We agree with Bill Worrell: There's no quit in the Rockets.
However, there are a few lunch breaks.
The Rockets showed guts in the second half, turning an 11-point deficit into a 4-point advantage with just under 9 minutes left, but then the wheels came off. Portland scored 15 unanswered points and cruised to the finish line with an 88-77 Game 5 win.
A pivotal Game 6 is Thursday night in Clutch City.
Yao Ming was large (15 points, 12 boards) and Luis Scola was super-sized (21 points on 10-13 shooting), but the Rockets had a few Kids Meals in this one as well.
Since shooting lights out in the first two games, Aaron Brooks (6-20 from the field) has resembled a snow cone stored in a deep freezer wedged 20-feet below a polar ice cap. In Games 3-5, Brooks has shot 27.8% from the field and 16.7% from three, even going icy from the free throw line (7-12).
Brooks is getting a lot of flack for not being a point that gets 10+ assists a night, but I think those fans are missing the boat here. Brooks isn't a traditional point and expecting him to be that is no different than waiting for Rafer Alston to hit 45% from the floor.
What makes Brooks unique is his ability to shoot, score and penetrate. I've been wanting him to be more aggressive and he did that, so I'm not going to fault him for it, but he just missed way too many shots on this night. When he's not using his speed to score efficiently, he's not giving you too much else.
We've talked about how Carl Landry's defense has limited him in this series. We all know he's not near the caliber of a Chuck Hayes defensively, but even Scola is doing a far superior job. Case in point -- with about 10 minutes to go in the fourth, Landry picked up 3 fouls in less than a minute and a half.
It won't get much play, but that put the Rockets in a bind. The last foul was Landry's fifth, so Rick Adelman subbed him out for Ron Artest. Artest (3-9 shooting) made some offensive blunders while the team fouls kept coming in. With just 8 minutes to go, the Rockets were in the penalty, the Blazers were parading to the line and Houston couldn't find a way to put the ball in the basket.
Voila... 15-0 Blazer run and Houston's 4-point edge turned into a deficit they no longer had time to overcome.
"Just disappointed with the way we played in the fourth quarter, said Adelman. "We put ourselves in a great position and we just came out and put them on the free throw line really early in the quarter and we didn't execute very well in the first four or five minutes. They made the plays they had to."
And if there's any sliver of good news from the loss it's that it bought us 48 hours of relative silence from the constant whining by Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Portland fans about the officiating. As is almost always the case, the squeaky wheel got the grease... the Rockets were whistled for 24 fouls in Game 5 compared to only 12 for the Blazers.
When told by media after the game that the officiating seemed one-sided, Adelman interrupted --
"Come on, you want me to say anything after what happened?" said Adelman, who was just fined $25,000 for statements he made about the officials a week ago. "I mean you can't be serious. Unless you want to loan me some money [then] I'd be glad to say some things."
But none of that really matters. Portland is a very good home team and a Rocket loss here was not totally unexpected. Houston still has homecourt and control of the series coming back to the Toyota Center for Game 6.
What they must get is Artest and Brooks back on track. Houston's defense will be good enough to win, but the offense has to step up against a Portland team that has never been confused with "elite" on the defensive end.