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Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Game Preview

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The Trail Blazers look to build a winning streak against the Rockets in Portland.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets (10-6) at Portland Trail Blazers (9-9)

Nov. 27, 2016, 6:00 PST
Watch: CSN NW; Listen: Rip City Radio 620 AM
Blazers injuries: Festus Ezeli (out), Al-Farouq Aminu (out)
Rockets injuries: none
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

The Trail Blazers will return the Moda Center for the second time in three days to face the visiting Rockets. Portland was able to put a messy five-game road trip behind them by dispatching an ascending New Orleans team on Friday, but they won’t be receiving any breaks when they face a high-powered Houston offense tonight.

Led by the stellar play of James Harden, the Rockets have been winners in four of their last five games. In a victory against Sacramento on Friday, Houston attempted an astonishing 50 shots from the 3-point line. This is clearly GM Daryl Morey’s dream, as coach Mike D’Antoni is behind some of the most analytics-friendly basketball the league has ever seen.

Outside of shooting from beyond the arc, the Rockets look to exploit opponents by getting out in transition. They are averaging 16.1 fast break points per game, which is good enough for the No. 6 spot on the current league leaderboard. This poses a major problem for Portland’s defense, as there is obvious communication issues on that end of the court.

The Trail Blazers can minimize these threats by dominating the offensive glass. The Rockets aggressive pursuit of fast break points has placed them near the bottom of the league in defensive rebounding. Creating second chance points and forcing Houston to start possessions by inbounding the ball will be imperative for Portland’s chances.

The rebounding battle won’t be confined to just one end of the court. Houston won the rebounding margin 54 to 41 in the last meeting, and only 21 of those 54 rebounds came from traditional post players. Those figures are a byproduct of a matchup that features two teams that take a ton of shots from distance, which means there will be an abundance of long-rebounds. Portland’s perimeter players must stay alert and get a body on someone when a shot goes up if they hope to close the gap.

Allen Crabbe started in the last meeting with Houston, but it looks like Ed Davis will continue his run with the starters. This doesn’t mean that Crabbe won’t play an important role in tonight’s game though. Once upon a time, the rookie from Cal earned playing time in coach Terry Stotts’ rotation by effectively closing out on opposing shooters. Crabbe will likely find himself across from Harden for long stretches, so it will be on his shoulders to prevent the Rockets star from repeating his triple-double performance from the previous encounter.

Assuming Davis receives his sixth consecutive start, the Trail Blazers will continue to be aggressive in the pick-and-roll. Damian Lillard and Mason Plumlee have both benefited from having a large target in the paint on offense. Davis will once again face an opponent with a contrasting style in Houston’s Ryan Anderson. Anderson is an integral part of the Rockets’ 3-point attack, but Stotts can make D’Antoni pay by making the perimeter-oriented big man defend in the post.

In order for Portland to avenge another loss, they will have to rectify the problems that plagued them in the last meeting. An improved defensive effort is the first step, but the Rockets are more than capable of putting up big numbers against even the stingiest of defenses. If the same team that out-hustled the Pelicans on Friday shows up tonight, the Trail Blazers have a decent shot at making it two victories in a row.


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