Houston Rockets vs Portland Trail Blazers game preview - December 17

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers
Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers / Alika Jenner/GettyImages
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The Houston Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday, December 17. The Rockets’ home winning streak came to an end against the Miami Heat, as Tyler Herro scored a career-high 41 points. The 111-108 loss saw the Rockets battle back from a 12-point third-quarter deficit that gave them a chance to tie the game with seconds left. 

The Trail Blazers saw their three-game winning streak snapped last night in a 130-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. The Blazers’ 16-13 record has them sixth in the Western Conference, but they’re likely a stronger side than their record would indicate. Damian Lillard has been limited to 17 games, but the Blazers are 11-6 in those games. Because it’s the second night of a back-to-back, there is a chance Lillard rests, but if he doesn’t, then the Blazers are a formidable opponent. These are the stats to know, player to watch, and X-factor in the Rockets and Trail Blazers showdown.

Houston Rockets vs Portland Trail Blazers: Stats to know

The 2022-23 Trail Blazers are similar to how they’ve been throughout the Damian Lillard era. They have a good to great-offense and a poor to abysmal defense. The results have usually been a solid playoff team, and this season is no different, but their ability to truly challenge for a title remains a real question. 

The Trail Blazers have produced the ninth-most-efficient offense (114.9) and the 24th-ranked defense (114.7). Their net rating of +0.2 is 16th in the league and suggests a .500 team. However, missing Damian Lillard for over 40% of the season has definitely taken a big bite out of their underlying metrics. With Lillard on the court, the Blazers have a 122.6 offensive rating and a +6.1 net rating. When he sits, their offense crumbles to 110.2 points per 100 possessions, and their net rating is -3.9. 

Due to the presence of Lillard, the Blazers feature the seventh-highest frequency of isolations (8.1%) and produce the fifth-best points per possession (1.01). The Blazers are average in their frequency of pick and roll ball handler possessions (16.8%) but average a robust 0.94 points per possession, good for the sixth-best rate in the NBA. 

The Blazers are top-10 in post up frequency (6.1%) but are bottom-ten in efficiency (0.87 points per possession). The Blazers’ strong offensive efficiency is odd because their offense doesn’t stand out in any one area. Outside of post ups, they’re solid but unspectacular in the vast array of playtype points per possession, and they don’t run a high frequency of any of the most valuable playtypes (transition, spot ups, cuts).

On defense, the code is much easier to crack. The Trail Blazers have the 24th-ranked defense because they let you get to the rim. 30% of opponent field goal attempts come zero to three feet from the rim, the highest rate in the league. Teams can overcome this deficiency by forcing turnovers and limiting 3-point shooting, but the Blazers force the eighth-lowest turnover rate, are middle of the pack in preventing 3-point attempts and have the 11th-worst opponent 3-point field goal percentage.