Team Records: Portland (31-9) at Houston (27-15)
Game Info: 5 p.m., TV on TNT, Radio on 620 AM
TNT Announcers: Brian Anderson, Reggie Miller, Rachel Nichols
Vegas Line: Houston -2
Refs: Marc Davis, Eli Roe, Josh Tiven
The Skinny: Going into this road trip, many, including yours truly, would have been happy with a 2-2 split of this very tough four game stretch. However, having gotten those first two wins, its time to get greedy and go for 3-0 and hopefully 4-0 in OKC Tuesday night. The Blazers face a Houston team coming off a bounce-back win against the league-worst Bucks following a historic collapse Thursday against the Thunder. Houston has won four of their last five overall.
Last Time They Met: Aldridge turned in perhaps the best performance of his career as he posted a monster line of 31 points and 25 rebounds to lead the Blazers to victory in a hard-fought game in Portland. Dwight Howard had 32 points and 17 rebounds in a losing effort for Houston.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Terrence Jones (Kentucky-2nd season) – 11.6 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.2 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida-3rd season) – 16.7 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 3.5 APG
C: Dwight Howard (SW Atlanta Christian (HS)-10th season) – 18 PPG, 12.6 RPG, 1.8 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State-5th season) – 24.3 PPG, 5 RPG, 5.3 APG
PG: Jeremy Lin (Harvard-4th Season) – 13.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.3 APG
Player to Watch: Jeremy Lin (pictured at right) – Things may have cooled a bit since but no one had as dramatic an entrance as Jeremy Lin had onto the NBA scene a few years back, when he seemingly could do no wrong. The “Linsanity” is gone but the player behind it is no slouch. Lin is an above-average NBA point guard with decent shooting skills, good passing and good enough defense. Where Lin falls down, however, is in his lack of rebounding, which for a team that shoots as many long jumpers as Houston does is low and his turnovers. Lin turns the ball over way too often, and this problem is not getting any better for him. Still, he is a solid NBA point guard on a team that just needs him to be that, given that Howard and Harden run the show.
Did You Know?: Houston became the only team in NBA history to fail to score 100 points after scoring 70+ in the first half when Houston scored 73 in the first half and only 19 in the second in their loss to OKC. That 54 point difference is also the single-biggest difference between scoring in two halves for any team in any NBA game.
Song of the Day: “Don’t Mess with Texas ad” by the Texas Department of Transportation. Oddly enough the phrase “Don’t mess with Texas” actually comes not from history but from an anti-littering campaign in 1986. This is my favorite of the ads produced. Yeah its not a song but its fun. Enjoy:
Houston: Out – C Omer Asik (Thigh/Knee), Questionable-SF Francisco Garcia (Knee), C Greg Smith (Knee), PG Patrick Beverley (Hand)
Re-Evaluating Houston: Live by the Jump Shot, Die by the Jump Shot
While Thursday’s loss to OKC was an anomaly in how it actually took place, it exposed a fundamental flaw in Houston’s approach, they are largely reliant on making jump shots in order to win games (at least against quality opponents). Houston missed jump shot after jump shot in the second half, and when they did OKC’s comeback became almost inevitable. Sure Houston can pound it inside to Dwight Howard but he is far from the best post player in the league and even Howard can only do so much. If Howard has foul trouble, as he did Thursday, and Houston can’t make jump shots, its hard for them to win games against any quality team. Let’s hope Portland can make this happen again Monday.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit Houston’s 3 point makes. Howard is going to get what he gets, but the key to beating Houston is stopping their jump shooters from catching fire from deep. If Portland can do so, they should 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 the last time the teams played. If they can do so, they stand a good chance of beating Portland.