Blazers: 7-4 (3rd Northwest Division)
Rockets: 4-7 (4th Southwest Division)
Game Details: Toyota Center, Houston, TX. 5:00 PM. TV: CSN Radio: KXTG (750 AM)
Projected Portland Starting Lineup: PG Raymond Felton (#5, 6’1”, North Carolina), SG Wesley Matthews (#2, 6’5″, Marquette), SF Gerald Wallace (#3, 6’7″, Alabama), PF LaMarcus Aldridge (#12, 6’11″, Texas), C Kurt Thomas (#40, 6’9″, Texas Christian)
Projected Houston Starting Lineup: PG Kyle Lowry (#7, 6′, Villanova), SG Kevin Martin (#12, 6’7”, Western Carolina), SF Louis Scola (#4, 6’9”, Buenos Aires, Argentina), PF Chandler Parsons (#25, 6’9”, Florida), C Samuel Dalembert (#21, 6’11”, Seton Hall)
These game previews are going to start running together. Not just on this road trip, but for this entire season that is seeming to come at us with almost no time to catch our breath. Saturday, the Blazers travel to Houston to take on the Rockets in the second leg of a Texas-to-Texas back-to-back.
San Antonio didn’t quite run through Portland. They did however deal them a pretty crushing defeat. Crushing, mostly because on the road with this kind of schedule one loss can very easily turn into two. Losses starting to pile up can be a problem. Like I said, there is no rest for the weary in NBA version 2011-12.
Houston is also on the second night of back-to-back. Unfortunately for Portland, the Rockets played at home on Friday. Not only that, they played the Kings, and ran them out of the building. That being said, Houston’s regulars put in some work, with all five starters playing at least 30 minutes, and they should have legs that are just as heavy as Portland’s.
The Blazers really should look at Saturday as a must win. Right now they’ve fallen to fifth in the Western Conference, but their overall record of 7-4 is nothing to belittle. However, their 1-3 road record leaves a little to be desired. Getting another road win is reason enough for Portland to want to claim this one. That Houston is under .500, and probably won’t make the Playoffs, pushes this game squarely to that next level of importance. Beating teams that are at or near the bottom of the standings, regardless of venue, is imperative if Portland wants to remain in the top half of the conference.
So how should the Blazers game plan for Houston? Well, the best thing to do is focus their efforts on defense. Kevin Martin and Kyle Lowry are super scorers. Limiting them is going to be key, since Portland’s offense has been touch and go at best on the road. Against San Antonio, the Blazers jumped passing lanes in the first quarter, grabbed a lot of steals, and turned poor Spurs execution into buckets. That should be the defensive frame work for Saturday, except the Blazers should try to carry it through for 48 minutes.
Second thing to do: SCORE. The Blazers can play offense, they have a lot of scorers. They need to get into rhythm early, and if the jumpers aren’t going down, they need to find a way to get to the free throw line.
Finally, Portland needs to forget about Friday. They played a decent three quarters and a terrible fourth quarter. They need to get over it. This season will hinge on those teams that can overcome their bad losses. Sometimes a wire-to-wire blowout loss isn’t as bad as a close game that turns into a blowout right at the end. Hopefully Friday won’t stick with Portland. They can win this game, and they should win this game, but trying to win Friday’s game on Saturday isn’t a great idea.
Here’s what I’ll be watching for:
- LaMarcus Aldridge: LA always, always, always has some of his best games of the season in Texas. Friday he had a nice line, 29 points in 32 minutes, but foul trouble kept him out of the game at important stretches. Houston’s power forwards aren’t going to be able to defend LaMarcus, but they’ll do their damage by making him play defense. Louis Scola is a guy you have t cover in the paint because he can shoot the ball and he will score.
- How the Blazers play without Marcus Camby: Marcus Camby has been a huge part of Portland’s success since he became a Blazer back in 2009-10. Portland has played without him many times, and these games won’t be the only ones that he’ll miss this season. The good thing is that Kurt Thomas has been in this situation before, he started for Joakim Noah a fair amount after he went down last season, and Craig Smith has already gotten plenty of game experience. It will be a loss, but one Portland will have to overcome.
- Will Portland get over Friday: I said it before but it needs to be repeated. If this team wants to be for real, which they are, they need to get over their losses. The best way to do that is with a convincing road win.
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