HOUSTON ROCKETS (56-31)
at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (57-30)
NBA Playoffs - Western Conference First Round
Game 6 - Portland leads series 3-2
Tip-off: Friday, 10:35 p.m. ET
Line: Portland -3.5, Total: 213
The Trail Blazers have a chance to end their first-round series at home on Friday night as they host the Rockets.
Houston was able to push the series to six games after a 108-98 victory on Wednesday night, but once again allowed Portland back in the game after being up by 17 points in the second half. The Rockets did a great job of dominating inside, outscoring the Blazers by 20 points in the paint (60-40), and outrebounding them 48-34 (14-9 on offensive glass). Houston also got much better production from its reserves who combined for 34 points on 14-of-22 FG (64%) while Portland's bench contributed only five points on 2-of-11 FG. The Rockets have been a decent road team this season (22-21 SU, 20-23 ATS), but they have thrived at Moda Center recently with a 7-1-1 ATS record (6-3 SU) in the past nine trips there. Wednesday's victory gives them an 81-52 ATS mark (61%) on the road versus poor pressure defenses (14 or less TO per game) in the second half of the season since 1996, but Houston is a dismal 2-11 ATS on the road after a double-digit win this season. For Portland, Game 5 was the first game they had to rely on some one other than LaMarcus Aldridge having the big scoring night, as he scored just eight points, which was a huge drop-off from his 35.3 PPG in the first four games. One thing the Blazers did a great job of doing was contesting shots at the rim, as they blocked 14 shots in Wednesday's loss. But Portland is an outstanding 32-11 SU (but 19-24 ATS) at home this season, and its crowd will be electric on Friday night. The Blazers are also 39-28 ATS (58%) when playing with less than two days' rest this season, and are 21-10 ATS (68%) when revenging a loss where the opponent scored in triple-digits this season. There are no significant injuries for either team.
For the second consecutive game, the Rockets were able to build a big lead early, but this time they held on to it. PG Jeremy Lin (11.4 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.2 RPG this series) played a huge role in the game by attacking the rim constantly and finishing with 21 points (9-of-15 FG) and four assists. It was a big bounce-back performance for Lin after a costly turnover late in the Game 4 loss. Linís performance was especially big due to the fact that PG Patrick Beverley (10.0 PPG, 4.2 RPG this series) was severely limited due to flu-like symptoms on Wednesday, contributing a mere five points, three rebounds and two assists. The inside duo of C Dwight Howard (26.0 PPG, 14.2 RPG, 3.0 BPG this series) and C Omer Asik (6.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG this series) did a great job of dominating Game 5, as each player posted a double-double with Howard tallying 22 points, 15 boards and three blocks, while Asik contributed 10 points and 15 rebounds. Howard was terrific on the offensive end, showing a variety of moves on the low block while also connecting on 4-of-6 from the free throw line. Howard was limited in the first half due to the three fouls, but was flat-out dominant in the second half. SG James Harden (25.4 PPG, 5.8 APG, 4.8 RPG, 1.6 SPG this series) continued his struggles from the field this series (35% FG, 25% threes), as he scored 17 points with seven assists and three steals, but was able to connect on only 5-of-15 FG and 1-of-7 from the three-point line. The Trail Blazers have done a terrific job of making him work on the defensive end, while also throwing multiple defenders at him. SG Chandler Parsons (20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.2 APG this series) is the X-factor on this team, and he did it all on Wednesday with 20 points, four boards and four assists. Parsons is one of the most versatile players in the NBA, as he does a great job of shooting from the outside, but he is also a terrific athlete that can be scary in the open floor. The Rockets were able to score only eight points in the transition in Game 5, and they will have to get more easy points in this game, as the Trail Blazers can be downright scary on offense at home.
Portland has scored 108.2 PPG (46% FG, 37% threes) at home this season, and is averaging a whopping 114.2 PPG (46% FG, 36% threes) during this series. While PF LaMarcus Aldridge (29.8 PPG, 10.8 RPG, 3.2 BPG this series) had his struggles from the field in Game 5 (eight points on 3-of-12 FG and eight rebounds), he has still been the best player in this series. Aldridge is a nightmare matchup for the Rockets, as he is too quick for Howard and Asik to guard, but is too powerful and strong for more athletic players like Terrence Jones. If Aldridge is able to connect on a couple shots early in this game, the Rockets could be in big trouble. Second-year PG Damian Lillard (25.6 PPG, 7.4 APG, 6.4 RPG this series) had a very good game on Tuesday night (26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) but it was not enough to get the win. Lillard has been in complete control of this series, taking whatever the Rockets have given him. He has been terrific at attacking the rim and getting to the line, as he already 45 free throws in the five games (hitting 39 of his attempts for 87%). If the Rockets cannot stay in front of him, it makes the job of his teammates a lot easier. SG Wesley Matthews (16.0 PPG, 1.8 SPG this series) and SF Nicolas Batum (17.2 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.2 SPG this series) continued their strong play on both ends of the court in Game 5, as Matthews dropped a team-high 27 points with three blocks and Batum pitched in 15 points, five boards and four assists. The duo has also teamed up to slow down James Harden the entire series. But for the Trail Blazers to advance, PG Mo Williams (9.2 PPG this series) and SF Dorell Wright (5.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG this series) must have big performances in their reserve roles. The two combined for only five points in Game 5, and that must change, as they are really the only two guys that are capable of putting up significant production off the Portland bench.