Teams: Portland Trail Blazers (42-20) @ Houston Rockets (43-19)
Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston TX
Television: CSN Houston
- This will be the final meeting between Houston and Portland in the regular season. The Rockets are 2-1 against the Blazers in the season series so far, and a win for Houston would lockup the tiebreaker with Portland for playoff seeding.
- Four of the five Portland starters have been in the lineup for every game so far this season, and LaMarcus Aldridge has missed only five games. Meanwhile, Dwight Howard is the sole Rocket to have started every game for Houston, with no other starter missing less than Chandler Parsons’ six.
- What is the opposite of kryptonite? Whatever it is, the Blazers have it. More than any other team in the league, Dwight Howard has feasted on Portland this season: 28.3 ppg on 66%FG and 70%FT, with 14 rpg (4.3 o.rpg), 2 apg, 1.3 bpg, 1 spg.
- Although, in the last two games against Houston, LaMarcus Aldridge has also been a beast: 29 ppg, 22.5 rpg (6.5 o.rpg), 2.5 apg, 2 spg and 1.5 bpg. Would someone, I don’t know, consider a box-out on the big fella?
Insider’s View – Q&A with Joe Swide of Portland Roundball Society.Follow Joe on Twitter @pdxroundball and @joe_swide.
M.F. – As someone who sat through every minute of the epic second-half collapse the Rockets had against the Thunder in January, I’ve seen some painful basketball. But how much of an emotional roller coaster was that Mavericks game Friday night?
J.S. – I’m not sure that roller coaster is the best analogy for that emotional experience. Roller coasters give only the illusion of danger, before ending with smiles and the opportunity to buy an image of your moment fear to look back on and laugh about, in a novelty frame. Maybe we’re talking about a really dicey Six Flags where death really does seem imminent, but I would favor the analogy of an emotional Sandra-Bullock’s-journey-in-Gravity-only-if-she-dies-in-the-end-which-might-actually-have-been-what-happened-cuz-that-movie-was-deeper-than-I-thought. First, the Blazers are floating hopelessly through space, with no control and nothing to grab on to. Then, George Clooney’s character — Thomas Robinson for these purposes — finds them, corrals them, gives them some motivating energy, and gets them back on a track for survival. After that, there’s a lot of exciting and suspenseful moments until they finally climb into the Chinese station, realize there’s just not enough fuel left, and Dirk Nowitzki cuts the oxygen.
What’s been the biggest difference between the Blazers that started the year 25-7, and the team that is just 17-13 since January 1st?
The offense hasn’t been quite as crisp with its passing and movement, although it’s worth noting that defenses have figured out to some degree how to slow the unstoppable war machine that we saw in the first few months. Defensively, the Blazers haven’t been quite as tight. Instead of only allowing, or forcing ballhandlers into contested midrange shots, those ballhandlers have been able to get into the midrange area and then create from there to find open shooters or bigs underneath. Injuries at different points to LaMarcus Aldridge, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard, and Thomas Robinson haven’t helped either, especially when compared to the first few months, when Terry Stotts barely strayed from the same exact 8-man rotation each night.
I thought the Blazers were getting the ultimate buy-low steal when they got Thomas Robinson from the Rockets in a salary dump of sorts, so that Houston could sign Dwight Howard. But other than the occasional outburst when he gets real minutes, Robinson is still not producing like a top-5 pick should should be in his second year. Have you seen anything in his game to suggest that he can be a rotation guy on a championship team?
I’m far from ready to call Robinson a bust. At this point, he has a single role — boundless energy and rebounding dude — that will get him on the floor. To get more minutes, he’ll need to smooth out those occasional moments when he gets too out of control offensively, and also become a better, more consistent defender. But for now, I’m very happy with what Thomas Robinson brings to this team. In that Mavs game, he almost single-handedly dragged the Blazers back into that game.
True or False
The Damian Lillard/Gerald Wallace heist was a bigger steal than the James Harden robbery.
False — only because Harden was a known commodity at the time of the trade and Lillard was a draft pick.
The Blazers’ defense is good enough to get them to the WCF.
False — but their offense might be.