Team Records: Portland (42-20) at Houston (43-19)
Game Info: 4 p.m., TV on KGW, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Houston -6
Refs: Zach Zarba, Karl Lane, Scott Wall
The Skinny: Well the cure for whatever happened Friday in Dallas needs to be in Houston against a red hot Rockets team. Houston has won 14 of their last 16 and is coming off a blowout win over the Pacers two nights ago. If the Blazers win tonight they will square the season series with Houston and maintain their place ahead of the Rockets in the standings.
Last Time They Met: Portland dug a big hole early and couldn’t climb out, trailing by 15 at the half and never really threatening the Houston lead. Parsons led the way with 31 points and 10 rebounds for Houston.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Terrence Jones (Kentucky-2nd season) – 11.8 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1.1 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida-3rd season) – 16.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 3.9 APG
C: Dwight Howard (SW Atlanta Christian (HS)-10th season) – 18.9 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 1.8 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State-5th season) – 24.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 5.7 APG
PG: Patrick Beverley (Arkansas-2nd Season) – 9.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.7 APG
Player to Watch: Patrick Beverley (pictured at right) – If the Rockets have a weakness it is twofold, they don’t have a particularly strong PF as long and their PG position is not the greatest in the world. Beverley is an average point guard perhaps best known for being the other player involved in the incident that led to Westbrook’s injury during last year’s playoffs. Yet he is more than that, especially on defense, where he has successfully put the clamps on Lillard during most of the first three meetings between the two teams this season. He’ll have to do so again Sunday especially as he neither passes nor scores well. Despite that, he is clearly a key part of Houston’s title hopes.
Did You Know?: Houston is both the fourth youngest and fourth-least experienced team int he NBA, older and more experienced than only Philadelphia, Cleveland and New Orleans.
Song of the Day: “Back in the Saddle Again” by Gene Autry After a game like Friday’s, the only response is to get back in the saddle again. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-PF/C Joel Freeland (Knee)
Houston: Out – C Greg Smith (Knee)
Re-Evaluating Houston: Are They For Real?
With Houston’s recent surge, the question can rightly be asked if Houston is a real contender. The odds say, maybe. They have an elite center in Dwight Howard, some great shooters and play very well in stretches against top opponents. Houston is very good on offense and more than good enough on defense. Sure, they may be behind the likes of OKC, San Antonio and perhaps even the LA Clippers but it could happen. It should not surprise anyone to see Houston at least representing the west in this June’s NBA finals, or they could go out in the first round, in the wild Western conference anything seems possible.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: Hold Houston under 100. Houston is beatable if the Blazers can lock them down on defense. Yes, its will be very hard to do so, but if they can, they will win.
Houston wins if: Make someone other than Aldridge beat them. Houston has no answer for Aldridge, and if they want to win the game they have to make sure he doesn’t take over like he did earlier this year. If they can do so, they stand a very good chance of beating Portland.