Tonight at 6:30 p.m. PDT, the Portland Trail Blazers look to close out the series against the Houston Rockets. After stealing the first two games in Houston, the Trail Blazers won one out of two at home. The series sits at 3-1 in favor of the Trail Blazers but this series has been far closer than that.
Prior to game 1, I would have never predicted a 3-1 lead for Portland. However, I did know the entire series was going to be close. How could it not be? Both teams finished with the exact same record. Through eight games against each other this season/postseason, the records are an even 4-4, going to overtime 4 times with each team winning twice. This has been one of best and most exciting series in the NBA Playoffs this year. Tonight should be another treat.
The Portland Trail Blazers are undefeated in game 5′s when they hold a 3-1 series lead. That’s right, a perfect 4-0. The Trail Blazers must win one of the next three games. I like those odds. The Rockets will not go down without a fight. Three of the four victories in this series belong to the road team. The Rockets are at home for game 5 and will try to avoid staying home and starting their off-season.
Things To Watch For
How Will Portland Respond To The Close Out Game?
It’s been a long time since the Portland Trail Blazers have won a playoff series. In fact it has been 14 years since they have tasted the second round. In 2000 NBA Playoffs, the Trail Blazers defeated the Timberwolves in the first round and then went on to beat the Jazz in the second round. They eventually lost to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. There have been three early exits in recent memory: 2009, 2010, and 2011. Each of those series was lost 4-2. With a first round victory within their grasps, how will the young Trail Blazers respond? Will they come out swinging or allow the Rockets to dictate the game? LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard will have to be ready to lead their team. The bench will have to contribute like they did in games 2 and 3. Remember, 4-0 in game 5′s with a 3-1 series lead. Sure would be sweet to continue that streak.
Can Wesley Matthews Keep It Up?
With the series shifting back to Houston, the Trail Blazers were rewarded with two days of rest. Wesley Matthews is one player I know was happy about that. This entire series has been physical and at some times a blood-bath. Matthews defense on James Harden has been spectacular. Harden was far more effective in game 4, after struggling in the first three. That was almost inevitable but Matthews was able to keep Harden in check when it seemed like he would go on a scoring spree. Matthews was also able to create his own offense on Sunday. He scored his series-high in points at 21 while shooting 53.3% from the field. Game 5 is do or die for the Rockets and Harden will try to get off to a hot start. Matthews will need to continue his impressive play on both ends of the court to help the Trail Blazers emerge victorious.
Will The Trail Blazers Make Rebounding Adjustments?
Entering the postseason, the Trail Blazers were the best rebounding team in the NBA. The Rockets finished the season as the fourth-best rebounding team but have had the upper hand in this series. Through four games, the Rockets have outrebounded the Trail Blazers 203-188 in total rebounds. The offensive rebounding by the Rockets has been the real problem for the Trail Blazers. The Trail Blazers have given up 72 offensive rebounds while only having 52 of their own. With Omer Asik and Dwight Howard in the lineup together, I understand it’s difficult to get the defensive board, although sometimes a simple box-out would work wonders. Hopefully this has been a topic of concern and the Trail Blazers will work harder on the glass to prevent second-chance opportunities for the Rockets.