By Jonathan Ryan Davis
Before getting to the game recap, in a sadistic, cathartic exercise, I have decided to list a few of the questions I would have asked Blazers players and coaches as a member of the media for tonight's game. At least I can imagine what my interactions would have been like to stare up at the towering LMA as he ponders my tough, but thoughtful questions.
Here are a few of the questions (not related to the ludicrous OKC loss)...
Q: After the torrid start by Portland, Blazers players and coaches mentioned the fraternity-like bond that naturally formed as the main reason for their success. Now that you have encountered some inconsistency, especially on the road, has the culture changed in the clubhouse?
Q: The Blazers have struggled to form a late game identity. What do you envision that identity must be in order to have the same success Portland had with B-Roy over the last few years, when the Blazers were consistently one of best NBA teams at closing out games?
Q: As this is the most frantic, condensed season in a while, how do you plan on using the All-Star break to retool before the stretch run? Is rest more important than practice at this point?
Q: What is your favorite pizza place in Portland? (Isn't this information everyone wants to know? I mean, seriously, what's more interesting: another answer about another basketball question or information that can help satiate your appetite, literally?)
Maybe, with a little luck, the Blazers will hook up TANY with a media credential for one of Portland's east coast games so we can ask a few of these questions. Stranger things have happened!
Now to the recap...
This game was all about energy from beginning to end. One team had it consistently while the other went through sugar highs and lows from the opening tip to the final buzzer. Portland awoke from their slumber in a few short spurts to come back from 19 down to force a tie, only to have Houston build the lead again and not relinquish it.
Portland was lackluster to start the game. As Mike and Mike mentioned in their broadcast, it appeared the Blazers were still hungover from the OKC game. Portland's game oozed laziness from the outset. The only player in the first quarter who appeared to be motivated and was active on both ends of the floor was the Blazer playing with a sprained ankle. Felton kept Portland in the game in the first quarter, and in spite of stellar shooting by the Blazers, Portland continued to get out rebounded on every possession, which resulted in Houston heading into the second with a small lead. Houston was active on both ends and moved the ball well to get shot after shot that was wide open.
The second quarter was no better. The theme again? No energy...no energy...no energy. Portland sagged on defense, enabling red-hot shooting by Houston's bench. The Blazers' offense continued to be lazy, with over-passing and minimal movement and penetration. The thing Portland was best at in the second quarter? Turning the ball over. Throw in an abysmal half by the soon-to-be All-Star, and you get a double-digit deficit at the half.
Whatever Nate McMillan said at halftime to get the Blazers motivated worked to start the third quarter. Who else, but Gerald "Crash" Wallace brought the defensive energy that led to 10 forced turnovers in the quarter, cutting the lead in half by the start of the fourth quarter. It appeared as though Portland might show some of the resilience they came to be known for in the B-Roy years, but alas, the fourth quarter was circa 2012, not 2010.
Portland continued their charge to start the final quarter, tying the game with about 10 minutes to go in the game. After trading baskets for a few possessions, never gaining the lead, Portland visibly ran out of gas and sputtered to the end of the game. They went through the motions of trying to come back; yet Portland was not destined to come back this night.
I'd like to say Portland threw this game out of solidarity for me not being able to attend the game and fraternize with them in the locker room; however, my egoism aside, Portland got beat by OKC tonight, not Houston.
This has been a grueling season, and nights like tonight illustrate that fact more than any. Portland must get over their angst toward the league and show their worth as they head out on the road for two games. As fans, we need to put these past two games behind us as well and have faith that the Blazers will get out of this funk and put together a stellar run after the All-Star break.