- The Houston Rockets won three out of four games in the season-series against the Portland Trail Blazers this season, winning games one, three and four by 15, 13 and 5 points respectively, and losing game two by 7.
- Both teams had very good health for all four games, as Terrence Jones was the only player to miss a game for either team (game 3).
- Dwight Howard and James Harden were excellent against the Blazers all season, averaging roughly 56 ppg, 21 rpg and 7 apg combined.
- Speaking of Harden, he shot more threes against Portland than he did against any other team this year, averaging 8.3 per contest, and he still managed to hit them at high rate (45.5%). San Antonio (50%) and Minnesota (61.9%) were the only W.C. teams to suffer worse at Harden’s hands from deep.
- LaMarcus Aldridge has been a monster on the glass against Houston, averaging 15.5 per, with 4.8 of those being offensive rebounds.
- Neither team is especially good at forcing turnovers, and both are in the bottom-5 in TO ratio. The Rockets were 23rd (13.4 per) in the league at causing turnovers, while the Blazers were dead last (11.6). Portland, however, is much better at protecting the ball, finishing 6th (13.3 per) to Houston’s t-29th ranking (15.4).
- Neither team has any injuries heading into the series, but Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and to a lesser extent Chandler Parsons are all still nursing ailments for the Rockets. And for the Blazers, Joel Freeland has only played in one game since spraining his right MCL in mid-January.
Insider’s View – Q&A with Joe Swide of Portland Roundball Society.
Five years is an eternity in the NBA.
Five years ago, the Houston Rockets were supposed to be championship contenders. Their goal was not to just get to the second round or to the Conference Finals, but to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy up in June. The trio of Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, and new arrival Ron Artest was supposed to be Houston’s answer to the Garnett-Pierce-Allen trio that had just won the championship for Boston. It had defense in Artest and Shane Battier, it had offense in Yao Ming, McGrady, and Coach Rick Adelman. And after the Yao-McGrady Rockets had suffered for years with the lack of impact role players, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Aaron Brooks, and others were supposed to be capable of finally supporting the trio of stars.
So much has changed since then. McGrady, Yao and the renamed Metta World Peace are no longer in the NBA. Scola, Landry, and Battier are barely hanging around, and not a single member of that 2008-09 team is still on the Rockets today. But just like this year’s Rockets seek to eliminate the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round, so did the Rockets five years ago. They would defeat the Blazers in six games, in what has been Houston’s only playoff series win since 1997.
It is the nature of modern sports coverage and fandom to be constantly looking onwards to what is to come. The playoffs are going to be awesome this year, some of the kids in the draft are going to be superstars and you’d better have one eye on your cap sheet for when all the free agents become available. But often this focus on the future at the expense of the past leaves us makes us forget the context of the situations we find ourselves in. People erase the predictions that went horribly awry and re-adjust their expectations based on current performance. So to avoid falling into that trap, let’s take a look back at some of the big questions that surrounded the Rockets before the season began and see where the team got to in achieving them.
The Perfect Roster - Brad Doolittle put together an ideal roster, based of this year’s production and cap number, that would not only play great together, but also fit under the constraints of a typical GM’s allowance (75.7 mil). LeBron was, of course, the main attraction and the rest of the list was made of guys you’d expect like Kevin Love, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. The starting point guard and “Glue Guy”, though, may have caught some by surprise.
Glue Guy: Patrick Beverley
Few people seemed to realize the magnitude of the blow the Houston Rockets nearly suffered when it appeared that they’d lost Beverley for the season with a knee injury. Beverley leads the Rockets in RPM at plus-4.88, and also has posted 2.8 WARP on the season. His ability to hound opposing star point guards is essential, and while he’s not a traditional playmaker, he doesn’t need to be on this roster. Nevertheless, Beverley’s ability to knock down corner 3s gives him offensive utility. Finally, with a salary of just $788,872, Beverley offers as much bang for the buck as any role player in the league.
Snooze – Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose are in the middle of their Playoffs Preview, and while a lot of it has been silly back and forth, they have covered some interesting topics. One of the items up for discussion today was their pick for sleepers outside of the top-5 (Miami, San Antonio, OKC, LAC and Indiana). Read More
On the year, LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 23.2 points and 11.1 boards while shooting 45.8% from the floor. Against the Houston Rockets, in four games this year, Aldridge put up 26.8 points and pulled down 15.5 boards, shooting 44.7%. He averaged 36.2 minutes per game against the entire league but played 39.1 minutes per contest against Houston.
Glancing at Aldridge’s shot distribution, against the league, he really likes the midrange elbow area. Spanning from just beyond the free throw line over left towards the corner, Aldridge hoisted about 33% of his overall attempts. That far left spot is also his most lethal area – Aldridge hit on 48% of his attempts from that zone.
Against Houston, Aldridge is putting up just 27% of his shots from that free throw line to corner area, but more interestingly, in his favorite zone, the dead elbow area, his attempts are down from 12% of total attempts against the entire league to 4% against the Rockets. For whatever reason, Aldridge wasn’t shooting as much from one of his pet spots against the Rockets this year. When he did get a look from those areas, he was pretty lethal. 100% (4/4) from that same zone, and 46% from the zone just inside the 3 point line on the left.
In this series, Rockets fans will be grateful Daryl Morey didn’t look ahead and sell off Omer Asik for some draft picks because Aldridge is going to be seeing a ton of the Turkish center. While I expect Terrence Jones to start Game 1, there is no doubt in my mind that Kevin McHale will be quick with the hook to relieve Jones with Asik if Aldridge gets going early.