The Portland Trail Blazers will play in the second game of a back-to-back tonight when they travel to Texas to take on James Harden and the new-look Houston Rockets. The Rockets were one of many teams which have had major roster overhauls, capped off with a blockbuster trade that sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a host of first and second-round picks to Oklahoma City for James Harden and a few other pieces.
Blazers Starting 5: PG Damian Lillard, SG Wesley Matthews, SF Nicolas Batum, PF LaMarcus Aldridge, C J.J. Hickson
Rockets Starting 5: PG Jeremy Lin, SG James Harden, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Patrick Patterson, C Omer Asik
The first question that comes to mind is whether or not Wesley Matthews will be able to handle James Harden, who’s averaged 41.0 points, 7.0 assists, 6.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals in his first two games as a Rocket. Harden’s been extremely efficient, shooting 63.6 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three and 87 percent from the line, and the only question circling around his game is “how long can he keep it up?” Matthews is certainly not a bad defender by any means, but playing with a bone bruise in his right knee could slow him down just a bit, giving the Rockets’ guard a slight edge.
Portland, on the other hand, has a few mismatches they should take advantage of. Patrick Patterson, a second-year player out of Kentucky, will be checking LaMarcus Aldridge, and Jeremy Lin, who’s infamous for his spotty defense, will try to keep up with young Damian Lillard. I haven’t seen enough of Chandler Parsons, but this reinvigorated Nicolas Batum should be able to make a few things happen.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, that’s where the production ends. Without a go-to scorer on their bench, Portland’s stranded once they touch their bench, while the Rockets have Carlos Delfino and a bunch of promising rookies just waiting to leave their mark.
What To Watch For
- Terry Stotts’ defensive scheme will be put to its biggest test tonight with Wesley Matthews checking an always attacking James Harden. Should Matthews get beat, how well have the Blazers practiced their defensive rotating to help him?
- Unless the Rockets opt to put Omer Asik on him, L.A. will have a player of significantly less size and skill guarding him in Patrick Patterso. This could be the night we see Aldridge operate in the post. He’s been stepping out and knocking down those mid range jumpers with ease, but he could really take advantage of his man tonight by show some veteran moves on the block.
- Who will step up off the bench for the Blazers tonight? Will Barton’s only played one minute this season, and neither Victor Claver nor Joel Freeland have seen much play time either. Luke Babbitt did, however, score eight points in nine minutes against OKC, so maybe they’ll go with him for a spark off the bench.