This time, there was no Baron Davis heave to break their hearts,
no Kobe Bryant magnificence to overcome.
This time, the Rockets pushed a game to its final seconds and
then lamented the worst of could-have-beens. This time, they blamed
They took blame for everything from the way they started to the
breakdown at the finish, when Portland rookie Brandon Roy was
allowed to go all the way to the rim for the decisive late drive on
Wednesday night, lifting the Trail Blazers to an 89-87 victory that
left the Rockets with three losses, all in the final seconds, in
the first four games of the road trip.
"We killed ourselves," guard Rafer Alston said. "That's the
bottom line. This road trip, we killed ourselves. We should be 4-0
without a doubt. Lack of concentration. Lack of defense. And
tonight, we didn't play a 48-minute game. We waited until the final
quarter to come out and start being intense and aggressive."
If that sounds as if the Rockets did not give Portland
appropriate respect, the Rockets blamed themselves for that,
"We came out like we could beat this team on natural talent,"
said Alston, who had 20 points and eight assists. "This team is on
a roll. They had won four in a row. We should have come out with an
unbelievable effort from start to the finish and come out and won
The Rockets did lead early, but when they went to their bench,
they collapsed again.
"We were up when we broke the lineup with about 3:30 to go in
the first quarter," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "From that
point on, we got dominated up until halftime, and that's been a
That was enough for the Rockets to lean heavily on Yao Ming and
shorten the bench to Juwan Howard and Bonzi Wells.
Yao missed his first three and last three shots of the first
half but slowly returned to dominate.
With a stretch to end the third quarter and begin the fourth,
Yao made seven consecutive shots and seven consecutive free throws
to help drive the Rockets back to their late chance. He finished
with 34 points, giving him five 30-point games in his past six. He
added nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Even when he took a
brief rest (he played 40 minutes) with 6:15 left, the Rockets
closed to within three.
The Rockets did manage to rally from a 12-point deficit early in
the fourth quarter, but could never completely dig out of their
early hole and catch Portland in the final minute.
Roy made a driving left-handed layup over Shane Battier with
19.9 seconds left to push Portland's lead to 86-82.
After Alston sank a runner for the Rockets at the other end,
Portland point guard Jarrett Jack swished a pair of free throws
with 10.1 seconds left to seal the win.
The Rockets outscored Portland in the final period 27-19 and
held Randolph, the Blazers' leading scorer, to just three points in
the final 12 minutes.
Houston's poor shooting in the first half, however, simply
proved to be just too much to overcome.
The Rockets were 11-of-37 (29.7 percent) from the field in the
opening 24 minutes and scored only 14 points in the second quarter.
The result: Houston trailed by as many as 14 points thanks to the
By the time things did start clicking, it was too late.
"When you are behind the whole game and you come back in the
fourth this close and do not win - it is not good enough," Yao
(China Daily December 22, 2006)