PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (57-29)
at HOUSTON ROCKETS (55-31)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Game 5 - Portland leads series 3-1
Tip-off: Wednesday, 9:35 p.m. ET
Line: Houston -5.5, Total: 213.5
The Rockets look to stave off elimination on Wednesday night when they host the Trail Blazers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
After prevailing in overtime in Game 3, Houston had a golden opportunity to tie up this series on Sunday, but let it slip away. The club led 71-60 midway through the third quarter, but turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions when it could have created a huge gap between the two teams. The Rockets turned the ball over 16 times in the game, with many of them coming at critical times. Despite having two 7-footers in the starting lineup, Houston struggled to protect the rim on defense, blocking only four shots. While going with a big lineup, it really hurt the Rockets ability to get up and down the floor, as the team finished with only six fast-break points. However, if they are going to get back in this series, they have to play better defense. So far in the series, Portland has scored 118.3 PPG on 46.4% FG, and even though it has allowed Houston to score 116.5 PPG, the Rockets have made only 43.7% FG, and the Blazers have gotten some key stops in this series that has already seen three overtime games. The Portland starters were huge in Game 4, as the lineup scored 104 points between the five players. The team has also done a great job of keeping mistakes to a minimum, with only 11 turnovers in Game 4. If it can limit the mistakes again on Wednesday night, the Blazers will be in great shape to wrap up the series. They already have two road wins in this series, which improved their road record to 25-18 SU (27-16 ATS) this season. But the Rockets are still an excellent home team at 33-10 SU (21-19-3 ATS), and are also 9-6 ATS (60%) with two days of rest. Houston also holds a 9-6 SU (9-5-1 ATS) advantage in this series over the past three seasons, but Portland is now 4-3 ATS at Toyota Center during this timeframe. Also in the past three seasons, the Blazers are 9-0 ATS on the road when facing a good team (60% to 70% win pct.) in the second half of the season. But the Rockets are 16-7 ATS (70%) after allowing 100+ points in three straight games this season. There are no significant injuries for either team.
The Trail Blazers were fourth in the NBA in scoring this season (106.7 PPG), and they have been even better in the postseason with 118.3 PPG. PF LaMarcus Aldridge (35.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 3.0 BPG this series) is showing the rest of the country that he is as good of power forward as there is in the league, producing 29 points, 10 boards, four blocks and a game-best +14 rating in Game 4. What has made him so impressive is that he is not just grabbing offensive rebounds and getting easy dunks, itís the fact that he is showing the complete mid-range game. His teammate PG Damian Lillard (25.5 PPG, 7.5 APG, 6.0 RPG this series) has been terrific all series long, and finished Game 4 with 23 points (5-of-7 threes), eight assists and just two turnovers in his 47 minutes. He has done a terrific job of not forcing things and taking what the defense is going to give him, tallying 30 assists and just eight turnovers (3.8 Ast/TO ratio) in the series. SF Nicolas Batum (17.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.5 SPG this series) and SG Wesley Matthews (13.3 PPG, 2.0 SPG this series) continue to do everything needed for the team, and they scored 25 points, and 21 points, respectively in Game 4 while combining for 10 rebounds and nine assists. They are both scoring the ball very well, but they are also making things difficult for James Harden on the offensive end, with Matthews racking up four steals in the game. Backup PG Mo Williams (10.5 PPG, 40% FG this series) has been inconsistent in the playoffs, but his three-pointer late in regulation on Sunday night helped send the game to overtime and allowed the Trail Blazers to eventually prevail. PF Thomas Robinson (4.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG in 8.0 MPG this series) has done a great job in limited minutes, and had the play of the night when he blocked an alley-oop dunk attempt by Dwight Howard. Robinson provides great energy off the bench and has allowed the team to give Aldridge and C Robin Lopez (7.3 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 2.0 BPG this series) a few minutes of rest. If Portland is able to continue to get the maximum effort from its role players, the series will end on Wednesday night.
Everything was going the Rockets' way in Game 4, but they could not hang on to their double-digit lead and are now facing an elimination game. SF Chandler Parsons (20.0 PPG, 6.3 RPG this series) was dominant early in the game and finished with 26 points and eight boards, but foul trouble prevented him from having an even bigger night. Another thing that really hurt Parsons is the fact that the Rockets went away from transition basketball, deciding to go more for a two-man game. C Dwight Howard (27.0 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 3.0 BPG this series) and SG James Harden (27.5 PPG, 5.5 APG, 5.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG this series) both had big games on Sunday, but could not make the plays they needed down the stretch. Howard had 25 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks, while Harden pitched in 28 points, six assists and four rebounds With seven seconds left in overtime, Harden brought his defender over to teammate Patrick Beverley, leading to the Trail Blazers getting the game-clinching steal in overtime. NBA development league star SG Troy Daniels (13.0 PPG, 8-of-13 FG, 7-of-11 threes this series) didn't even play in Games 1 and 2, but has come up big in the past two contests, including 17 points on 4-of-5 from three-point range on Sunday. PGs Jeremy Lin (9.0 PPG, 4.8 APG, 4.5 RPG this series) and Beverley (11.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG this series) really struggled from the field in Game 4, combining to shoot 3-of-13 FG, and they could not stay in front of Williams and Lillard. The Rockets have shown they can beat the Trail Blazers (the teams have split the eight games this season), but will have to get a big performance from their entire team if they are going to get the win.