Apr 18, 2014, 1:45 PM EST
Houston Rockets: 54-28
Portland Trail Blazers: 54-28
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.
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?
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.
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
- Rajon Rondo was very Rondoesque in debut with Mavericks (VIDEO) 7
- Report: Kings discussing trade for Deron Williams with Nets 12
- Report: Multiple teams contacting Suns trying to trade for Goran Dragic 9
- Clippers rip officials after being called for seven technical fouls in loss to Nuggets 18
- Jeremy Lin after Kobe misses at the buzzer: ‘I like game-winners too’ 54
- Damian Lillard drops career high 43, leads Blazers to 3OT win over Spurs (VIDEO) 8
- Kendrick Perkins: Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston 8
- Report: Minnesota agrees to trade Corey Brewer to Houston 7