Houston Rockets @ Portland Trailblazers on 11/5/13

[NB: I haven't had a chance to watch the Clippers game yet, so this preview doesn't touch on it]

In the UK tonight is Guy Fawkes Night, a celebration of the day 410 years ago when the eponymous Fawkes was apprehended while trying to blow up the Houses of Parliament. It is celebrated by building an effigy of Fawkes upon a bonfire, setting off fireworks, and generally making merry on a cool November evening. In Portland it will undoubtedly be a cool evening and there will be a fire Blazing, but it remains to be seen whether the Rockets will be setting off fireworks during the game or making merry once proceedings are through. (That fulfils my tortuously crowbarred-in metaphor quota for the post).

Form:

This is the fourth game in five nights for the Rockets, in a road-trip that has seen them traverse most of the Western half of the country. While marginally less severe than the previous back-to-back against Utah in terms of travel time and altitude, Portland is not an ideal destination to get to for a one day stay, and there will almost certainly be residual effects of the previous games in players’ legs. Last season the team came through remarkably unscathed by injury, but already this year the loss of Patrick Beverley and the lack of Omri Casspi against Utah has been felt. Nights like this after weeks like the last one are a recipe for adding to that, even this early in the season – weary players aren’t as good at getting out of the way of stray limbs and don’t react as well to incoming pain. So it will be critical for the Rockets to avoid putting any more players in suits.

The Portland Trailblazers have quietly got off to a strong start to the season, with good wins against the Spurs and in the altitude of Denver (they also lost to a surprisingly good Suns team). LaMarcus Aldridge has been killing it from the midrange and Damien Lillard is continuing where he left off last season. In addition, they will be rested having not played since Saturday, and are missing only end of the bench players Joel Freeland and Earl Watson.

On Offence:

  • For all Damien Lillard’s prodigious offensive talent, he has not been a particularly great defensively so far in his young career. This will be a key point of attack, especially if Lin and Howard/Asik can draw the effective but leaden-footed Robin Lopez away from the basket in the pick and roll.
  • Portland only really has three capable wings in their rotation at the moment – Matthews, Batum and Wright. This means they may be vulnerable  to McHale going small – unless he wants to tire out his entire wing rotation at once, Coach Stotts will be forced to counter by playing Mo Williams and Lillard alongside each other. Neither are great defenders and should allow the Rockets’ driving guards to have a field day.
  • Rockets in the paint must keep an eye out for Batum at all times, especially when out on the break. He loves the chase-down block and will frequently appear from nowhere to swat the ball away. This can be demoralising if it happens often enough.

On Defence:

  • How does you defend against LaMarcus Aldridge? His sublime mid-range game and well-defined set of post-moves make him one of the toughest covers at a position full of tough covers. The task will likely fall to Howard most of the time (it would take a brave coach to give the assignment to Casspi), and a lot will come down to how comfortable Dwight will be stepping away from the basket to contest. In a twin-towers line up one would hope that he will trust Asik enough to venture forth from the paint, but the duo do have a tendency to end up losing a big man who drifts out towards the three point line, particularly in possessions with a lot of motion.
  • Lillard is a player it would be nice to have Patrick Beverley around for. Especially early in the year, Lin struggled to deal with Lillard’s quickness and at the time unknown ability to shoot the three. A year older and wiser, we’ll have to see if Lin has improved enough to stay in front of his man.

Rotation Spotlight:

Wesley Matthews (6’5″ SG, Wisconsin)

Matthews is a perfect shooting guard in today’s NBA. He thrives in a dying position because unlike his illustrious predecessors he does not need or demand the ball. But when you give it to him, he can and will score (to the tune of 15.3 points-per-36, according to basketball-reference.com). Add his solid defensive reputation and you have a résumé that would make him a welcome fit on pretty much every team in the league. Not bad for an undrafted player! His only weakness is his poor finishing near the basket – this shot chart is illustrative of his general tendencies, even if it’s a little too early in the season to be completely accurate:

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Total comments: 24
  • tombrokeoff says 5 months ago

    was ecstatic when i heard the news before the game that PBev was gonna play. He's gonna be much needed for this team to get where it wants to go. was also ecstatic Harden decided to show up. not sure where he was in LA. you'd think he would have been amped to play a conference contender, but whatever the case, glad he was quickly back to his old self.

