Portland comes in as the league's finest offense, scoring 113.9 points per 100 possessions while Houston is the league's 15th best offense, averaging 108.3 points per 100 possessions. Other stat geeks use different methods of determining number of possessions, so these numbers will differ slightly from John Hollinger's numbers, for example (Hollinger's system has Phoenix as this year's best offensive unit).
Going a little deeper into offense with the help of Knickerblogger.net reveals that offensive rebounding has remained a major strength for Portland (tops in the league-- Houston is 17th). In effective field goal %, Portland is 8th and Houston is 13th. Portland does the 12th best job at limiting turnovers while Houston struggles a bit more, with the 20st fewest turnovers on a per possession basis. The teams are roughly equal in terms of drawing and converting FTs, both around the middle of the league (Houston 16th, Portland 17th).
Houston is the premier defensive team in the Western Conference, holding its opponents to just 103.9 points per 100 possessions, 4th best in the NBA. Portland's defense is ranked 13th (10th according to Hollinger I believe) at 107.8 points/100 possessions. As has been documented by Iverigma2, Portland's defense has been MUCH better over the past 15 games.
Again, going a bit deeper, we find that Houston's defense is not good at forcing TOs (27th in the league) but they more than make up for that by forcing difficult shots (4th best efg% against in the league), keeping teams off the O-glass (4th best in the league), and preventing FTs-- Houston allows the 2nd fewest FTs in the league.
Portland, meanwhile, is about average in efg% allowed (14th), forcing TOs (15th) and preventing FTs (13th). The Blazers do a nice job, however, on the defensive glass-- Portland corrals 75% of available D-rebs, good for 5th in the league.
Individual Matchups Follow Below
Aaron Brooks is statistically a mediocre Point Guard. He has a PER of 12.9 and an offensive rating of 105 (both underwhelming figures). Jump Shots make up 72% of his attempts and he shoots the deep ball reasonably well (36.6%). He draws a foul on 6.7% of his shots. His TS% is .521, a respectable figure for a PG. While he does a good job running Houston's offense (its 3.9 points better per 100 poss with him on the court), he appears to hurt their D (its 3.5 points better with him out).
Kyle Lowry has averaged 21.7 minutes per game since joining the Rockets. His numbers have seen an uptick (15.1 PER, .564 TS%, 113 offensive rating with HOU, 14.1 PER, .540 TS%, 107 offensive rating with MEM). Lowry takes fewer jumpers-- they are just 55% of his offense and he draws more fouls (15.7% of his attempts). Houston's D has been good with him in (3.7 points better) but the O has struggled (-5.1).
Steve Blake has had his finest year as a pro (his next best statistical season came during the woeful 21 win Blazer season). Blake has a PER of 14.5, a healthy TS% of .557 and an offensive rating of 118-- in short, he's been a very efficient spot up shooter for Portland. Blake gets more assists (pace and playing time adjusted) than Brooks, but slightly fewer than Lowry. Jumpers are 88% of Blake's offense and he gets fouled on just 2.3% of his shots. Portland's offense hums with him on the court (+7.5) and the D is 0.5 points/100 possessions worse.
Sergio Rodriguez is an elite passer- he's among the leaders (8th to be exact) in assists (once you adjust for pace and playing time-- Rodriguez led this category for about half the season). Rodriguez struggles in much of the rest of the game though. Rodriguez has a PER of 12.5, an ugly TS% of .491 and a poor offensive rating of 103. Rodriguez takes jumpers for 70% of his attempts and gets fouled on 7.6% of his FG attempts. Sergio's raw plus/minus numbers are ugly-- the offense is 7.9 points/100 poss worse with him in and the D is 0.9 worse.
The one true SG who plays big minutes for Houston is Von Wafer. Wafer has played 1225 minutes this season-- and prior to this season he had totaled 228 for his career. Wafer has had himself a very nice season-- 14.7 PER, .541 TS%, 106 offensive rating. Wafer's basically a scorer-- he doesn't rebound much and he gets nearly as many TOs as assists. Jumpers are 70% of his shots. As might be expected Houston is better on offense (+2.0) and worse on D (-1.2) with him in.
Brandon Roy is good. He finished the year with a PER in excess of 24 (good for 7th in the league). I don't think I need to say much more, but I will. His TO rate is amazing for a guy with his usage rate and assist rate-- he's more trustworthy with the ball than most PGs. Jumpers are 66% of his offense, he gets fouled on 13.8% of his shots and Portland is a little better on D (+.5) and *way* better on O (+9.3) with him in. He'll face some elite defenders in this series, but wow what a season for Roy.
Rudy Fernandez had himself a heck of a rookie year. PER is 15.4, TS% is a healthy .588. When Rudy shoots, the Blazers get points. Its pretty much that simple. Jumpers are (not surprisingly) 84% of his offense. Portland (somewhat surprisingly) is 2.8 points worse/100 poss on O with him in and 1.5 pts/100 better on D. Of course, these +/- stats have a lot to do with who else is in the game with him.
