Chauncey Billups and Damian Lillard respond to Blazers breaking road losing streak
The Portland Trail Blazers, coming off consecutive losses to Western Conference playoff hopefuls, badly needed a victory against the bottom-dwelling Houston Rockets on Friday night. But their 104-92 win over the Rockets at Toyota Center was about much more than breaking a two-game losing streak.
Portland ended a six-game stretch of road losses to open the regulra season against Houston, leaving Stephen Silas’ young squad behind as the only team in basketball without a win away from home.
“It feels good. It feels good, it really does,” Chauncey Billups said of the Blazers getting their first road win. “We’ve had a tough go on the road so far. We’ve had a pretty tough schedule. We give ourselves to come out on this really tough trip and get a chance to get the next game and you split on the road going home, you feel good about it.”
Rip City no doubt took some solace from seeing the Rockets on the schedule following an arduous road back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns and LA Clippers. They entered Friday’s action at 1-10, with the league’s fourth-worst net rating, per NBA.com/stats. Houston’s lone victory, back on October 22nd, came versus the openly tanking Oklahoma City Thunder. The Detroit Pistons, not exactly playoff contenders, dispatched of Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green and company with relative ease on Wednesday.
Damian Lillard didn’t overlook the Rockets, though, and he’s certainly not taking Portland’s initial road win for granted despite its seemingly substandard competition.
“It’s good to get a road win. It’s easy to look at their record and say you should win this game, but if you look at their games I’ve seen them play a lot, and they’ve given everybody trouble,” Lillard said. “Who are we to come in here and expect to win the game at the same time? It’s good to get a win, especially on the road, we haven’t done that until tonight.”
Just as important as getting that elusive victory away from Moda Center, at least in Lillard’s opinion? Hushing an exterior discouse about the Blazers’ road struggles that could’ve negatively affected the team.
“I also think it’s an easy story to tell, like, ‘They haven’t won on the road,’ and it becomes a bigger deal than it has to be,” Lillard said. “I’m happy that we ended that.”
Portland was hardly perfect against Houston.
Billups lamented his team’s inability to decisively put the Rockets away late, even admitting he didn’t think the Blazers “had a good game.” Houston was a step ahead of them early, especially on the offensive glass. It’s worth wondering how Friday’s game might have played out if Nassir Little’s energy and athleticism hadn’t jolted Portland awake. Anfernee Simons’ struggles continued, and so did C.J. McCollum’s. This was another game in which the Blazers’ starters were outplayed by bench units.
None of those problems should be dismissed. Considering its ongoing acclimation to playing under Billups and the maelstrom currently enveloping the entire organization, though, Portland’s first win outside Rip City is worth celebrating.
Well, at least until the Blazers start official preparations for Sunday’s road-trip-ending tilt with Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.