So I'm having a bit of trouble with the picture, which is coming from my phone (I drew it on my way to the game, on the is horrible). But we're about to tip-off here at the Rose Garden! Panic time!

There we go. Ray Felton scores Portland's first basket, and he's the guy who we weren't sure we'd see in uniform tonight. Nice work, Ray Ray. Why do people named Ray get nicknamed Ray Ray? Why not Death Ray? Nice work, Death Ray.

Death Ray gets the Blazers next three points, too, in the form of a three-point play at the hoop. Nicely done, Death Ray Falcon, which is, logically, your full nickname.

Maybe tonight all the funny, silent film-esque physical comedy plays will happen on the Rockets' side. Kyle Lowry trips over himself (and maybe a little of LaMarcus) to help make this so. I can almost hear "Yakety Sax" in the distance.

Death Ray strikes again. Dude is serious about tonight, I think.

We've gotten used to the Camby-to-Aldridge big-man tandem, but it's not too often we see a Cam to LaMarc fast break. It happens here, although somewhat less than gracefully, and LaMarcus will go to the line shortly.

Likely horrible new films aside, the Tuskegee Airmen elicit one hell of a response. One of them's in the crowd this evening, and he looks quite sprightly for a man his age.

Sign watch:
Some kid has a cartoon of Nicolas Batum's head on a baboon body, and the words read "Nicolas Baboon." I'm not sure how the kid meant it, but somebody might tell him that it seems in quite poor taste, especially considering the giant pink ass sticking out of his cartoon's backside. End of days, I tell you. Not sure why the camera operator zoomed in on that one, but it gets a puzzled half-applause from a few attendees.

I always liked that Courtney Lee. They dont make scorers like him very often. In fact if you check his tags I bet there's a little 133/500 or something. 

Gerald Wallace's shot is goaltended in the exact same spot where LaMarcus' controversial block happened at the end of the last game, only this one is a real true goaltend. Blazer fans have not forgotten that fateful call, which the NBA has since admitted was a bad one. When the whistle blows here, many rise to their feet to cheer the call and "Hallelujah" plays over the loudspeakers. If the Blazers falter this season and don't make the playoffs (I could get shot for suggesting this might happen!), fans are going to look back at that Aldridge goaltending call and blame it for everything—mark my words. 

We had a good talk back in the media room about that call. The point was made—and not by me—that if you allow goaltending calls to be challenged by instant replay, you also have to allow the non-calls to be reviewed, and in a speedy game like this, that means stepping in retrospectively and changing the whole course of a game in some really fundamental, uncomfortable ways.

I agree that the game shouldn't be stopped unnecessarily, but I've always been puzzled by the idea that out-of-bounds plays could only be challenged in the last two minutes of a game. Do not the first two minutes matter just as much as the last two? The idea that we should give preference to whichever team controls momentum in the final minutes of a contest is totally batshit crazy to me. 

26-24 Houston after a big Chase Budinger three. One gets the uncomfortable feeling that a loss tonight could really send the Blazers' season into a tailspin. Thus far they've been a dominant home team that loses on the road. Stringing two home losses together might kill that confidence. Which, of course, all comes back to that LaMarcus goaltending call.


Chase Budinger scores. Dude has to have the Chaddiest name in the world. His first name is "Chase," which makes him sound like the 1980s videogame translation of an American cool dude, and his last name starts with "Bud," which either means marijuana or a really diminutive version of "Friend." So really, if you do the etymology on the guy, his name translates to "Cool Dude Little Friend." 

Once again, the calm nerves of Kurt Thomas slows the BLazers down and gets them an easy, open bucket. The guy makes basketball look like the most relaxing game on Earth. Even when he's fouling the shit out of somebody, he just looks happy.

There he is again. Keep going to that dude. He's so zen!

Deeply saddened to hear that Chauncey Billups, one of my favorite players in the game, will miss the season and possibly retire. What a great player and a cool dude and big competitor. He and Rip were such a fantastic backcourt in Detroit, I have many fond memories of those guys. Laurel and Hardy, they were.

Just watch Kurt Thomas, man, he's fascinating. Nate staying with him here after a timeout because he's just so goddamn centered! Especially for a Center...

Long, calculated steps. Rarely a wasted movement. His eyes look focused and tight. He looks like he's moving heavy invisible furniture on his way to set screens, and when he drops anchor to stop you, you're going to stop. He shoves on the sly when no one's looking. He never gets too up or too down. He doesn't run out onto the court or back to the bench.

Houston 50, Blazers 42.

