Now that the Trail Blazers are holding the eighth seed in the western conference by a hair, we can all just collectively hold our breath for the rest of the regular season. Obviously it would be grand if the Blazers continued to perform like they have in the last four games and keep that winning train rolling off into the sunset. But any diehard Rip City fan will tell you that dedicating their fandom to the Blazers is not easy. It’s like one of those yo-yo relationships your friends and loved ones try to convince you to end. One minute you’re dancing on rooftops celebrating games won well, and the next you’re dumped in the gutter witnessing heinous losses. The hope is they can keep Jekyll off the court for the last eight games of this season, and Hyde can keep them in their playoff position.
Much like Tuesday’s game against Denver, last night’s game against the Houston Rockets was another challenge the Blazers needed to face in order to show that being ranked as a playoff team is warranted. The Rockets are ranked third in the west, and James Harden is being held up to Russell Westbrook as a possible receiver of this season’s MVP award. Trying to persuade someone that the Rockets are not contenders to go all the way to the finals would be like trying to convince Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal that the world isn’t flat. If the Blazers could’ve given Houston a good stiff arm, it would certainly help the faithful keep the faith, and the Blazers strike fear into the other playoff teams in the west.
Despite a shaky fourth quarter, the Blazers locked arms and were able to hold the Rockets back for their fifth consecutive win. You best believe Steph Curry is sweating bullets now…
(photos lifted from trailblazers.com)
Within the first eight minutes of the first quarter there were two extremely questionable out-of-bounds calls from the officials that went the Rockets way when they probably shouldn’t have. One was a little more blatant than the other, but the Jumbotron never lies, and the crowd was letting the officials know they slipped up. There are some conspiracy theorists out there that speak of a bias the three men with whistles often display against the Blazers. You can chalk it up to superfan, “my team can do no wrong” talk, but there’s been a few recent examples that could validate some of those wild accusations.
Even without the officials help, the Blazers were competitive the whole first quarter. They allowed Harden to do a little damage with 12 points, but they only let him get to the free throw line once. He didn’t have too many opportunities to pull his pretend-shot/foul-drawing move he does so well.
A two-to-four point lead swung back and forth between the teams like a pendulum the whole first quarter and into the second. Allen Crabbe did his part by inflating the Blazers’ lead any chance he could get with a few threes and clean jumpers. Crabbe scored 13 points before the half was over. Maurice Harkless also finished the half with 11 points. The contributions from some unusual suspects, along with the typical bell ringers like Dame and Jusuf Nurkic, helped the Blazers take a nine point lead into the locker room.
The Blazers had the lead throughout the third quarter. Dame scored 12 points in the period bringing his total up to 27, and cinched a double double for the night by dishing out 10 assists. The Rockets knocked the Blazers lead down to six towards the middle of the quarter, but the Blazers finished strong with an 11 point lead going into the final quarter.
The Blazers started the fourth looking like they were gonna hold their ground, but after a couple bad turnovers the Rockets dug into their lead and brought it down to four. Both teams were missing wide open shots, but the Blazers were throwing up some terrible, uncontested clangers. With just over three minutes left in the game the Blazers had only scored 11 points in the final quarter, and the Rockets had tied the game. The Blazers had a commanding lead for almost the entire game and it looked like the Rockets were gonna steal the win from them. That is, until the Blazers erupted just over the two-minute mark and went on a furious 12-2 run. They dangled a possible win in front of the Rockets, than snatched it back, laughing all the way to the buzzer. It was beautiful and validating to see them take out a solid team like Houston.
Anything is possible. That glass slipper just might fit. Watch out, Golden State.