Rockets 121, Blazers 112 - Bad Blood

By Forrest Walker on January 10, 2018

The Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers don't like each other. In case anyone's unclear, there's a certain animus that came with Damian Lillard's amazing, heartbreaking buzzer-beater to seal Portland's first-round victory over the Rockets in the 2014 playoffs. There's little love lost when James Harden and Chris Paul have been standing in the way of Lillard's All-Star berths for years. Paul and Lillard both play with the sort of intensity that leads to spats and spite. All of that was on display in Houston's win over the Blazers tonight.

Speaking of Chris Paul, he was awesome. He decided that scoring was needed and set to doing it. He shot a tremendous 29 times and scored 37 points on them. His 7 rebounds, 11 assists and 3 steals round out an awesome line for Paul. He's stepped up in a big way since Harden's injury and it's not surprising at all. Paul has been an elite floor general for his entire career and is an amazing luxury for the Houston Rockets. Even while missing their clear best player, the Rockets are a very good NBA team.

Eric Gordon also decided to chip in with 30 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. He shot 5-12 from deep, which was critical in a game full of misses on easy shots. Gordon is too good of a player to be coming off he bench and it shows in games like this. He's yet another luxury for the Rockets, a reality that has been easy to forget in their recent stretch of losses. This team has absorbed injury after injury, and while they lack talent below their tenth man, they've traded on the quality of of those top ten players.

The chippiness of tonight's game sadly went hand in hand with another injury. As both teams continued to get into it, Tarik Black suffered an eye abrasion when he was fouled hard on a dunk attempt. With Nene currently nursing a knee bruise, this leaves Capela as the only real center option. Perhaps Zhou Qi will have to rise to this occasion. Perhaps PJ tucker and Ryan Anderson will have to log some center minutes. Whatever the case, the Rockets are hurting badly, and can only hope it stops soon.

Meanwhile, technical fouls and violations were everywhere to be found. Tucker and Jusuf Nurkic were handed double technicals, signalling the liftoff of animosity. As the game progressed, the rivalry ended with the Rockets closing out the game and shutting out the Blazers on the back of amazing play from Chris Paul. The Blazers tried fouling to get back into the game, but found it ineffective. The Rockets seemed to find in offensive and in turn took a few shots and layups after the game was decided. This violation of the unwritten rules led Damian Lillard to try and fail to swipe the ball from Chris Paul after the game, resulting in little more than confusion.

In the end, the Blazers and Rockets can hate each other all they like. It hasn't effected the outcome of the games yet, and it didn't help the Blazers tonight. In the end, none of that matters. All that matters is the nine point difference

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