So yeah, the comedy of errors might be on Houston tonight, even if they're winning. All the silly turnovers look like theirs thus far. Though Patrick Patterson looks like a genius out there. In fact most of the Rockets' bench is on the floor right now and they look great, even in going against the Blazer starters. Blazers huddle up. They look tired. I've been typing that a lot lately. They look more tired then usual right now. Ray Felton misses his first free-throw and does that thing he does where he hates himself for a few seconds. He misses his second and starts shaking his head while backing up the floor and keeping his eye on his defender. Watch him when he checks out or leaves the floor at halftime—he's going to look super bummed-out to the max.

You see that? Bummed. Don't worry about it, Death Ray! You're having a solid game, it has just gotten away from you guys a bit. You need to push the tempo and do some scrapping. That's always the key to Blazer victories, no matter how complicated folks make it sound!

55-44 Houston.

Man, how many times a night does Marcus Camby bail the Blazers out after a missed shot. Actually I could probably look that up under the offensive rebounds category, only it wouldn't account for all the half-tips and half-steals he pulls off under the hoop. 

Blazers down 12, but they get a helpful turnover from Houston taht leads to a Ray Felton three-point shot. He misses, and he's pissed as usual, throwing a fist, shaking his head, gritting his teeth: I'd like to see this guy have a big night, but after a hot start it's not looking great for him. 

Ray Felton narrowly misses a half-court shot. The Blazers are down 14 points. Not great.


There's not actually time for you to watch this before the third quarter...

Oh, snap, the second half begins! Rockets get the ball to start and it's Dalebert with the first basket of the third. Uh-oh, it's also Dalembert with the first steal of the third.

Well, the Blazers are certainly pushing the tempo. It's not always resulting in points or even good-looking finishes, but they are pushing it.

If you'd have told me the Rockets would be up 62-50 and their leading scorer would have two points, I'm not sure I'd buy it. Wes Matthews is doing a fine job on Kevin Martin. He's also talking to him an awful lot.

Suddenly the Rockets are up 17. Maybe it's rotation-fucking time, Nate? See what you can get out of Chris Johnson and Elliot Williams for a bit?

The Blazers go small to try and start some shit, and it works on defense, though baskets are still pretty hard to come by. With Aldridge playing center, the team is pressing and trapping and making the Rockets turn the ball over, though I'd imagine that the Rocks are going to eventually figure it out and go small themselves.

For all the defensive victories, the Blazers are still relying on patient pump-fakes that lead to free-throws for scoring. Gonna take a long time to get back in it with free-throws. Still down 15 with Wes Matthews about to hit the free-throw line.

Blazers have it down to 13, and the Rockets help them out by bouncing the ball out of bounds on the side. And Gerald Wallace drains a three from the corner to get the crowd back in it. 10-point game.

LaMarcus drains the long two. Eight point game. The most fun matchup on the court right now is Gerald Wallace going up against Luis Scola: So much hair, so much flailing, so much great defense but radically different styles of play. It's kind of like watching the WWF when those guys go at it; Everybody's banging around but no one seems to get hurt.

Now the lineup is a small twist on what fans have been asking to see: Nic Batum just checked in for Wes Matthews, so there are three guards on the floor right now plus Wallace—who is playing like the Wallace of the first few games of the season at the moment—and LaMarcus. 

Momentum is swinging decidedly in the Blazers' favor when LaMarcus is called for a ridiculous offensive foul under the hoop. Fans ain't having it after the other night's funny business. Blazers down seven, but the team is starting to play with some real fire. You think Nate gave them a timeout speech? I'd love to hear him break character just once!

I think if we're being honest with ourselves—brutally honest, really—we can all admit that Ray Felton is just not working. I think he knows it, and that's what all that head-shaking is about. There aren't a lot of great reasons it couldn't work, but the guy just cannot get his shots to drop. This time he's blocked (in a major way) by Dalembert, and it takes the wind out of the Zers a bit.

You forget that Jordan Hill spent most of last season starting for the Rockets, and that he can really crank it up when he needs to. He connects on a real nice hook in the paint.

Blazers get a stop to end the quarter and they're only down seven points. Maybe we'll get a fun fourth quarter after all!


Sign watch: "Crushin' on Crash," "Nic Batum: 'Oui' for Three," "I [HEART] INSTANT REPLAY"

Jamal gets an easy basket to start things off, and the Rockets keep their string of ugly turnovers alive. It's a five-point game and they just turned it over out-of-bounds to the Blazers. Unfortunately, Kurt Thomas went cold at precisely the wrong time. He has missed his last two, though he was slightly more pressured on both than he usually is, including the missed layup a moment ago.

