PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (54-28)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (54-28)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Tip-off: Sunday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -5, Total: 214.5
The Rockets and Blazers, who finished with identical 54-28 records this season, will open their first-round playoff series on Sunday night at Toyota Center.
Here is the BetDSI Sportsbook breakdown on the series:
Houston (39-40-3 ATS overall, 21-17-3 ATS on road) won the tiebreaker for home-court advantage in this series by taking three of the four matchups this season, averaging 116 points in those four games (2-2 ATS). The team enters the playoffs with six defeats in its past 11 games (3-8 ATS), but played the majority of those contests without C Dwight Howard. When these teams play each other, the game features two incredible offenses that struggle at times to prevent the other team from scoring. In all four matchups this season, the game went Over the total. With Howard back, that will make the Rockets' defense a little better, which is vital facing an offense like the Trail Blazers. Portland (44-38 ATS overall, 25-16 ATS on road) comes into the postseason playing some great basketball, winning nine of its past 10 games (6-4 ATS) including five in a row. Despite losing the season series to the Rockets, the Trail Blazers were still able to average 109.5 PPG. One disadvantage they will have to overcome is their lack of playoff experience, as the Rockets have a lot of players that have Finals experience. LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews are the only three players that were on the team the last time Portland was in the playoffs. Both clubs have strong betting trends, as the Blazers are 20-9 ATS (69%) this season when revenging a loss where an opponent scored 100+ points, while Houston is 20-4 ATS (83%) at home after failing to cover 4 or 5 of its previous six games ATS under head coach Kevin McHale.
The Trail Blazers have done many terrific things this season, leading the NBA in rebounding (46.4 RPG), finishing fourth in scoring 106.7 PPG and ranking ninth in assists (23.2 APG). Portland is led by PF LaMarcus Aldridge, who has been fabulous all season, averaging 23.2 PPG and 11.1 RPG. Those numbers makes him as one of only four players in the NBA to average at least 20 points and 10 boards. During the four regular-season games against the Rockets, Aldridge was even better, averaging 26.8 PPG and 15.5 RPG. He is one of the most skilled post players in the league, as he can score the ball from anywhere on the court. However, what makes him even tougher to guard is the ability to run the pick-and-roll game with PG Damian Lillard (20.7 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.5 RPG). In only his second season in the NBA, the Weber State product has evolved into one of the best guards in the NBA. He is in complete control of the offense, and knows exactly what to do when he is coming off the screen. Lillard can pull up and hit the long-range shot (39% threes), but he also does a great job of attacking the rim. With Lillard and Aldridge demanding so much of the opponent's focus, that allows guys like SG Wesley Matthews (16.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and SF Nicolas Batum (13.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 5.1 APG) to have opportunities to go make plays. Matthews is a terrific spot-up shooter (39% threes) that also plays very good defense, while Batum does a little bit of everything for the Trail Blazers. Guys like PG Mo Williams, PF Thomas Robinson and C Robin Lopez will also have to step up and give the team quality minutes against a Houston team that is ready to make a deep playoff run.
The Rockets rank second in the NBA in scoring (107.7 PPG) and fourth in the league in rebounding (45.3 RPG). These two teams are very similar, as the Trail Blazers rank 22nd in the NBA in scoring defense (102.7 PPG), while the Rockets rank 23rd in points allowed (103.1 PPG). C Dwight Howard (18.3 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG) had a solid season for Houston, but he was not given a huge contract for the regular season. The playoffs are the biggest reason why he was brought into town, and he has to take his game to a different level for his team to advance to the NBA Finals. The Rockets have many players that can flat shoot the ball from the outside with a league-best 9.5 made threes per game, so that forces teams away from packing the lane. That will give Howard a lot of one-on-one opportunities against Robin Lopez, and Howard has dominated the Trail Blazers this season with 25.5 PPG and 13.5 RPG. If he is able to get the ball in the block, that is only going to make superstar SG James Harden (25.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 4.7 RPG) even tougher to stop. Harden has proven the past two seasons that he is able to be the main scorer on a team. Like Howard, he has been terrific this season against Portland, averaging 30.3 PPG, 7.3 APG and 5.3 RPG. Just like the Blazers, Houston has two stars that are complemented nicely by some talented role players. SF Chandler Parsons (16.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.0 APG), PG Jeremy Lin (12.5 PPG, 4.1 APG), PF Terrence Jones (12.1 PPG, 6.9 RPG) and PG Patrick Beverley (10.2 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG) are all guys that can score the ball and bring different things to the table. Beverley has developed as one of the best on-ball defensive players in the NBA, while Jones and Parsons are both guys capable of having a big night in many categories.