Western Conference Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3, Houston at Portland
Series Status: Portland leads series 2-0
Game Info: 7:30 PM, TV on KGW/ESPN, Radio on 620 AM
ESPN Announcers: Mike Breen, Jeff VanGundy, Lisa Salters
Vegas Line: Portland -3
Refs: Joe Crawford, Sean Corbin, Bill Spooner, Gary Zielinski (Alternate)
The Skinny: The Blazers look to put Houston in an 0-3 hole Friday as Portland plays its first home game of the 2014 NBA playoffs. The Blazers won the first two games on the road for only the second time in franchise history (1977 Western Conference Finals against the LA Lakers). Houston will have to shake something up as Harden in particular has struggled, shooting a miserable 14-47 from the floor in the first two games.
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-Friday at Portland-7:30 PM (ESPN/KGW)
Game 4-Sunday at Portland-6:30 PM (TNT/KGW)
Game 5*-April 30 at Houston
Game 6*-May 2 at Portland
Game 7*-May 4 at Houston
Projected Rockets Lineup (Regular Season stats):
PF: Terrence Jones (Kentucky-2nd season) – 12.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 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: James Harden (pictured at right)– Maybe its unfair to a point but much of the blame for Houston’s 0-2 hole is being placed squarely on the shoulders, or one might say the beard, of James Harden. Harden has been less than spectacular, shooting horribly from the floor, playing bad defense and generally looking nothing like the all-star he had been much of the year. When he’s right Harden can be deadly as he certainly was against Portland, burning the Blazers in all four regular season matchups. When he’s off, however, its hard for Houston to win since they rely so heavily on the 1-2 punch of Harden and Howard to get the job done.
Did You Know?: Dwight Howard scored 19 points in the first quarter of game 2, surpassing Hakeem Olajuwon (18) for the most points in the first quarter of a playoff game in Rockets history.
Song of the Day: “Livin’ on a Prayer” by Bon Jovi. The Blazers are halfway there and they’d better make it or I’m sure I’ll swear (a lot). Enjoy:
Adjustments: Slowing Howard
Before game 2, Dwight Howard made it clear that he thought he needed to take command if Houston was to even the series up. For the first half Wednesday he certainly was, scoring 25 points on 11-17 shooting. Yet in the second half Howard not only scored only 7 points he he only attempted five shots. How did this turn around? The Blazers started doubling Howard immediately in the second half, forcing him to pass out to shooters who (thankfully for Portland) missed most of their shots. If Howard can’t score easily and Houston isn’t making open 3s they really stand very little chance of winning most games. So, in a sense, the Blazers did give Superman and his team a bit of kryptonite in the second half of the game 2 victory.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They keep doing what they’ve been doing. Why rock the boat? Even if LMA doesn’t have another 40+ point game there really isn’t much Portland has to change. Just keep passing the ball to open shooters, making shots and limiting either Howard or Harden’s effectiveness and it will be a 3-0 lead for the Blazers.
Houston wins if: Make lots of 3s. Its readily apparent after two games of this series that one thing that has been missing for Houston is their 3 point shooting. The Rockets are 11-51 from 3 in the first two games this series. That has to improve quite a bit if Houston wants to nab a game and retain any hope of a series win.