For the first four games of their first-round series against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets‘ defense, which many figured would be the difference-maker in this series, was missing in action.
LaMarcus Aldridge torched the Rockets for 89 points in the first two games, Damian Lillard has had his way against the Rockets’ point guards, and Nicolas Batum has been dancing circles around James Harden. Dwight Howard and Omer Asik, who were supposed to provide the inside muscle, has been toyed with by the Blazers’ frontcourt.
But on a night where the Rockets were facing elimination on its home floor, the Rockets’ defense decided to make a grand entrance into the series.
With the exception of a breakout game by Wesley Matthews, the Rockets were determined to put a lid on the Blazers’ basket. Houston held the Blazers to just 43 percent shooting from the field and held Portland to under 100 points for the first time in the series.
Aldridge, who has torched the Rockets, looked more like like Clark Kent, going a horrific 3-for-12 from the floor. Aldridge was not able to get good looks at the basket all night as Howard re-asserted his defensive dominance. This was a performance that Houston needed in a do-or-die game. The Rockets needed bring a greater defensive performance to keep their hopes of getting to the second round alive.
Now the big question is, can the Rockets bring their new-found defensive intensity to Portland? If the Rockets dream of hosting a Game 7, it will have to.