I'd like to sit here and write that the Houston Rockets failed to show up in Portland Tuesday night.
But unfortunately the truth is they did show up, and this was the best they could offer.
The Rockets played hideous basketball, were opposed by hideous basketball, but took a page out of their Lottery Race 2002 notebook and outtanked the Blazers 71-77 at the Rose Garden, falling to 7-6 on the season.
If you watched this game, you share my pain in trying to remember it, and can't imagine the agony of trying to write about it. Pathetic passing, bodies flying everywhere, bricks being tossed up left and right... it was hard to believe these were professionals out there.
Steve Francis and Yao Ming picked up two early fouls each in the first quarter, and the Rockets could muster up just 13 points in the period. Only 32 points at half. By the end of the game, they had shot a dismal 35.5% from the floor and bricked 14 of their 16 three-point attempts.
Even the trusty Yao Ming had trouble at the free throw line, missing 6 of his 10 freebies.
Yao played just 18 minutes, going 3-4 from the floor for 10 points and 2 boards. He had some nice moves, and had an impact on the game, though Arvydas Sabonis (6 points, 9 boards, 6 blocks, 3 steals) did a nice job against him. Which is why it's confusing that Rudy T would wait until there was about 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter to get Yao back on the floor. The Blazers had bumped their lead up to 11 before Yao and the Rockets got it down to 4.
Francis led the Rockets with 19 and 7 boards, but again found his turnovers matched his assists with 5 each.
Glen Rice, after playing extremely well for a few games, went ice cold, going just 3-13 from the floor. His three-stroke particularly went south in the fourth when the Rockets could have used a couple daggers in an ugly game like this.
The guy you have to start worrying about though is Eddie Griffin. What's the deal? Kenny Thomas (just 6 points, 3 boards) moved in to the starting lineup, pushing Eddie to the bench, and Griffin responded by going just 1-5 from the floor.
In his last 4 games, Eddie is averaging 4.5 points and is hitting 29% of his shots, and just 22% from long range. For the year he's hitting a shade over 38% from the floor -- terrible for a frontcourt player.
Moochie Norris finished with 6 points, 7 boards and 5 assists, but was 0-3 from long range and missed both of his free throws (again).
Overall, for the second straight game on the road, the Rockets looked downright terrible. Rudy T has to be wondering what the hell is going on as his offense, which clicked against Washington, has zero in the way of cohesiveness and it seems very few Rockets, if any, understand what a 7-foot-6 offensive weapon can do for them.
Anyhow, while you're trying to make sense of it all Rudy, how about we get a look at Bostjan Nachbar. At this point, could it really hurt?