PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (55-28)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (54-29)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Game 2 - Portland leads series 1-0
Tip-off: Wednesday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -6, Total: 214.5
After blowing a double-digit lead with four minutes remaining in Game 1, the Rockets now face a must-win situation on Wednesday as they host the Trail Blazers in Game 2 of the Western Conference first-round playoffs.
Houston led 98-87 with exactly 4:00 remaining in Sunday's Game 1, but couldn't hold on in an eventual 122-120 overtime defeat. Portland was able to come back thanks to forcing two big turnovers and fouling C Dwight Howard, who missed four straight free throws. During the overtime period, Howard did connect on six consecutive free throws after those misses, but finished 9-of-17 from the line for the game. One positive for the Rockets was the way they attacked the glass, outrebounding the Trail Blazers by five (59-54) and ripping down 22 offensive boards. That is a huge statistic in this series, as Portland led the NBA in rebounding this season (46.4 RPG). The Blazers showed great resilience in this game, coming back from double-digit leads three different times in the game thanks to a mammoth performance from PF LaMarcus Aldridge who finished with 46 points, 18 rebounds and a +17 rating, which were all game highs. His team did a great job of finding the mismatches on the court, attacking James Harden on the low block constantly with Wes Matthews who poured in 18 points by making 5-of-9 FG inside the arc. Both teams did a great job of controlling the ball in Game 1, with just 12 turnovers each. Portland has now won 10 of its past 11 games (7-4 ATS), including six in a row, but is just 4-8 SU (4-7-1 ATS) in this series over the past three seasons, including 2-4 SU (3-3 ATS) at Toyota Center. The club is also an excellent 24-18 SU (26-16 ATS) on the road this season, but just 6-12 ATS (33%) with at least two days' rest. Houston falls to 2-4 SU (1-5 ATS) in its past six games, but is still 33-9 SU (21-18-3 ATS) at home this season, and is a stellar 12-2 SU (9-5 ATS) with exactly two days' rest. But the team has a couple of personnel concerns, as both PGs Jeremy Lin (flu) and Patrick Beverley (knee) will be playing at less than 100 percent on Wednesday. The Blazers took home court away from the Rockets with the win on Sunday, and could send a major message with a win on Wednesday.
Portland was an offensive juggernaut during the regular season, ranking fourth in the NBA in scoring (106.7 PPG), sixth in rebounding (+2.9 RPG margin) and ninth in assists (23.2 APG). PF LaMarcus Aldridge was one of only four players this season to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and he showed on Sunday night that he is ready to lead his team on a deep playoff run. Aldridge erupted for 46 points (17-of-31 FG, 10-of-13 FT) and 18 rebounds (7 offensive) in Game 1 before fouling out. What made him so difficult to stop is his ability to score from anywhere on the court. He hit both of his three-point tries in the game, but also constantly dominated guys like Terrence Jones and Omir Asik on the block. When Aldrdige is able to be a force down low, it makes the job easier for his teammates, especially second-year PG Damian Lillard. Many players struggle in their first time in the playoffs, but Lillard was terrific for the Trail Blazers, finishing the game with 31 points (9-of-19 FG) while hitting the clutch free throws down the stretch (10-of-12 FT). His team was down 10 points when he hit a four-point play to get the team started and help force overtime, and also chipped in nine rebounds, five assists and just one turnover in his 46 minutes of action. With guys like SG Wes Matthews (18 points, three steals) and SF Nicolas Batum (14 points, nine boards, two steals) giving the Trail Blazers great production on both ends of the court, Portland has plenty of firepower in its starting five. If bench players like Thomas Robinson and Mo Williams can provide the team with some scoring off the bench, then the Blazers will be in great shape to get the win. In Game 1, Portland's five reserves combined for a paltry seven points on 2-of-14 FG (1-of-7 threes).
Although Dwight Howard scored 27 points with 15 rebounds (6 offensive) and four blocks in Game 1, he made just 9-of-21 FG and fouled out on a tough call in overtime, finishing with a minus-5 rating. Star SG James Harden also scored 27 points on Sunday, but he shot horribly, making only 8-of-28 FG (29%) and 3-of-14 threes (21%). In addition to a poor shooting night, he also had his problems on the defensive end as the Trail Blazers constantly put the physical Matthews on the block against Harden. One player that had a big game for the Rockets was SF Chandler Parsons who pumped in 24 points on 10-of-21 FG with six rebounds. Although he made just 3-of-11 threes and produced only one assist in his 47 minutes, the former Florida star provided the team with an early spark, and he really thrives in the Rockets up-tempo style of offense. The Houston defense ranked 23rd in the NBA during the regular season (103.1 PPG allowed), and once again showed in Game 1 its inability to get key stops in the fourth quarter. The Rockets had the lead twice in the final 53 seconds of overtime with a chance to secure the game on defense, but Portland was able to score on both of those possessions. Like the Blazers, the Rockets got big contributions from role players such as PF Terrence Jones (12 points, 13 rebounds) and PG Jeremy Lin (14 points, six rebounds, four assists), who both provided the team with great energy. Lin's performance helped off-set PG Patrick Beverley who scored only nine points (1-of-4 threes) with two assists in his 38 minutes before fouling out.