Game Day: Houston Rockets Looking For Answers vs. Falling Blazers
By Anthony Nguyen
Game Day: Portland Trail Blazers versus Houston Rockets
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few weeks and have been clueless on how the Rockets have been performing after having a stellar off season, I can sum it up in three words. They super suck.
You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Wait..super suck.. I don’t think that makes any sense.” You’re right it doesn’t but who cares nothing in this world makes sense right now if you’re a Rockets fan. Bananas have been yellow my whole life and I’ve had no problem with it until now.
Why are bananas yellow? Why have the Rockets lost to the Nuggets TWICE now? Only Chris Broussard knows.
Through all of this despair, a little ray of hope shines tonight as the Portland Trailblazers come into town. No, no, no don’t worry these aren’t the same Blazers that left Houston fans speechless after eliminating the Rockets in six games two years ago. This is a team that has dropped 6 straight and like the Rockets, are sailing the seven seas for a treasure named “defense”.
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: ROOT in Houston and CSNNWHD in Portland
Radio: 790 AM in Houston, Rip City Radio 620
- Meyers Leonard – out indefinitely
- Sam Dekker – back -scheduled for back surgery Friday, will be out 3 months
- Patrick Beverley sustained a twisted ankle, listed as day to day
- Donatas Motiejunas – still recovering from off season back surgery, no update on scheduled return date
Trail Blazers: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, Mason Plumlee
Rockets: Ty Lawson, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Dwight Howard
Grading the Match-ups:
Point Guard -Damian Lillard versus Ty Lawson
Very few players in this league play the game the way Lillard does. Seriously, watch the guy play for one full game and you can just tell that this is a player who has been overlooked his whole life. As if everyone is out to get him, every shot Lillard makes in the clutch is a big “EFF YOU” to everyone who’s ever doubted him. He doesn’t do it in exuberant fashion though. No dabbing, no whipping, none of that nonsense. When the clock hits 2:00 and the prey is within striking distance, like venom, Dame slowly injects death into opposing teams one step back three at a time.
Unlike Lillard, when the clock strikes 2:00 Lawson is looking for more shots to take. At your local bar.
Edge: Damian Lillard
Shooting Guard: C.J. McCollum vs. James Harden
If you’re into combination cross overs into pull ups and watching players disrespect defenders by splashing buckets in their face then you’ve reached nirvana. CJ has made his case for this year’s Most Improved Player award with every defense he’s terrorized thus far. Being able to score in a variety of ways, CJ has played the role of Robin in Portland’s two man wrecking crew offense.
It’s no secret what Harden can do. Unfortunately it is a secret what kind of effort Houston will get from the south paw assassin night in and night out. Through this four game skid Harden seemed uninterested in the game itself when things aren’t going his way. Not getting the calls he’s use to getting, shots not falling or teammates missing him on open looks has substantially effected his efforts on the defensive side of the floor.
Edge: Although his performance as of late has been horrid, there’s no denying what he’s capable of when motivated. James Harden.
Small Forward: Al-Farouq Aminu vs Trevor Ariza
Aminu is one of the most under appreciated wing players in today’s league. Arguably one of the top defenders at his position, Aminu’s instincts on weak side help and understanding of staying vertical when contesting has been the diamond in the rough for this struggling defensive unit. Though his shot remains suspect, Aminu has shown confidence in letting it rip this season while being aggressive as a slasher.
Before getting completely ousted in the second half, Ariza played his best game of the season in the first half against the Celtics. Instead of settling for spot up threes in the corner, Trevor was slashing towards the rim which opened up more options for Houston’s offense. He must continue to do so moving forward if this unit wants any chance of breaking out of this slump.
Edge: Trevor Ariza
Power Forward: Chris Kaman vs Terrence Jones
Jones has been playing great despite the early foul trouble he too often gets in. Slashing to the rim while staying active around the rim for second chance opportunities has been a bright spot for Houston so far in this dim season. Although it’s detrimental to the team, Jones getting in foul trouble is a positive sign and shows that he’s actually putting forth the effort to get his hands dirty on 50/50 balls while being physical defensively.
Edge: Terrence Jones
Center: Mason Plumlee vs. Dwight Howard
You ever sit there and try to make sense of some of the stuff that’s happening in today’s world that you can’t seem to fathom? Like how Pharrell Williams still looks like he’s in his mid 20’s at the age of 42? Or what Pitbull meant when he said, “Picture that with a kodak, And, better yet, go to Times Square Take a picture of me with a Kodak” in his hit song “Give Me Everything”? When I think back to the summer of 2014 I always ask my self, how the hell did Mason Plumlee make Team USA? Yeah I get he’s athletic, has a nice smile and probably is a real chilled dude but is there something else I’m missing? He jumps for every pump fake thrown at him, rarely ever catches the ball off guard penetration, miserable rebounder and has no touch around the rim. Dwight.. theirs no other way to put this.
Edge: Dwight Howard
Trail Blazers: Gerald Henderson, Noah Vonleh, Maurice Harkless
Rockets: Marcus Thornton, Corey Brewer, Clint Capela, Patrick Beverley
Keys To Winning:
Both teams enter this contest as losers of their last three. In a game like this it just comes down to who wants it more. Houston’s lack of effort on the defensive end of the floor has been utterly disgusting. Too often will our guards get caught watching on the baseline which leaves the back door cut open. More attention to detail defensively and intensity on both ends of the floor has to come from James Harden. As the leader, Harden’s body language and effort on the court is critical to this team’s performance. Offensively working the ball through the low post would be wise as Portland gives up 43.5 points per game in the paint while Houston ranks third overall scoring 46.5 points in the paint per game. Establish a presence down low and then work the perimeter. (Stats below per Teamrankings.com)
As for Portland, Dame and CJ are possibly the second most dangerous offensive back court in the league going up against without a doubt the weakest defensive back court in the league. Houston is also terrible on getting back in transition. Taking advantage of every fast break opportunity while getting Dame and CJ off to a hot start would make life miserable for a ailing Rockets team.
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The odds makers give Houston a 7 point edge with an over/under of 209.0
If there is ever a perfect opportunity to break out of this slump tonight is the night. Portland has been miserable on defense all year and will be playing their third game in 4 nights. Although cerebral offensively, Dame and C.J have been known to be a bit flat footed defensively. Look for Harden and Lawson to take advantage of these match ups while Dwight continues to eat children for breakfast in the post.
Houston by 9
For more exciting news and stories on the Portland Trail Blazers visit our affiliate Fansided site: Rip City Project
And check our our Preseason Team Preview of the Portland Trail Blazers:
Next: Trail Blazers - Free Fall
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