Game Details: Rose Garden, Portland, OR. 7:00 PM. TV: CSN. Radio: KXTG (95.5 FM).
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Andre Miller (#24, 6’3″, Utah), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Nicolas Batum (#88, 6’8″, 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 Chase Budinger (#10, 6’7″, Arizona), PF Luis Scola (#4, 6’9″, Argentina), C Chuck Hayes (#44, 6’6″, Kentucky)
If we put aside the spirited but ultimately too-little-too-late comeback attempt against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a time when the Blazers looked worse than they did for the first 44 minutes of that game. The Hawks have a tendency that you could almost call Portlandesque, of looking like a team capable of a deep playoff run some nights and looking like a lottery team others. Portland happened to catch Atlanta on the wrong end of that cycle. On deck tonight are the Houston Rockets, who don’t have that gear in them but can do some damage if you let them.
The two players on Houston’s roster to keep an eye on are Kevin Martin and Luis Scola. Martin, you’ll recall, went nova on the Blazers the last time these two teams played, dropping 45 points and damn near willing the Rockets to a win (the Blazers eventually pulled away). He doesn’t do it every night, but he can go off like that. Having Gerald Wallace on the roster gives Portland another option of a defender to throw at him, joining Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews as the other likeliest candidates to match up with Houston’s leading scorer. Scola’s impact in the paint should be tempered a little by Marcus Camby’s return to the starting lineup. Outside of Martin and Scola, Houston boasts a variety of dependable, if not spectacular, role players. Chuck Hayes is a good defender, if a bit undersized at the center position. Chase Budinger, Courtney Lee, and Kyle Lowry are solid. Backup point guard Goran Dragic replaces Aaron Brooks after a trade with Phoenix.
Word is that Brandon Roy will play tonight but not tomorrow night in Sacramento, as Nate McMillan’s plan is to keep him out of the second halves of back-to-backs. Rudy Fernandez is out tonight due to illness, so Roy needs to make his 15 to 20 minutes count. Think more Denver game and less Lakers or Hawks. Gerald Wallace will hopefully be over his first-night jitters after a shaky start to his Portland tenure. With Camby back, there are no excuses at this point for Portland not to be able to take care of the lesser opponents on their schedule on a nightly basis, and Houston definitely qualifies as a “lesser” opponent.