Team Records: Houston (43-20) at Portland (41-20)
Game Info: 7:30 PM, TV on KGW/ESPN, Radio on 620 AM
Vegas Line: Portland -2.5
ESPN Announcers: Dave Pasch, Jon Barry
Refs: Tony Brothers, Eli Roe, Sean Wright
The Skinny: The Blazers host the Rockets in Houston’s first visit to Rip City since Game 6 last spring. It is a critical game for both teams in terms of playoff positioning as the winner secures the season series and thus the tiebreaker over the other. Houston has won five of their last seven games.
Last Time They Met: The Blazers take and then blew a big lead before closing out the game on a tear to win 109-98. Aldridge led Portland with 24 in the win as the Blazers overcome 45 points from Harden in the Portland win.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Terrence Jones (Kentucky-3rd season) – 12.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 1 APG
SF: Trevor Ariza (UCLA-4th season) – 12.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.4 APG
C: Donatas Montiejunas (Lithuania-3rd season) – 11.7 PPG, 6 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State-6th season) – 27.1 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 7.1 APG
PG: Patrick Beverley (Arkansas-3rd Season) – 10.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.4 APG
Player to Watch: Patrick Beverley (pictured at right) – Remember before the playoff series last year when all the talk was about how Patrick Beverley had Dame’s number and was going to shut him down? Well, that didn’t happen and while part of it might have been that Beverley was hurt, it was more likely that he just wasn’t that good. Still, he’s no slouch, a good defender who can at least avoid Harden having to attempt to “guard” the best backcourt player the opponent has. He is an inconsistent but capable outside shooter but offense isn’t really his thing. Sure, he’ll hit a shot or two or three on occasion but Beverly is there for defense, not offense.
Did You Know?: The Rockets are 22-10 when Howard plays this year, and 23-10 when he does not.
Song of the Day: “The Man” by Aloe Blacc. The song they played at the RG after Lillard’s said “RIP CITAYYYY” following game 6. Enjoy:
Portland: Out-SG Wesley Matthews (Achilles)
Houston: Out-C Dwight Howard (Knee), PF Kostas Papanikolaou (Ankle)
Re-Evaluating Houston: Unforgettable Moments
I have been privileged enough in my life to go to hundreds of sports events. I have been to probably 150 Blazers games, at least that many baseball games (I had season tickets to the Rockies for several years growing up), Timbers matches, Thorns matches, three events at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and more besides. Yet, when it comes down to it, I really remember three sports moments most clearly. The first is the first Blazers game I ever attended, a win over the Pacers when I was seven years old, sitting in the fourth row at the old Memorial Coliseum. The second is being at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, attending the 1500m women’s speedskating race and joining with hundreds of very happy Dutch people who sang their national anthem as their beloved speedskating was awarded the gold medal. The third was game 6 last spring against the Rockets. I remember every detail of that last .9 and the celebration that followed clearly. Going home that night felt like floating on air and I think every single person privileged enough to attend that game will not soon forget that night. Baring a Blazers title (I was born a few years after the 77 championship), its going to be hard to top that at all and certainly for being in the building when it happened, I may never top it. It was a fun night, and one I will treasure forever.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: Aldridge and Lillard do what they did during the playoffs. LMA and Lillard absolutely tore apart Houston in last season’s playoffs. If they can do so again Wednesday, what Harden does should not be able to keep up.
Houston wins if: They get a second good performance from someone besides Harden. Harden has played very well the two games vs. Portland this year. Yet, if the Rockets want to win Wednesday, they’ll need more than that, whether its Jones, Beverley or someone else, someone else has to step up on offense for them to win.