Western Conference Playoffs, Round 1, Game 1, Portland at Houston
Series Status: Series Tied 0-0
Game Info: 6:30 PM, TV on KGW/TNT, Radio on 620 AM
TNT Announcers: Joel Meyers, Chris Webber, Marty Snider.
Vegas Line: Houston -5.5
Refs: Scott Foster, Bennett Salvatore, Derrick Stafford, Tony Brown (Alternate)
The Skinny: The real season begins tonight as the Blazers face the Rockets in the opener of the first round playoff series. The two teams both have had good years but teams are judged, in the end, on what happens in mid-April to June and not from November to mid-April. Hopefully the Blazers put the pressure on Houston tonight.
Season Series: Houston won the season series 3-1.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
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: 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 much of the four games between the two teams this season. He’ll have to do so during this series 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: “Maria Maria” by Santana Featuring the Product G. The top song on the charts the week the Blazers last won a playoff series in May 2000. Enjoy:
Know Your Enemy: Reviewing Houston’s Season
Houston was supposed to be a good team going into this season and they are, although the key pieces are not entirely what everyone expected. Sure Harden and Howard have been good but those two alone aren’t enough to push the Rockets over the top. Instead it is the contributions of, most notably, Parsons and Jones on offense and Beverley on defense that have powered Houston. On offense, Houston is fast paced and lethal, running the quickest pace of any of the 16 playoff teams and ranking 4th in offensive efficiency. Houston, like Portland shoots and makes a lot of 3s, but what separates them is their ability to draw fouls. The Rockets attempted a league-high 31.2 free throws per game this year, and even with Howard’s well known incompetence at the line made 22.2 of those per game. On defense Houston is not very good but what they are is disruptive, averaging a respectable 7.6 steals per game. Houston, at their best on defense, does a good job getting you uncomfortable enough to maybe throw you off for a bit. Yet, this is not a team driven by defense but by offense and if the Rockets get going on offense, they can be very hard to stop.
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.