There were three games last night, all of them being Game 6. This was following a night on which three teams staved off elimination, last night only two of the three teams trailing in the series could force another game. The one team to win a Game 6 in the last 48 hours was the Portland Trail Blazers, they did so in dramatic fashion. The largest margin of victory for either team in this series was ten points, the other five games came down to the wire with three of those games going to overtime. While it was an exciting series between Houston and Portland, all things eventually come to an end. The end, came courtesy of Damian Lillard’s sensational buzzer beater with 0.9 seconds left in the game. (According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first walk-off shot to win a playoff series since John Stockton’s three pointer to win the 1997 Western Conference finals)
Looking back at the Series Preview, the Rockets had several keys to lead them to victory. Several things they had to do to ensure that they would be advancing to the Second round of the Playoffs. Here’s a Review:
Keys to Victory
- Rebound the Basketball(Blazers were best team in the league on the glass)
- Slow down LaMarcus Aldridge, Terrance Jones will be key
- Chandler Parsons, Jones must help Harden and Howard on the offensive end(Consistency)
- Run the Blazers off the three point line(Shooting 37% as a team)
- Make Lillard a facilitator, averaging 20.7 points per game(shooting 39% from deep)
Of these keys, three of them were definitely not taken care of. The first being to slow down LaMarcus Aldridge, the Rockets failed to do so all series. Aldridge scored in double-figures in five of the six games, he averaged 29.8 points per game, 11.2 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks per game. He did so while shooting 47% from the field, the Rockets couldn’t find an answer for him at all. Started the series with back to back 40 point performances, he was too strong for Terrance Jones and far too quick for Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. The second key to victory that the Rockets failed to achieve was to make Damian Lillard as close to a pure facilitator as possible. Instead, Lillard was able to facilitate and be the lethal scorer that he’s been in his two year career. Dame played his role while Aldridge was going crazy on the offensive end, keeping teammates involved and feeding the hot hand. Somehow his stellar play in this series went under the radar before hitting that huge shot to end the series. Lillard averaged 25.5 points, 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals in his first postseason series. The second year guard shot 46% from the floor and a staggering 48% from beyond the arc, Houston’s failure to handle the two Blazer stars was the reason for their early exit.
Houston didn’t lose to a bad team, nor did they go quietly. While “Dwight Howard bashing” has become increasingly popular over the past few years, he had a very good series. Portland didn’t double team him often, rather choosing to play him one-on-one. Howard took advantage of it throughout the series, averaging 26 points per game on 54% shooting. He was masterful last night, scoring 13 consecutive points for the Rockets down the stretch. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough, he did his part by grabbing 13.7 boards and blocking 2.7 shots per contest. While Aldridge had the luxury of his wingman (Lillard) performing at a very high level, Howard did not. James Harden has proven to be one of the NBA’s most efficient scorers since his move to Houston. While he averaged 26.8 points a game in this series, he struggled mightily to do so. In the regular season, Harden shot 45% from the floor and 36% from three. The Portland defense did a great job of making him work for his shots, namely Wesley Matthews. Matthews did a great job of staying in front of James and an even better job of staying down on pump fakes. Harden rarely looked comfortable this series, outside of last night when he got into a rhythm very early. The Blazer defense forced Harden into shooting 37% from the floor and 29% from deep, their defense also affected Chandler Parsons. Parsons, like Harden struggled to maintain a consistent rhythm on the offensive end of the floor.
The Blazers did a remarkable job against the Rockets, they now await the winner of the San Antonio-Dallas series. No matter who their next opponent will be, the Blazers will present several issues. Portland has two stars and one of the better starting fives in the league, like every team they will need contributions from their bench if they wish to win a title. The first round of this year’s playoffs has been incredible thus far. Who doesn’t want another round of Aldridge, Lillard and these feisty Blazers?
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com