Team Records: Houston (31-25) at Portland (27-30)
Game Info: 7 PM, TV on CSNNW, Radio on 750 the Game
Vegas Line: Portland -3.5
Refs: Ron Garretson, Derrick Collins, Josh Tiven.
The Skinny: Fresh off a second half collapse in Milwaukee Saturday night the Blazers return home for another three game homestand. It opens with a game against a Houston team desperate to win games to secure their playoff spot. The Rockets are coming off a fairly easy win over the Kings Sunday night and have won three straight and four of their last five.
Last time they met: The Blazers let “Foster’s call” in the OKC game impact their performance as they came out flat and simply didn’t put in any effort on defense. Houston’s bench won the game for them as four players off the bench scored in double figures that night.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Luis Scola (Argentina, 5th season) – 16 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida, Rookie) – 9.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.2 APG
C: Marcus Camby (Massachusetts, 16th season) – 4.4 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 1.7 APG
SG: Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky, 4th Season) – 10.7 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.5 APG
PG: Goran Dragic (Slovenia, 4th Season) – 10.5 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.8 APG
Player to Watch: Goran Dragic (Pictured at right)-For one of the few times in recent memory, the Spurs may have made a mistake with a draft pick when they traded the rights to Dragic for the rights to ex-Oregon Duck Malik Hairston. Hairston is now out of the league while Dragic has continued to improve every year. Dragic is an excellent finisher with shoot-first tendencies who also does a good job drawing free throws (although he only shoots 78% from the line). His outside shot is streaky but improving and he has done a good job both cutting down on turnovers and increasing his assist rate this year. His defense is still a little suspect, too often he resorts to fouling rather than staying in front of his man. Still, all in all, Dragic is a major weapon and his improved play this season has allowed the Rockets to overcome Lowry’s injury with far less of a downgrade that one would have thought. Oh and he’s an unrestricted free agent this summer, so Portland fans might keep a look out since the team might well go after Dragic.
Did You Know?: Due to injuries only one player has started every game for the Rockets this season, Luis Scola.
Song of the Day: “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson-In honor of Marcus Camby’s return, as the member of the sixth different team of his career, he certainly has some experience traveling to a new home city. Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Shoulder), PF Shawne Williams (Foot).
Houston: Questionable – C Marcus Camby (Wrist), PG Kyle Lowry (Illness), SG Kevin Martin (Shoulder).
Re-Evaluating Houston: Why Tanking is a Good Idea
Houston is a nice team and has been for a while. Consistently on the edge of making the playoffs and occasionally winning a series or two, you can argue that Houston is one of the more consistent teams in the NBA. Therein lies the problem, however, because instead of either being good enough to contend for an NBA title or bad enough to get top draft picks, the Rockets lumber along, get okayish talent and pretty much go nowhere in the end. While the case can be made that with a healthy Yao, this might all be different, the fact remains that even before Yao’s last round of injuries the Rockets were stuck in this first round/just missing the playoffs trap. Far better it seems to tank and risk your fates in the draft than wallow in the perpetual NBA purgatory that the Rockets find themselves in.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They lead at the half. Houston is not a team that is particularly capable of staying a big comeback. If Portland leads throughout the early part of the game, Houston is liable to give up.
Houston wins if: They hold Portland under 100 points. Houston is not the strongest offensive team in the world and if they want to win they have to keep the Blazers from doing what they usually do on offense at home.