Trail Blazers, still figuring out new coach, take on Rockets

National Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers are laboring as they fight against encroaching frustration.

The Trail Blazers realized that with the coaching change from Terry Stotts to Chauncey Billups, there would be some corresponding growing pains. Stotts spent nine seasons occupying the lead chair in Portland, and under his stewardship, the Trail Blazers grew familiar with his ways.

Under Billups, change was inevitable. And with that change comes the fits and spurts that accompany understanding what’s new offensively and defensively, but executing those tenets.

“It’s new. I think that’s the best way to describe it,” Portland guard Damian Lillard said. “We talked about this before the season started. It wasn’t going to be easy. It wasn’t going to click right away. It was going to take time for things to come together.

“As a competitor, it’s frustrating to be inconsistent and let games slip away. But it’s a part of the process that we’ve all committed to. This is the way that it goes.”

The Trail Blazers will visit the Houston Rockets on Friday having dropped consecutive games in which their defense was lacking. In a 119-109 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, Portland surrendered 60 points in the paint on 52.1 percent shooting. One night earlier, the L.A. Clippers shot 51.8 percent and made 16 of 30 3-pointers against the Trail Blazers.

Portland ranked 22nd in defensive rating entering Thursday’s games. Billups and his players frequently revisited previous conversations on defensive assignments Wednesday. While there is an acknowledgment that time is required for everyone to get on the same page in terms of expectations, that doesn’t make the missteps and blown coverages any easier to digest.

“It’s a thin line,” Billups said. “My patience is basically just trying to teach and get across what we want. But I’ve got urgency every day. I’ve got urgency every single day and I’m trying to win every single game. But I also have to be realistic and understand that it takes time when you’re changing things.

“And patience is tough, it’s really tough because you see it sometimes and sometimes it’s like, ‘Damn, what happened?’ It’s a thin line but I’m trying to win every game.”

Patience is wearing thin in Houston as well, especially after the Rockets dropped their ninth consecutive game Wednesday with a 112-104 loss to the Detroit Pistons. While poor shot selection and subpar free-throw shooting plagued the Rockets, their most glaring shortcoming remains ball security, with their penchant for live-ball turnovers especially galling.

The Rockets rank last in the NBA in turnovers at 19.5 per game. Their 16 turnovers against the Pistons yielded 20 points and helped key a Detroit fast break that netted 16 points in transition.

The rebuilding Rockets have been lauded for their competitive spirit, but miscues have undermined their moxie.

“It’s the same old thing over and over,” Rockets veteran guard Eric Gordon said. “We just have too many droughts where we dig ourselves in a hole. We just compound mistakes throughout the game. We’ve just got to find some way to be consistent, have consistency offensively and defensively.

“We’re going to make mistakes. Mistakes are going to come for a young team at the end of a game. But we definitely need to be more disciplined and there has to be more consistency.”

–Field Level Media

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