Team Records: Houston (15-7) at Portland (18-4)
Game Info: 7:30 p.m., TV on TNT, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -3.5
Refs: Joe Crawford, Karl Lane, Leroy Richardson
The Skinny: Lights, camera, action! The Blazers make their national TV debut as they face the Rockets in a key showdown of western conference powers. This will be the first chance for many casual NBA fans to see Portland play and for Portland to show a wide audience that they are a force to be reckoned with. Houston has won two straight coming in and has not played since Sunday’s win over the Magic.
Last Time They Met: The Rockets used a big third quarter to build a substantial lead and held on down the stretch to hand Portland their first home loss of the season. Harden and Howard combined for 61 points in the Houston win.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Terrence Jones (Kentucky-2nd season) – 10.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, .9 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida-3rd season) – 16.8 PPG, 5 RPG, 4 APG
C: Dwight Howard (SW Atlanta Christian (HS)-10th season) – 17 PPG, 13.3 RPG, 1.8 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State-5th season) – 24.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 5.7 APG
PG: Patrick Beverley (Arkansas-2nd season) – 9.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.3 APG
Player to Watch: James Harden (pictured at right) – The NBA would was taken by surprise just before last season when it was announced that OKC’s sixth man extraordinaire, James Harden, was being traded to the Rockets. While the deal has notably not worked out for OKC, it has been a smashing hit for the Rockets. James Harden is an elite scorer than can make baskets in bunches from seemingly everywhere on the court. When Harden gets going from deep, there is little you can do to stop him. However, Harden has an unfortunate tendency to keep shooting 3s even if he’s not making them, as in a recent 0-10 performance from deep vs. the Suns or a 3-9 performance vs. the Jazz. His defense is also not that great but when he’s giving you that many points, you take the good with the bad and hope he has a good shooting night.
Did You Know?: Earlier this season, Houston did not trail during five straight home wins and had a 244:49 stretch of play at home where they either led or were tied.
Song of the Day: “La Grange” by ZZ Top. Perhaps the most famous song by one of Houston’s best known bands Enjoy:
Portland: Out – PG CJ McCollum (Foot)
Houston: Out – C Omer Asik (Benched), C Greg Smith (Knee), Questionable-PG Jeremy Lin (Knee)
Re-Evaluating Houston: Win Big or Lose Close
The Rockets are a very good team, there is no doubt about that. Yet, they are the sort of team that either wins big, or loses close. Houston is 10-2 in games decided by 10 points or more but only 7-5 in games decided by 9 or less (and 1-2 in games decided by three or less). While this may tend to suggest that Houston can’t beat teams in close games, perhaps due to Dwight Howard’s poor FT shooting, this is not the case. Instead, most of these close losses are either in overtime or to good teams. This should not be surprising since overtime is a crap shoot in the best case and well, you can be expected to lose games to other good teams. Let’s just hope Portland can hand Houston another “quality loss” Thursday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Houston’s advantage in points in the paint. In the first meeting this year Houston absolutely destroyed Portland inside, winning points in the paint 54-28. If Portland can keep this margin relatively close Thursday, they should win.
Houston wins if: They score at least 110 points. The Rockets score points in bunches and if they hit 110 Tuesday night, they should win fairly easily.