Portland At Houston
When: 9:30 PM
ET, Sunday, April 20, 2014
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Two offensive powerhouse squads are set to keep the scoreboard busy when the Houston Rockets entertain the visiting Portland Trail Blazers in Sunday’s opening game of the first-round Western Conference series. Fourth-seeded Houston averaged 116 points while winning three of the four regular-season meetings and finished second in the league in scoring at 107.7 points. Fifth-seeded Portland was fourth in scoring at 106.7 and put up an average of 109.5 against the Rockets.
The Trail Blazers have been eliminated in the first round in each of their last six playoff appearances but ended the season strong with five straight victories after regaining their stride once All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge (23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds) returned from a back injury. Portland improved its victory total by 21 over last season as second-year pro Damian Lillard (20.7 points) elevated into one of the NBA’s top all-around guards. Houston averaged a league-best 9.5 3-pointers with star guard James Harden knocking down 177 while finishing fifth in the league with a 25.4 scoring average. Center Dwight Howard averaged 18.3 points and ranked fourth in the league in rebounding (12.2) while having a drama-free campaign with the Rockets.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TNT, KGW (Portland), CSN Houston
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (54-28): Portland set a franchise record with 770 3-pointers, more than 54 percent of them coming from Lillard (218) and shooting guard Wesley Matthews (201). The Trail Blazers led the NBA by shooting 81.5 percent from the free-throw line as all five starters plus key reserve Mo Williams all topped 80 percent, a key ingredient for a playoff series that should be filled with close games. Center Robin Lopez (11.1 points, 8.5 rebounds) was a surprise standout and forward Nicolas Batum (13 points, 7.5 rebounds) joined Sidney Wicks (1972-73) and Clyde Drexler (1988-89) as the only players in franchise history to top 600 rebounds and 400 assists in a season. Defense can be an issue as Portland allows 102.8 points.
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (54-28): Houston relies on Harden and Howard and surrounds them with key players in forwards Chandler Parsons (16.6 points) and Terrence Jones (12.1) and guards Patrick Beverley (10.2) and Jeremy Lin (12.5). Beverley made a name for himself in the 2013 postseason when he was involved in the play that ended the season of Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook (knee), and part of his role will be to rattle and antagonize Lillard. Parsons had a strong postseason last spring while Jones, a native of Portland, emerged as a solid player in his second pro season. Houston also has cracks in its defense and gives up an average of 103.1 points.
1. Harden averaged 30.3 points and 7.3 rebounds against Portland this season, while Aldridge checked in with 26.8 points and 15.5 rebounds against Houston.
2. Howard has recovered from a late-season ankle ailment and has fared well against Portland this season, averaging 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds.
3. Lopez set a franchise record with 326 offensive rebounds.
PREDICTION: Rockets 123, Trail Blazers 119
Stats and Records
Houston Off vs
107.7 Points For
102.8 Points Against