coming into the game. But they hit 18-38 (47.4 percent) Monday night.

They also shot 49.4 percent overall.

Coach Terry Stotts admitted after the game he was a bit disappointed his team couldn’t have closed the game out quicker and allowed him to rest his starters more.

“Yeah, I was disappointed,” he said. “I think it was not surprising. But it would have been nice if we could have built a bigger lead going into the fourth quarter.

“You know, human nature kind of sneaks up on you. I didn't think we had the same pop in the third quarter that we did in the first quarter but, in the end, we took care of business and that's the most important thing.”

 

Still, it’s not easy to get up for some of the tankers – teams not putting out their best lineups while they try to drop anchor for a good lottery pick.

“I think it challenges us to maintain what we have to do,” Norman Powell said. “I think it's really easy to look at a team like Houston and see their overall record and the people in their lineup… But a team like that, they're going to play harder -- they have a lot to prove so it's on us to be professional and lock into it what we need to do offensively and defensively, to make sure that we take care of business.

“I thought we did a good job of that throughout the course of the game, but there's a few stretches where we kind of took our foot off the gas and they we able to make plays and hang around for a little bit.”

Portland got 90 total points from its three starting guards – 34 from Damian Lillard and 28 apiece from CJ McCollum and Powell.

There are only three Blazer games left in the season – Wednesday at Utah, Thursday at Phoenix and then back to Moda for a Sunday date with Denver.

And it’s still difficult to tell if any of those teams will be resting players or if they will be attempting to jockey for playoff positioning by dropping a game.

The Los Angeles Lakers have four games remaining and the sixth spot in the West playoff ladder is still up for grabs.