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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Houston Rockets vs Portland Trail Blazers: Player to watch

Damian Lillard is the Trail Blazers' best player, but Anfernee Simons has the greatest ability to completely turn a game on its head. He has as many 30-point games, six, as he does sub-15-point games, and he has already torched the Rockets for 30 points in their first matchup. 

The key to Simons’ game is elite high-volume 3-point shooting. Of qualified players, he attempts the second most 3-pointers per game at 10.1. His 38.8% 3-point field goal percentage is above average, but it underscores his accuracy. Simons is deadly on catch-and-shoot and off-the-dribble 3-pointers. No matter where he is beyond the arc, he needs to be accounted for, and when he is feeling it, there’s nothing a defense can do. 

The Rockets just weathered Tyler Herro having an out-of-body experience from 3-point range, and the two are statistical doppelgangers. Herro is averaging 21.2 points and 4.1 assists per game on a 56.4% effective field goal percentage, and Simons is averaging 23 points and 4.4 assists on a 55.3% effective field goal percentage. The only difference is that Simons takes a couple more shots a game. 

Slowing down Simons takes discipline and a plan. The Rockets got into trouble against the Heat by cheating off of shooters and poorly fighting through screens. Against the Trail Blazers, with the double-trouble of Lillard and Simons, that is a recipe for disaster. The Rockets are going to have to trust the math and allow more shots around the rim to chase Simons around the 3-point line. 

When Simons is on the ball, the Rockets have to either fight through screens better or switch everything and let Simons take his chances inside the arc. When Alperen Sengun is on the court, the best option is to fight through screens with more vigor, but when Usman Garuba is at center, a switching strategy could be the best course of action. 

Simons is a nuclear disaster waiting to happen. When he gets white-hot, it is a sight to behold. The Rockets need to keep him in check because if he gets going, the Blazers’ offense becomes nearly unstoppable.