Team Records: Houston (4-4) at Portland (3-5)
Game Info: 7 p.m., TV on CSNNW, Radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM
Vegas Line: Portland -1.5
Refs: Derrick Stafford, Steve Anderson, Dick Bavetta.
The Skinny: The Blazers look to build off a blowout road win in Sacramento their last time out, which happens to be the only win for the team since they beat Houston nearly two weeks ago. The Rockets come into this game looking for a confidence boost as well, with their only two wins in the last few weeks coming against Detroit and New Orleans at home. Of note, Head Coach Kevin McHale is away from the team attending to a personal matter and Assistant Coach Kelvin Sampson is running the team in his absence.
Last Time They Met: It was a tale of two halves as James Harden dominated the first and Nicolas Batum the second. After a Wesley Matthews three and a subsequent steal forced OT, Lillard led the way, assisting on or scoring all 14 of the team’s points in Portland’s OT win.
Projected Rockets Lineup:
PF: Patrick Patterson (Kentucky, 3rd season) – 10.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.1 APG
SF: Chandler Parsons (Florida, 2nd season) – 12.4 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.8 APG
C: Omer Asik (Turkey, 3rd season) – 10.5 PPG, 12.9 RPG, 1 APG
SG: James Harden (Arizona State, 4th season) – 26.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 4.5 APG
PG: Jeremy Lin (Harvard, 3rd season) – 10.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 6.1 APG
Player to Watch: Omer Asik (pictured at right) – Its hard not to look at Asik and marvel at his defensive prowess and rebounding skills. Asik is a marvelous defender, especially on the pick and roll and is surprisingly mobile for someone his size. He blocks shots with regularity and gobbles up nearly all rebounds that come near him. However, as good as he is on defense, that is how bad he is on offense. He has extremely limited range and can seemingly miss easy layups constantly. Still, he has been much better in converting his chances near the rim this season (and has dramatically improved his FT shooting to boot) than in his previous two in Chicago and with the strong offensive firepower the rest of Houston’s lineup brings, any offense he provides is like found money, you don’t expect it but you’re glad you have it.
Did You Know?: Houston’s team this year features only 4 returning players from last season, and only one returning starter (Chandler).
Song of the Day: “Takin’ Care of Business” by Bachman Turner Overdrive-One of Portland’s old theme songs from the 1990s, appropriate given how Portland took care of business the last time these two teams met Enjoy:
Portland: Out – SG Elliott Williams (Achillies).
Re-Evaluating Houston: Linsanity: The Sequel
There have been few more unexpected and amazing feats than that pulled off by Jeremy Lin during last season. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Jeremy Lin had as amazing a two-week run as the NY’s starting PG as you are ever likely to see. Even though a knee injury ended his season shortly thereafter, Lin had completely turned his career around, from a bench warmer to a highly paid star. After New York refused to match Houston’s offer sheet, Lin found himself headed to Houston. The results this year have been mostly okay so far, nothing special but very solid for a starting PG in the NBA It isn’t Linsanity but regardless, no one will ever think of Lin as an afterthought again, he is here in the league to stay.
The Bottom Line:
Portland wins if: They limit second chance points. The Rockets, especially Asik, feast on second chance opportunities. If the Blazers can limit those, they should be able to make life difficult for Houston and come out with a win.
Houston wins if: They shoot at least 25 FTs. The Rockets are a very poor shooting team, shooting only a touch above 41% on the season but where they excel is at the line. If they can get there enough, they should be able to win.