BLAZERS CRUSH ROCKETS

Rockets slide continues to 1-5 as Blazers dominate

Chris Paul and the Rockets continue to slide. Rockets.com

The Houston Rockets kicked off Tuesday night’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers hoping to salvage a win from their three game homestand before hitting the road for a simultaneously inopportune and season-long five-game road trip. Intensity on the defensive end kept the first quarter competitive, but Houston’s cracks would soon show and the Trail Blazers would go on to rout the Rockets in a brutally efficient outing.

First quarter ended with an abysmal 19-15 Trail Blazers advantage. The highest scoring player on either side of the ball was the league’s leading scorer Damian Lillard, with 6 points. Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 4. Youngsters Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark factored more heavily into the rotation than previous contests, however the Rockets poor three-point shooting continued as Houston connected on only 1-10 from three.

Stiff defense to lead off the second perpetuated more ugly basketball, as turnovers, blocks, and steals ground the pace to a crawl. One of the lone bright spots came in the form of center Clint Capela’s hustle, grinding out out 5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks halfway through the the second quarter. The Rockets somehow managed to tie the game at one point, before the Lillard and guard C.J. McCollum sparked a Trail Blazers sparked a run to push the lead to a more recognizable gap Houston fans have become accustomed to this early in the season. The Rockets combined for a collective field goal percentage of 27.1%, with Gerald Green, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony--essentially three of the team’s four primary scorers at the moment--shooting 3-21. The Trail Blazers would head to the locker room leading 51-36.

Quarter three provided zero relief to fans beleaguered by the first half as abysmal shooting, from both the field and the line extended Portland’s lead even further. The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, exploited Houston’s interior to maintain a team field goal percentage of 52.5% to the Rockets’ 29.7%.

The fourth quarter opened with the Trail Blazers leading 85-62, as Lillard and company exerted their will on Rockets. Lillard and Nurkic would finish the contest as points leaders, having scored 22 each. None of the Rockets broke the 20-point plateau, with Paul leading the team behind a 19 point performance.

Takeaways

Switchless: Head coach Mike D’Antoni declared over the weekend that the Rockets would alter their defense somewhat, in an effort to lean less on the defensive switching that--while proving quite effective last season--had become a detriment. The league’s new freedom of movement rules have seemingly rendered the Rockets’ previous defensive philosophy staple obsolete, as the scheme has led to more trips to the foul line than turnovers. The result was more of the same, however, and while they were sent to the line an equal amount as the Rockets, the converted far more bludgeoned them from inside.

Carmelo Anthony is not a starter: It’s disheartening to see good players in their twilight, but that is exactly what we’re seeing in Anthony. After his necessary insertion into the starting lineup and an encouragingly efficient 24-point return on Friday, Anthony followed with a 2-12 performance in 31 minutes for 8 points. Those expecting a replacement of Trevor Ariza or Luc Mbah a Moute should continue looking, because not only is Anthony not that, he wasn’t brought in to be that. He was meant to come in and replace Ryan Anderson’s production, not either of the aforementioned, and expectations should be tempered accordingly.

Reinforcements are slowly returning: The Rockets are hemorrhaging at the moment, that much is clear. Tonight however brought two glimmers of hope in the return of forwards Marquese Chriss and Zhou Qi. Scheme familiarity and game-ready conditioning factored into their limited rotational minutes, but their return signified another step towards fielding the Rockets squad that had been assembled in the offseason to make another run at dethroning the Golden State Warriors. James Harden remains sidelined, but could possibly return sometime this weekend. Harden’s return alone should be enough to break the current losing streak, as mutually floundering Brooklyn and Chicago teams await.

Next Up:

Houston at Brooklyn, Friday, November 2, 6:30 pm central.

 

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Walter will host The Night of Champions. Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images.

In 2014, Austin Walter rushed for 2,704 yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior at Crosby High School. Despite falling short of a state title, Walter was named District 19-4A MVP and finished his prep career with a little over 6,000 rushing yards on 613 carries (6,062 yds). Seven years later, Walter will be returning to his high school alma mater to give back to the community that laid the foundation for an NFL career as a member of the San Francisco 49ers.

"It's a blessing to be able to come from a small town and be one of the guys who made it out," Walter said. "Not a lot of people made it to the NFL or the NBA from Crosby High School. To be one of the first, it's an amazing feeling. It's a blessing and an honor."

On Thursday, April 15, Walter will host The Night of Champions to benefit the Crosby High School Booster Club from 6-9 p.m. The event will be a weight lifting competition at Crosby High School for student-athletes around the area to showcase their talents and abilities.

In addition to hosting a weight lifting showcase, Walter will also share his life teachings with student-athletes in attendance. Perseverance and not taking no for an answer will be one of the most vital messages the Crosby native will share with aspiring pro-athletes. It's the two virtues Walter has leaned on from little league football to the NFL. And as an undrafted prospect in 2019, it was that same morale that helped him outshine six other running backs during the 49ers rookie training camp that same year.

"Before I started playing football in high school, a lot of people thought I was too small," Walter said. "They thought because we played little league and not in middle school we would not make it in high school. My twin brother [Ashton Walter] and I did not listen to that. We just kept pushing forward."

"When I left Rice, people thought I was going to play in the Canadian league or AFF, and I did not take no for an answer. I believed in myself. And I believed in God. And if I can make it out of a small town like Crosby, anybody can make it...It's the mentality I've had my entire life of not quitting. I feel like that is what got me to the point I am at right now."

Whether their life goal is to play in the NFL or not, Walter's primary objective for The Night of Champions is to be an inspiration and show kids they can find success despite their environment. It is one of the things the former XFL running back (Dallas Renegades) wished he would have seen growing up in Crosby.

After graduating from Crosby High School, Walter went on to have a record-breaking collegiate career at Rice University. He became one of two players in school history to rush for over 1,500 yards (1,744 yds.) and 1,000 kick return yards (1,548 yds.) in four seasons with the Owls. In February, Walter signed a one-year contract extension to re-join the 49ers ahead of the 2021 NFL season.

Click here to learn more about The Night of Champions at Crosby High School or support Walter and the Crosby High School Booster Club.

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