Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets: Postgame Grades and Analysis

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistJanuary 21, 2014

USA Today

The Houston Rockets (28-15) defeated the Portland Trail Blazers (31-10) 126-113 on Monday night behind double-doubles from Chandler Parsons and Dwight Howard.

Houston set a season-high with 126 points and scored at least 34 points in each of the game's first three quarters before cooling down in the fourth quarter. 

Houston held a 22-point lead during the second quarter, but Portland stormed back after the break and cut the deficit to as few as six during the third frame.

However, both the Blazers and Rockets wound up pouring in 35 points in the third quarter, and Portland's defense was simply too porous to make a complete comeback on a night when Houston shot 52 percent from the field and 49 percent from three. 

The Rockets have now won two in a row after squandering a massive first-half lead to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Thursday and have won five of their last six. 

LaMarcus Aldridge led the Blazers with 27 points and 20 rebounds in the loss and was one of four Portland players to finish in double figures. 


Key Players

James Harden, Houston Rockets, Shooting Guard

Give it up for James Harden. On a night when Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons stole the show, The Beard didn't force the issue and wound up churning out fairly efficient numbers in the process.   

Harden was one of two Houston players to log more than 40 minutes, and finished with 22 points on 7-of-15 shooting from the field, 4-of-9 from three and 4-of-5 from the free-throw line. 

The one glaring negative was that the league's fifth-leading scorer turned the ball over a game-high five times, although it's worth noting that he did pull down six rebounds and dished out five dimes in the win. 

Grade: B+

Jan 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) dunks the ball during the first quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets, Center

Howard entered Monday night averaging 30.5 points and 15 boards against Portland this season, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that he had his way with the Blazers' interior defenders early, scoring nine quick points on 4-of-4 shooting, including this nasty slam on Joel Freeland: 

Freeland was simply incapable of staying in front of Howard and was forced to exit after four minutes due to three quick personal fouls.

In a nutshell, Howard looked largely unstoppable from start to finish. 

On a night when the Rockets dominated both inside and out, Howard racked up 24 points (6-of-9 from the line) and 12 rebounds.  

Grade: A


Chandler Parsons, Houston Rockets, Small Forward

The first Houston player into double figures, Parsons provided a steady hand on the offensive end with a season-high 31 points (12-of-19 shooting), seven assists and 10 rebounds. 

On a night when the Rockets knocked down eight of their first 10 threes, Parsons picked apart Portland's zone defense with cuts to the basket and had himself a brilliant first half that consisted of 19 points on 8-of-11 shooting. 

However, this chase down block on Damian Lillard may have been Parsons' signature play on a night when he looked spry on both ends of the floor. 

Grade: A+


Patrick Beverley, Houston Rockets, Point Guard

Playing in his first game since Dec. 21 due to a broken hand, Patrick Beverley impressed with his three-point stroke during a first quarter in which the Rockets poured in 37 points and hit all four of their attempts from beyond the arc. He also finished the first half a game-high plus-26. 

Beverley totaled 29 minutes in his return, scoring 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting (3-of-8 from three) while dishing out three assists. 

The Rockets stand to benefit from Beverley's presence on both ends of the floor now that they have their full complement of point guards healthy, but his defensive impact is what Houston's really been missing, according to head coach Kevin McHale. 

"I thought Pat gave us a huge lift with his defense," McHale said, per CSN Houston's Adam Wexler

Grade: B+


Donatas Motiejunas, Houston Rockets, Power Forward

Starting in place of the red-hot Terrence Jones (who sat out with a thigh injury), Donatas Motiejunas was presented with the task of replacing the production of a player who's averaging 21.6 points and 12.2 rebounds while shooting 58.1 percent from the field over his last five games. 

Early on, that wasn't a problem. The man affectionately known as Donuts poured in seven points on 3-of-4 shooting to open the game, and looked comfortable operating both inside and out. 

And while he cooled down considerably and failed to finish with Jones-like numbers due to foul trouble, Motiejunas was solid in relief of the emerging stud, finishing with nine points and nine rebounds.  