Ron Artest has a deserved reputation as an elite defender. Houston's already excellent D is 4.7 points/100 poss better with him in. Offensively, Artest's shots are 76% jumpers and he has a woeful .238 efg% on these shots. However, Artest draws a foul on a healthy 11.3% of his shots. Portland wants this guy shooting jumpers-- he's about 40% on threes but he shoots a lot of long twos also and does not make them. Artest is 2nd behind Lowry in assists/game among healthy current Rockets and he's a good rebounder as well. Overall, his PER is a solid 15.6.
Shane "The No Stats All-Star" Battier is another outstanding defender, though his effect on the raw +/- numbers isn't as strong (just 1.6 better/100 poss). Battier takes a lot of corner 3s-- jumpers are 79% of his offense and he shoots an excellent .529 TS% on them. Because he doesn't rebound or get assists like Artest, his PER is only 10.6, but as we know, this woefully underestimates his value-- Battier is one of the smartest two way players in the game.
Nicolas Batum has excited the fans with defense, but he also seems to fit quite well with the offense-- Portland is 5.2 points/100 poss better on O with him in and just 0.3 points/100 better on D. Nic shoots jumpers for 66% of his offense. His TS% is a solid .555. He is already comparable to Battier and Artest in terms of steals and blocks, but is not as good a rebounder (or subjectively, as good a man to man defender) as those guys. Still, somewhat of a revelation this year for Portland.
Travis Outlaw takes a ton of "bad shots"-- 88% of his shots are jumpers, many of them long two pointers. His TS% is a decent .541 but you wonder how high it would be if he shot more 3s and fewer 2s with his foot on the line. Travis rebounds about as well as Nic but Nic has him beat in most aspects of the game-- ast%, turnover%, blk%, stl%, etc. Outlaw is still a guy many teams would love to have as a scoring option off their bench. Portland, however, is 4.2 points worse on O and 2.0 points worse on D/100 poss with him in.
Luis Scola has a diverse offensive game. He shoots jumpers on just 47% of his shots and draws fouls on 12.5% of his shots. His TS% is an efficient .572. He has a very solid PER of 17.0. Houston is slightly better on O and slightly worse on D with him in, no doubt in part due to who his backups are.
Carl Landy is a "Maxsap." He rebounds well, defends well and scores exceedingly efficiently on garbage buckets (TS%=.634). Need to keep him off the glass. His on/off court numbers aren't very good though-- the team is over 4 pts/100 poss worse with him in.
Chuck Hayes was mentioned in a recent Bill Simmons column-- Simmons asked Rockets GM Darryl Morey why there wasn't a stat called "stops" and got the response "why do you think we have Chuck Hayes?" Chuck Hayes can flat out play D. He's a woeful player on offense though (PER=7.8-- that's sub-Bayless territory). For the season, Houston is a point better/100 poss on D but a whopping 8.1 pts/100 worse on O with him in the game. If LMA starts going off on Scola though, look for a healthy dose of Hayes.
LaMarcus Aldridge came on after the allstar break to post a very nice PER of 19.1 with a much-improved TS% of .529 (still could use some work there though). He has an amazingly low TO rate for a big man. He's improved his foul drawing rate and rebounding, but is still mediocre for a big man in those areas. Still a nice season for Aldridge. His raw +/- stats look awesome (+8.6 on O and he improves the D by 1.6). That could be partly a function of who backs him up though. I don't expect much Channing in this series, so let's move on.
Yao Ming is a large man. He's also extremely efficient (PER=22.8, TS%=.618, offensive rating=114). He doesn't rebound as well as the Blazer big men but he's not bad (though given his height he probobly should be better). Not much more to say about him-- he's a very tough matchup who seems to do best against big traditional Centers. Houston is 5.6 pts/100 better on O and 5.4 pts/100 better on D with him in... so he's pretty important.
Joel Przybilla is the game's premier defensive rebounder and overall rebounder. He's also had a very efficient season scoring the basketball-- one of the league leaders in TS% at .652. He has a solid PER of 15.4 that underrates his impact. Portland is 4.9 points/100 worse on O but a whopping 10.1 pts/100 better on D with him in.
Greg Oden is the NBA's premier offensive rebounder. He's also an efficient scorer (TS%=.599). This "massive disappointment" was 2nd among all rookies with an 18.1 PER. The guy has been productive when on the court. Portland is 5.8 points/100 better on O with him in but 3.4 points/100 worse on D (Oden is probobly hurt here by how good Joel is on D).
I'm guessing the most common stat geek pick when TrueHoop does its "Stat Geek Smackdown" will be Portland in 7, and that's my pick as well. Portland's +6.1 efficiency differential is 5th in the league. Houston's +4.4 mark is 6th best. So, its a shame these two teams have to play in round 1, but statistically Portland has a modest but significant edge. After Portland in 7, I would say the 2nd most likely result is a tossup between Houston in 6 and Portland in 5.
Whoo. That's it for now. Some edits and maybe some more content later.