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NBA Playoff Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Apr 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers

SEASON RECORDS

Houston Rockets: 54-28

Portland Trail Blazers: 54-28

KEY INJURIES

Houston Rockets: none

Portland Trail Blazers: none

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Houston Rockets: Offense 108.6 (4th in NBA), Defense 103.1 (12th in NBA)

Portland Trail Blazers: Offense 108.3 (5th in NBA), Defense 104.7 (16th in NBA)

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) Will anyone stop anyone?

Cue the fireworks. This is the only first-round series featuring two top-five offenses.

Both teams have middling defenses, indicating both offenses will win the proverbial battles. Even when narrowing to playoff rotations, both teams perform worse defensively.

There is defensive talent on both sides, though. The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. The Trail Blazers have Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. Yet, neither team has put together a strong defense.

This might come down to whether James Harden or Damian Lillard, notoriously disinterested defenders, summons more defensive effort.

2) Will this just be a parade to the rim for the Rockets?

More specific to the general defensive concerns, Portland faces a particularly daunting challenge in keeping Houston away from the rim.

The Rockets take 39.8 percent of their shots at the rim, best among playoff teams. The Trail Blazers allow their opponents to take 34.0 percent of their shots at the rim, worst among playoff teams.

Portland must somehow cut off Harden’s attacks (by methods other than fouling and sending him to the line for easy points) and keep Howard from getting too deep (maybe fouling him, in certain situations, is OK). Even the Trail Blazers’ soft pick-and-roll coverage might not do the trick. The Rockets both drive and roll with reckless abandon.

The Trail Blazers need a new trick up their sleeves.

3) What happens between Damian Lillard and Patrick Beverley?

The starting point guards don’t exactly like each other.

Lillard is a small-college player trying to prove himself as an NBA superstar, and Beverley is an underdog scrapper himself. Because they’re so proud (and so similar), there’s frequently friction when they meet.

In this series, their matchup is key. Beverley will try to hound Lillard defensively, disrupting Portland’s offense by making its point guard miserable. Lillard is more skilled. Beverley is more physical.

Whichever wins out could swing the series.

PREDICTION

The Trail Blazers slipped from their perch atop the Western Conference after a 31-9 start, but they’ve bounced back. Portland won its last five and nine of ten, providing momentum entering the playoffs. But the Rockets won the season series, 3-1, so they have homecourt advantage.

Rockets in 7

  1. danielcp0303 - Apr 18, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Rockets in 5, at most 6

    • spthegr8 - Apr 19, 2014 at 9:31 AM

      Rockets in 6. One of the most entertaining series in the 1st rd tho!!!

  2. lakerade - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:12 PM

    Blazers in 6!

  3. aboogy123456 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:21 PM

    I just don’t see how Blazers can keep this series close. The article has good points, but Houston just has a better overall team, and has been trending up while Portland has been trending down. Damian Lillard will want to take over but that’s not a good recipe against Beverly, and Lillard isn’t always the best decision maker. Add in the fact that Harden and Howard have a lot more experience than lillard and Aldridge, and I think this will be over in 4 or 5.

    • calkinsrob - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:34 PM

      agreed

    • blazenhawks - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:26 PM

      you do Know that portland has won there last 9 out of 10 right and Huston has been struggling. I’m not saying the Blazers will win ( I hope) but these team’s match up very well it’s going to come down to the Bench more than anything.

  4. ericreives - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:35 PM

    I think the Rockets will prevail but each game is going to be close. The Rockets will be the first team to play defense in this series and it goes 7 games.

  5. eugenesaxe1 - Apr 18, 2014 at 2:54 PM

    If PDX can keep a lid on Harden/the refs don’t reward his floppery, and make howard beat them, Portland has a good chance. I don’t think howard has it in him to carry a team.

    • duhwighthoward - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:38 PM

      If it is a team of clowns in a circus, then yes I can.

    • bougin89 - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:10 PM

      Howard has a history of playing really well in the playoffs(except when he played for Mike D’Antoni). He has already carried his team to the finals and on this team he has more talent around him. I’m not saying the Rockets make it out of the West(I think the Spurs will again) but if they don’t it won’t be because Howard didn’t play well.

  6. xLith - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:38 PM

    Rockets in 6. I am really interested in the Beverly and Lillard match up. I expect Lillard will be crying near the end of the series about Beverly’s defense. Clutch city!

  7. reesesteel23 - Apr 18, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Hopefully Lillards knees don’t get attacked

  8. urodaddy07 - Apr 18, 2014 at 5:00 PM

    Idk who will win but I predict a 7 game series. Neither team plays consistent D, DH only defends well at the rim. LA will be able to exploit this especially if DH gets into early foul trouble. If Blazers make Harden an inefficient shooter and force them to take lots of 3s, not a difficult task, they will win.

  9. ptownbearsfan420 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    Haters gon hate. Ptown is bout to smoke the beard. And “superman”. RIPCITY!!!!!

  10. ptownbearsfan420 - Apr 18, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    Haters gon hate. Ptown is bout to smoke the beard. And “superman”. RIPCITY!!!!!

  11. jimeejohnson - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:57 PM

    Note to Lakers fans: Dwight wasn’t your problem.

    • jimeejohnson - Apr 18, 2014 at 9:58 PM

      I’m not a hater by any means. I was hoping Howard would save the Lakers from this fate. But like those Boston Celtics, times are mighty tough.

  12. jadaruler - Apr 19, 2014 at 12:07 AM

    Rockets in 6.

  13. ranfan12 - Apr 19, 2014 at 6:49 AM

    Hope to see D12 do better in the playoffs this year without the main focus being on him

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