Apr 30, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) controls the ball during the fourth quarter as Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) defends in game five of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Rockets defeated the Trail Blazers 108-98. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Trail Blazers, Rockets: NBA Playoffs Game 6 Preview

 

Game 6 between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets will be played in Portland tonight at 7:30 p.m.PDT. The Trail Blazers cling to a 3-2 series lead and will look to close out the Rockets in front of their home crowd. The Rockets will try to force a game 7 and put the pressure back on the Trail Blazers.

Portland failed to clinch the series on Wednesday in Houston. The Rockets were the more desperate team and it showed early and down the final stretch. The Trail Blazers failed to score a single point in the last 3:39 of the game. Damian Lillard capped off a spectacular game with a spectacular play but it ended up being the last offensive execution the Trail Blazers could mustard up. By the way, at that time, the lead was only two points for the Rockets. Poor execution down the stretch killed Portland’s early opportunity to advance to the second round.

The Rockets gained the largest margin of victory of this series when they won by 10 points on Wednesday. The bench production had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the game. Houston’s bench poured in 34 points, behind Jeremy Lin‘s 21 points, while Portland’s reserves only scored five points. Hopefully the Trail Blazers can make the needed adjustments to avoid becoming the ninth team in NBA history to lose a seven game series after leading 3-1.

 

Things To Watch For

How Can Stotts Help LaMarcus Aldridge?

Jason Quick of The Oregonian wrote a fascinating article regarding how Stotts can help Aldridge become successful again. Terry Stotts once worked with Dirk Nowitzki and built an offense to cater to Nowitzki’s style of play. Stotts now has another All-Star that he needs to build an offense around but he doesn’t have much time. The playoffs are here and the Trail Blazers need a quick fix. Will Stotts be able to provide spacing and shot opportunities for Aldridge that allow him to avoid the seven-foot double team? Asik and Howard have been impressive the last two games and Houston head coach Kevin McHale should get all of the credit. Stotts will have to outcoach McHale tonight in order for the Trail Blazers to secure the win.

 

Can The Role Players Step Up?

Aldridge and Lillard have carried the Trail Blazers all season, including this series. Yet with Aldridge struggling to find his offense and Lillard doing all he can, who will step up? In game 5, Wesley Matthews was about the only player who looked like he wanted to win. He hustled on every play and even got noticeably upset with his teammates when they weren’t playing well. Matthews had a playoff career-high 27 points and scored 18 in the third quarter to give the Trail Blazers a much needed boost. Where were the rest of the Trail Blazers? Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez had 15 points and 17 points respectively but didn’t have a noticeable impact, and the bench struggled MIGHTILY. Five points in 42 minutes of action. That is awful and will need to change if the Trail Blazers want to advance to the second round.

 

Can The Trail Blazers Secure The Series At Home?

The past two games have been won by the home team. That would seem like a normal statement on any given day but the 2014 NBA Playoffs have been quite unusual. The road teams are winning left and right. The first three games of this series were won by the visiting team. The Trail Blazers hope to reignite the home team winning ways tonight. It won’t be easy, especially since the Rockets have confidence that they can win in Portland one more time. Lopez believes that the Blazers haven’t lost their edge after the game 5 loss.

 

 

Tags: Damian Lillard LaMarcus Aldridge Portland Trail Blazers Wesley Matthews

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