Grade: B


Jeremy Lin, Houston Rockets, Sixth Man

In short, Jeremy Lin's outing against the Blazers was fairly mediocre. 

Pushed into a role off the bench with Beverley back in the fold, Lin totaled eight points, five assists and four turnovers on a night when the Rockets' big offensive guns stole the show. 

Grade: D


Bench, Houston Rockets

The big story for Houston's second unit was the play of Omri Casspi, who led the Rockets' second unit with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting (3-of-3 from three) in the first half. He was one of three Houston players to finish the game's first 24 minutes in double figures. 

Aside from the Israeli sharpshooter, Kevin McHale's bench really didn't produce much as Francisco Garcia sat with knee tendinitis and Aaron Brooks was relegated to a third-string role with Beverley back. 

Grade: C

Jan 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) runs up the court during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers, Power Forward

As you can see, LaMarcus Aldridge wasn't in a groove early:  

The good news for Portland was that, slowly but surely, Aldridge worked himself into a comfortable rhythm, and by the time halftime rolled around, the MVP candidate had posted a double-double consisting of 16 points and 13 rebounds (seven on the offensive glass). 

What's more staggering is that Aldridge attempted 17 first-half field-goals, four short of his season average.  

Portland's most reliable and dynamic contributor from start to finish, Aldridge compiled a team-high 27 points (11-of-26 shooting) and a game-high 20 rebounds in 37 minutes. 

Grade: A


Jan 17, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard (0) reacts during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Blazers won 109-100. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Point Guard

Although he was defended by the pesky Beverley for most of the night, Lillard was able to make a significant impact in the scoring column in the second half. 

The All-Star hopeful finished with 24 points on 7-of-17 shooting a night after scoring 14 points on 3-of-8 shooting, and has now scored at least 20 points in three of his last four games.

Grade: B+


Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, Small Forward

It was tough sledding for Nicolas Batum on a night when he was overshadowed by Parsons' tremendous perimeter play.

Not only were his defensive efforts mostly futile, but Batum wasn't exactly in the business of matching the Houston swingman score for score.  

In a low-key individual performance, Batum was good for six points, three rebounds and tied Parsons with a game-high seven assists. He's seen better days. 

Grade: D


Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers, Shooting Guard

Like most of his teammates, Wes Matthews didn't flourish statistically until the third quarter rolled around. 

But with that said, Matthews was hardly efficient, hitting 8-of-17 shots, including 2-of-9 from three, and provided very little in terms of reliable defense on a night when he scored 18 points.   

Grade: C


Robin Lopez, Portland Trail Blazers, Center

If we were grading Robin Lopez on the quality of his third-quarter swat of Dwight Howard (seen below), his marks would be sky high.

Unfortunately for the Sideshow Bob look-alike, the grading scale must factor in his performance from start to finish, and his defense on Howard wasn't always so pretty. 

Lopez's first half was nothing special, which brings his grade down slightly, but he was able to turn up the intensity in the second half.

Ultimately, Lopez finished with 13 points, three rebounds and a block in a tidy showing. 

Grade: B-


Mo Williams, Portland Trail Blazers, Sixth Man

Much like the Rockets, the Blazers only had one semi-consistent bench contributor, and his name was Mo Williams.  

In 26 minutes, Williams managed nine points and three dimes. However, the most interesting part of Williams' night was that Terry Stotts played him alongside Lillard and rookie C.J. McCollum during a stretch in the second half, which is an intriguing offensive trio that the Blazers may continue to experiment with against smaller lineups moving forward. 

Grade: C-


Bench, Portland Trail Blazers

Outside of Williams, this looked like the Blazers' lackluster second unit from last season. 

McCollum mustered just seven points in limited action while Thomas Robinson, Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland saw 14, seven and four minutes, respectively. 

Grade: F


What's Next?

The Blazers will cap off the second night of a back-to-back with a road game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Tuesday while the Rockets will have a day off before hosting the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. 


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