TUALATIN, Ore. — As Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had a press conference, his players were given the day off on the hottest day of the year so far.
“They were tired on the plane,” Stotts said of his players who had just lost by the biggest margin seen so far in this evenly matched series with the Houston Rockets. Portland still holds a 3-2 advantage.
Thursday was not a day for the team to go over the film. Stotts, however, did watch film on the team’s flight from Houston to prepare for Friday’s Game 6 in front of what will surely be a raucous Moda Center crowd.
“I think you have to learn from every game,” Stotts said. “But during the course of the series, you kind of get video’d out.”
The series has come down to the final few minutes every game. Neither team is going deep into their benches and both teams are probably equal in terms of fatigue.
The issue that most plagues the Blazers going into Game 6 is the one that has been a problem all series.
“The defensive rebounding is my number one concern,” Stotts said.
Jeremy Lin provided a major lift for the Rockets off the bench, scoring 21 points in Game 5 and essentially waking up offensively for the first time in the whole series.
Stotts feels like Lin’s penetration was part of the rebounding problem as it collapsed the defense.
“Rebounding has been, to me, the overriding factor in the series so far,” Stotts said. “They’ve done a very good job getting offensive rebounds. I don’t know if winning the battle, but we have to certainly do a better job of containing it.”
The Rockets have had by far the highest offensive rebound rate in the playoffs as they’ve dominated the Blazers over the course of five games. While Omar Asik and Dwight Howard have been great on the boards, every player on the Rockets has attacked the glass.
It almost seems like Houston’s best offense has been missed shots as they’ve averaged 21.2 second-chance points. That’s nearly five more than the Blazers, who are the next closest team.
Meanwhile, the Rockets have shot below the playoff average from the field.
Stotts also watched a little bit of Game 6 of the 1977 NBA Finals on the flight home, when the Blazers won their only championship.
They were coached by Jack Ramsay who passed away earlier this week.
“Now we’ve got Game 6 here,” he said. “In light of the passing of Coach Ramsay, it would pretty nice to close it out tomorrow.”
A characteristic of this Blazers team has been an ability to keep calm throughout the ebbs and flows of the season. Stotts doesn’t expect that trend to stop now.
“This team is always ready to compete and we’re ready for Game 6,” he said.