  • Johnny Rocket says 5 months ago

    I'm amazed at the Rocket's offense--27 percent on three-point shots and 20 turnovers, but scored 116 points. Awesome.

    I was also struck with the play of P-Bev. I like Lin a lot, but I like P-Bev even more.

    Great road win--we beat the two LA teams at home and it suddenly becomes a very good week after a horrific start.

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    I don't like it when Dwight posts up elite defenders, but tonight Dwight is proving that can be a dominant post player against average post defenders--this is a good thing because Miami's center is Bosh lol

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    Terrible defense

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    Its all about closing out... Hand down Man down. NBA 3 pointer shooter is gonna hit those every single time

  • tombrokeoff says 5 months ago

    how many open perimeter shots have we give up the last 5 quarters?

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    My goodness our rotation defense is horrible, coach Sampson really has his work cut out for him.

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    Soon as Casspi is in we see Harden getting to the basket with ease.

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    Thank you sir! and btw I HATE the Thunder. and that is a strongggg word for me lol

  • tombrokeoff says 5 months ago

    how much longer until McHale tinkers with the starting lineup? (not counting PG pos)

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    LMA's shooting would be a real threat. Not sure why Rockets still starting Asik/Howard together. They didn't play extended minutes together anyway.

    Personally I'm not too worried about his shooting just because so many of his shots are long 2's where he makes 41% which is equivalent to 27% from 3. I'm much more worried about Lillard than I am about Aldridge.

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    Oh man I agree completely... I was at game 1 in OKC when Greg Smith started and literally dropped like 10 passes. I know the ups and downs but his presence was felt last night for his limited action

    A Rockets fan from Oklahoma? We don't get too many of those, welcome to Red94!

  • Richards says 5 months ago

    LMA's shooting would be a real threat. Not sure why Rockets still starting Asik/Howard together. They didn't play extended minutes together anyway.

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    Oh man I agree completely... I was at game 1 in OKC when Greg Smith started and literally dropped like 10 passes. I know the ups and downs but his presence was felt last night for his limited action

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    When I seen him the most he was playing agaisnt Griffin. Seen him grab 2 offensive rebounds on him early in the game..

    Good observation, Griffin was there to box Greg out and that didn't stop Greg so let's give Greg some props, but Griffin isn't exactly well known for his defense fundamentals either. Forgive me for being pessimistic about Greg but he has games like this last season too, but that didn't stop us from losing by 29 points to OKC in game 1--Greg Smith started that game.

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    When I seen him the most he was playing agaisnt Griffin. Seen him grab 2 offensive rebounds on him early in the game..

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    Greg Smith was awesome, but for context the guy he dominated was Byron Mullens

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    When he came in last night for his brief 8 minutes he was extremely effective. Something I look forward to seeing

  • Rahat Huq says 5 months ago

    Will be interesting to see if Greg Smith staying a part of the lineup was a one time thing or not.

  • RocketMansinceStevieFrance says 5 months ago

    Greg Smith could be a key part of tonights game, I feel like for defensive purposes he has the best shot of defending aldridge. I know Howard can do it but I just feel more comfortable having him around the basket to grab rebounds. I feel lillard has a chance of having a good game tonight. The rockets have to shut the other teams pg down, if not it opens up a lot of possibilities for the other players to get involved point in case last night. Chris Paul dropping 17 assists on us is insane

  • thejohnnygold says 5 months ago

    I think this can be a nice bounce back game for us. Neither Aldridge nor Lopez are rebounding threats against our front line. Batum may be an issue if he is crashing the offensive glass. I think overall our offense can overpower their defense and as long as we are limiting them to one and done possessions we should run away with this one. Yesterday was a perfect storm. We probably will only see 3-4 other games this year where a team shoots lights out, our players get tagged for every tiny foul, Harden and Dwight miss way more than usual, and the opposing PG puts on a clinic.

  • Rahat Huq says 5 months ago

    i'm very worried about this game.

  • 2016Champions says 5 months ago

    We gotta watch those corner 3's man, Blazers can light us up too if we're not careful.

  • Cooper says 5 months ago Wes Matthews went to Marquette not Wisconsin.