Game 36 Preview: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets

Blazers: 18-17

Rockets: 16-18

Game Details: Toyota Center, Houston, TX. 5:40 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM)

Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6′2″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6′5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6′9″, France), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6′11″, Texas), C Marcus Camby (#23, 6′11″, UMass)

Projected Houston Starting Lineup: PG Kyle Lowry (#7, 6’0″, Villanova), SG Kevin Martin (#12, 6’7″, Western Carolina), SF Shane Battier (#31, 6’8″, Duke), PF Luis Scola (#4, 6’9″, Argentina), C Jordan Hill (#27, 6’10”, Arizona)

I’m going to keep this pretty short, seeing as Portland is going to be on the second night of a back-to-back, has just come off a tough loss, and will be playing a team they beat only two days ago. Houston dropped one more after losing to Portland in Portland on Sunday, and have fallen to a game and a half behind the Blazers for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. If Sunday’s win showed anything, it showed that there is more than a game and half of difference between these two squads, but a road game is never the same as a home game.

Here’s what worked well for Portland at the Rose Garden: attack, attack, attack. Cutting through the lane, getting lay-ups, and shots in the paint. Houston without Yao Ming is a team without a real inside player. Portland should be able to take advantage of that fact, and should probably be able to score most of their points from within a few feet of the rim. Another thing that worked well in Portland’s last match-up with Houston was the play of the second unit. Patty Mills, Dante Cunningham, and Rudy Fernandez were key to pushing the tempo of the game and helping the Blazers pull away. Joel Przybilla is back, but played less than three minutes in the loss to Dallas. If Joel can get some good minutes at Houston, he could have a positive effect on that second unit.

Offensively, the Rockets are led by Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, along with Kyle Lowry and Shane Battier. Martin is a gunner with a tendency to cool off. In the Rockets loss to Denver on Monday, Martin shot 3-of-15, for only eight points in 25 minutes. Limiting Martin will force Houston to lean on one of their other weapons. Lowry isn’t consistent, and Louis Scola is not the kind of player that can beat a team all by himself. Coming off the bench for Houston, Courtney Lee, Chase Budinger, Brad Miller, and Aaron Brooks, are all specialists of one kind or another. Like Scola they individually aren’t going to win on their own. The second unit will have to limit shooters Budinger and Brooks, while containing Courtney Lee. A tall order to be sure, but in Sunday’s win Portland let Houston’s bench threesome of Lee, Budinger, and Brooks score 32 points, and walked away winners.

I want to say that Portland lives and dies right now by the play of guys like LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby, unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be the case. LA and Marcus have played consistently at a high level during this extended run, and it hasn’t always meant a win for Portland. The bench and the role players need to contribute. If that happens, Portland leaves Texas with a win and a loss. Not the worst scenario I can think of.

Twitter: @mikeacker | @ripcityproject

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