Everyone on the court is flopping, hoping to get charges called, and the refs really aren't calling them. 

Crawford hits. Blazers down two. Oh snap. 

The Rockets have some medium-bigs in Patterson and Hill who aren't particularly good at hitting free-throws. Patterson just missed both. The Rockets can't go real small or they won't be able to defend LaMarcus, who just checked back in, but they also can't lob it to Patterson for the advantage or he'll be fouled as a challenge. It's all working out great for the Zers, who just tied the game on a LaMarcus Aldridge dunk.

The Blazers tend to live and die by their three-pointers. When Nic Batum hit nine the other night, I said "well, the win is great but you can't exactly count on Nic Batum hitting nine three-pointers as a strategy." This little comeback tonight has been based on a pretty solid mixture of threes and aggressive cuts to the paint (Wes Matthews proves this with the big dunk over unresponsive Rocket defenders), but if those threes weren't falling, this wouldn't be a game. 82 all.

I just got wholly distracted while looking for my co-worker Adam Krueger, who is in attendance tonight for the first time since like 2009 (hi, Adam). While scouring the 203 section for him, I thought about how silly it is to look for someone at an arena when you just saw them at work and will again tomorrow. But I guess there's something communal about going to games and shows, and you want to know that folks you know and identify with are enjoying the thing, too. The 18,000-odd strangers just aren't enough, I guess. Are the Blazers still on a sellout streak? I haven't heard it mentioned lately, but I've no reason to believe it has been broken. Looks pretty close to full tonight (though now that I look around, there's a big gaping whole in the 333 section.

Blazers stay small, and it looks like they're going to go even smaller, as the fourth winds down. Lots of miniature tragedies befalling them, though, and one of the bigger ones is named Chase Budinger. He narrowly misses a second three in a row, but the first one did plenty of damage, and the Rockets' bench is playing great basketball. Goran Dragic, in particular, will be an unsung hero for the Rocks if they pull off this win. Blazers down eight points.

Sign watch: "Be My Blazer Valentine," "No, really, get out of our house."

LaMarcus Aldridge misses his layup but gets a foul off Luis Scola. There's a segment of the crowd tonight that feels these Blazers are being persecuted somehow by the officials, but I'm not so sure that's the case. I think there have been a couple of bad/unlucky calls on both sides, and the refs are trying their best to step out of it and call less fouls. They call this one, though, and it's a well-timed smack of Gerald Wallace, who finishes a three-point play to make it just a four-point game. Looks like it'll be another nail-biter this evening. Those are fun!!

Cool Dude Little Friend strikes again. Houston up eight. It'll take a lotta Blazer heart to win this one.

Blazers get a lucky call as the ball teeters out-of-bounds, but they are not getting any lucky bounces, and the refs have decided to keep calling it loose. The blast of urgency that got them back into the game late in the third and early in the fourth looks all but gone now, and they drain clock and can't seem to get anything going offensively in the half court, which is where they've been for the last six minutes or so.

Looks bad. Folks headed home. Blazer ball, though, and I've seen nuttier comebacks. The Zers just look so drained.

Nic Batum gets a really nice look, but it rattles in and out. Time of death: 38.5 left, when Goran Dragic headed to the line.

He misses his first, but c'mon, this is way over.

He misses his second and Nate, who never says die even when his whole team is dead, takes a timeout to discuss with 37 seconds left. It used to work that because Nate never gave up on his guys, they never gave up on the game. I'm not sure that's gonna help tonight, and you really can trace it all back to that goaltendng shot. 

Aldridge gets a layup, Blazers foul Dragic, who has been awful from the line tonight.

He makes his first.

Dragic misses his second but the Blazers can't find an open three, so they give it to Matthews who's fouled on the layup. He misses, then hits two free-throws. Five point game. But Cool Dude Little Friend is at the line now, and blondie don't miss. He makes it a seven-point game and Nate calls ANOTHER timeout. I wonder if the opposing team's coaches ever find this shit annoying. It would take three possessions to get a Blazer win here, and that seems unlikely given that there are now 16 seconds on the clock. Weird that this game is still going. And that the Blazers are still going for two-point shots. Are they just trying to get chalupas?

Blazers foul again. Seriously ridiculous, but weirdly admirable. This time Jamal Crawford turns it over and the Blazers finally throw in the towel. Scattered boos. "Five Blazers in double figures tonight," the announcer says, but no one—including the players—cares much about that. They've lost two at home and now they're out of the (ever-changing) playoff picture. Now they prepare for a road series that will see them playing three games in three nights. Things could get very discouraging very quickly. Then we get the Wizards. See you then.

103-96 Houston.