Reaction: Defenseless Rockets stunned at buzzer by Blazers, Jerami Grant

HOUSTON — In the finale of a three-game homestand at Toyota Center, the Rockets suffered a difficult setback in Wednesday’s 137-131 overtime loss (box score) to the Portland Trail Blazers.

With the loss, Houston (20-23) missed a chance to pull into a virtual tie with Utah and the Los Angeles Lakers (both 22-23) for the No. 9 and No. 10 spots in the Western Conference standings, which would represent the final two spots in the 2023-24 play-in tournament.

The Rockets led by four points entering the game’s closing seconds, but Malcolm Brogdon and Jerami Grant each hit miraculous 3-pointers in the final 3.1 seconds of regulation (sandwiched around a pair of free throws by Aaron Holiday) to extend the game to overtime. Grant’s off-balance, off-glass heave from the right wing went in as time expired, and Portland pulled away in overtime.

Grant finished with 21 points and 9 assists for lowly Portland (13-30), which entered on night two of a road back-to-back. Houston, on the other hand, was at home and rested, having not played since Sunday.

The Rockets had plenty of standouts on offense, including:

  • Alperen Sengun: 30 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists; 11-of-17 shooting (64.7%), 1-of-2 on 3-pointers (50.0%), 7-of-8 on free throws (87.5%)

  • Jalen Green: 29 points, 3 assists; 12-of-24 shooting (50.0%), 2-of-7 on 3-pointers (28.6%), 3-of-4 on free throws (75.0%)

  • Fred VanVleet: 18 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks; 8-of-17 shooting (47.1%), 2-of-10 on 3-pointers (20.0%)

  • Cam Whitmore: 12 points, 4 rebounds in 14 minutes; 5-of-10 shooting (50.0%), 2-of-6 on 3-pointers (33.3%)

As a team, the Rockets made 50-of-94 shots (53.2%) in one of their most efficient shooting nights all season. However, it didn’t matter thanks to Portland’s incredible shotmaking late in regulation and another lethargic defensive night by Houston, which ranks just 18th in defensive rating in January. That’s well below their No. 10 ranking for the 2023-24 season (it was once at No. 2), and it has a lot to do with why the slumping Rockets are 3-8 in their last 11 games.

The Rockets were again short-handed, with second-year forwards Jabari Smith Jr. (left ankle sprain) and Tari Eason (left lower leg injury management) still sidelined and Jae’Sean Tate (left wrist strain) missing his only his third game of the 2023-24 season.

Here’s our look at Wednesday’s highlights and postgame interviews, along with reaction by media members and fans. Next up for the Rockets is a road back-to-back, starting Friday night in Charlotte (10-31) and continuing to Brooklyn (17-26) on Saturday afternoon.

Jan. 24 Rockets-Trail Blazers reaction

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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire