Portland Trail Blazers (26-27) vs Houston Rockets (27-27)
Wednesday, February 10
Moda Center | 7:30 p.m. PST | Local TV/Radio: KGW; 620 AM
Portland injury report: Noah Vonleh (Probable - Ankle) | Houston injury report: Terrence Jones (Questionable - Concussion), Donatus Motiejunas (Out - Back), Sam Dekker (Out - Back)
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake | Blazer's Edge Night 2016
For the second time in only four days, the surging Portland Trail Blazers take on the Houston Rockets. For a full preview of the Blazers 96-79 beatdown of a Rockets team that seemed to have little interest in doing the little things, such as sharing the ball or trying on defense, check out Eric Griffith's take from last Saturday.
Coming off of a 123-110 loss to the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets now sit at 27-27, tied for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and only a half game ahead of Portland in the standings. With the Utah Jazz defeating the Dallas Mavericks on a Gordon Hayward buzzer-beater last night, this puts Portland in prime position to take over the eighth spot with a win over Houston.
Fortunately for the Blazers, they are excelling at the very things that Houston is not, ratcheting up the defensive effectiveness and sharing the scoring load throughout the rotation. While Houston might not be as ineffective on the offensive end as they were Saturday night (and it would be difficult to do so), the Rockets are an absolute sieve on the defensive end, allowing 106.3 points per game.
Obviously Houston has Dwight Howard and James Harden, who are capable of taking over a game on any given night, but lately they have gotten their numbers in a "me-first" manner, forsaking team basketball altogether in their last matchup with the Blazers. Through the first three quarters of that game, only four Rockets had even scored. In case you're wondering, that's not good.
The big news for Portland tonight is that Noah Vonleh is probable after missing the last three contests with a sprained ankle. It will be interesting to see what kind of minutes he gets and how he impacts the frontcourt rotation, with Maurice Harkless and Ed Davis having played well in his absence.
A win tonight would be huge for Portland's confidence, and would send them in to the All-Star break with a .500 record, in the playoff hunt, and already in excess of the 26.5 wins predicted by Vegas before the season started.
Keys to the game
The Bench: Portland's reserves have been playing at a high level, with Gerald Henderson especially stepping up as of late. The Blazers are capable of subbing in waves of rested, athletic players, which is a recipe for trouble for a team that plays defense at Houston's level, especially after having to contend with the Warriors less than 24 hours beforehand.
Mason Plumlee: Plumlee had an active showing in the last matchup against Dwight Howard, and what he gives up in size and strength to Howard, he makes up in lateral quickness and energy. While Howard is still a high-level center, age and injury are starting to take their toll on the big man, and Plumlee should take every opportunity to force him to trail him around the court.
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