Western Conference Playoffs, Round 1, Game 5, Portland at Houston
Series Status: Portland leads series 3-1
Game Info: 6:30 PM, TV on KGW/TNT, Radio on 620 AM
TNT Announcers: Brian Anderson, Greg Anthony, Marty Snider
Vegas Line: Houston -5.5
Refs: Danny Crawford, David Jones, Michael Smith, Josh Tiven (Alternate)
The Skinny: The Blazers look to close out their first series win since Bill Clinton was President Wednesday night as they take on the Rockets in Houston. Portland is 4-0 all time in series when leading 3-1. Portland last closed out a series on the road when they won on the road against the Wolves in the first round of the 2000 NBA playoffs.
Series in Review (Home team in bold for completed games, *=If necessary):
Game 1-Portland 122-Houston 120 (OT)
Game 2-Portland 112-Houston 105.
Game 3-Houston 121-Portland 116 (OT)
Game 4-Portland 123-Houston 120 (OT)
Game 5-Wednesday at Houston-6:30 PM (TNT/KGW)
Game 6*-Friday at Portland
Game 7*-Sunday at Houston
Projected Rockets Lineup (Regular Season stats):
PF: Omer Asik (Turkey-4th season) – 5.8 PPG, 7.9 RPG, .5 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida-3rd season) – 16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4 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) – 25.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 6.1 APG
PG: Patrick Beverley (Arkansas-2nd Season) – 10.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG
Player to Watch: Chandler Parsons (pictured at right) – Chandler Parsons is “handsome” and we’re not just talking about his looks, his game is legit as well. Parsons may not be the best SF in the series (although he thinks he is) but he’s pretty damn good. Parsons is a very good shooter from deep (37% from 3) and is a good all-around player. On a team where the focus often goes to that guy that calls himself “Superman” and the dude with the incredibly large beard, Parsons often goes unnoticed. He has been arguably Houston’s second best player this series, scoring 20 points on 47% shooting and playing pretty well overall. Portland will hope to keep him in check again tonight.
Did You Know?: The Blazers and Rockets have played in 3 OT games this series, the third most of any series in NBA history behind OKC/MEM this year and BOS/CHI in 2009, both of which had 4 OT games (and who knows OKC/MEM might surpass that).
Song of the Day: “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder. In honor of Jack Ramsay, this was the top song in the country the week the Blazers won the title in 1977. Enjoy:
Adjustments: Mental Toughness
In a series as brutally close as this one there is but a razor thin margin that separates winning from losing. The Blazers could just as easily be down 3-1 as up 3-1, especially since Houston has held a significant lead in the 4th quarter of all the games except game 2. Yet, what has made the difference for Portland is that thing that cannot be quantified and that is mental toughness. When the chips have been down this series it has been the Blazers that have largely responded best, making the big plays to close out games 1, 2 and 4 and even in game 3 making big plays to force OT. Houston has too often appeared frazzled late in games, little able to do much more than count on a broken play 3 (as was the case for Daniels in game 3), a Howard dunk or trying to draw a foul. That simply won’t cut in a series as close as this one. Sure it might work sometimes but, as we have seen so far, it has not been successful for Houston so far.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They ride out the early storm and show no mercy. Houston is likely to come out fired up in game 5 with their season on the line. If the Blazers can survive that early storm and put Houston under pressure in the second half, the Rockets might just crumble and the Blazers will win this series in 5.
Houston wins if: They take it one game at a time and stay composed. Houston cannot worry about winning three games at this point, they only have to worry about winning game 5. Houston has to focus on this one game and play their best if they are to have a decent shot at extending the series one more game.