Trail Blazers, Rockets: NBA Playoffs Game 2 Preview


Apr 20, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) walks onto the court during overtime against the Portland Trail Blazers in game one during the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. The Trail Blazers won 122-120. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Game 2 of this best of seven series tips off at 6:30 p.m. PDT tomorrow in Houston. The game will once again be nationally broadcast on TNT. The Portland Trail Blazers shocked the Houston Rockets by stealing game 1 on the road. I expect that in order to take another one away from the Rockets, the Trail Blazers will need to bring their A-game once again.

Winning on the road in the playoffs is a hard thing to do. It’s especially hard when you are down 13 in the fourth quarter. The amount of fight the Trail Blazers showed on Sunday night was quite impressive. We all know Game 2 will be a different monster. The Rockets will come up with a game plan that will be focused on stopping LaMarcus Aldridge. It will be up to the rest of the Trail Blazers to make the most of their opportunities.

Things To Watch For

How Will The Trail Blazers Bench Respond?

In Game 1, the Trail Blazers bench put in a whopping seven points. There have been many games this season in which the bench has been non-productive and the Trail Blazers have still been able to win. That won’t always be the case in the playoffs and the Trail Blazers were lucky in Game 1. Bench players played a total of 56 minutes. Stotts used five reserves during the game while the Rockets only used three. The difference is the the amount of production as the Rockets reserves put in 21 points. Mo Williams will need to be the sixth man the Trail Blazers know he can be. If Williams cannot contribute, then someone else needs to step up. Will it be Dorell Wright, Thomas Robinson, or Joel Freeland?

Will Terry Stotts Continue To Use Hack-A-Howard

Stotts went to the Hack-A-Howard strategy late in the fourth quarter. There were times it worked and times it backfired. Overall, the strategy produced four missed free throws and allowed Portland to tie the game at 98. When Stotts was featured on the Jim Rome Show this afternoon, he was asked about the Hack-A-Howard game plan. “It’s much like an intentional walk in baseball,” Stotts said. “You’re preventing a great hitter from hitting the ball and so we’re preventing a great player not to get close shots at the basket. But the payoff in baseball you’re putting a runner on base and in basketball, you’re putting a guy at the free throw line and then it’s up to however it pans out from there.”

Can The Trail Blazers Keep Harden In Check

James Harden played 45 minutes in Game 1 and posted 27 points, five rebounds, and six assists. It seems like that would have delivered a win for the Rockets. However, Harden was only 8-28 from the field and missed 11 three-point field goals. Wesley Matthews was assigned the task of checking Harden. Matthews is normally very good at sticking with players above his playing level. It will be important for Matthews to continue to force Harden into taking ill-advised shots in uncomfortable situations.

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