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Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Preview

The Blazers look to start a winning streak, while Houston looks for its eighth straight win.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Houston Rockets Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (5-8) vs. Houston Rockets (10-3)

Monday, November 18 - 5:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Pau Gasol (out), Carmelo Anthony (almost)
Rockets injuries: Eric Gordon (out), Gerald Green (out), Clint Capela (probable), Daniel House (probable)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

The Portland Trail Blazers are hoping to start a winning streak as they visit the Houston Rockets. Portland hasn’t won two in a row since the second and third games of the season. Carmelo Anthony will not make his Blazer debut, meaning he will miss the opportunity to match up with the team who cut him after ten games last season.

Houston has won seven in a row after starting the season 3-3. They have only lost once at home, a season-opening loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The matchup will be the first time Russell Westbrook—acquired by the Rockets during the offseason in exchange for Chris Paul and two first-round draft picks—faces off against Damian Lillard since Lillard waved goodbye to Westbrook’s season (and eventually the core of the Oklahoma City Thunder).

What to watch for

  • James Harden scoring. Love him or hate him, James Harden can score. The Rockets’ MVP is averaging close to 40 points per game this season (39.5) and has scored 40 or more in five of his last seven games. He’s shooting slightly worse than previous seasons—41.7 percent from the field and 33.2 percent from three—but making up for it with increased volume, especially from the free throw line. Harden is averaging 13.1 made free throws on 14.8 attempts per game. Portland’s best Harden stoppers from last season—Evan Turner and Moe Harkless—are gone, so look for Terry Stotts to lean on Rodney Hood and Kent Bazemore to help slow down Houston’s prolific scorer.
  • The point guard matchup. As mentioned above, Monday night will be the first time Damian Lillard and Russell Westbrook matchup against each other since Portland eliminated Westbrook’s Thunder team from the postseason. Both players seem to take the matchup personally and will no doubt be looking to bring their A-game. Westbrook’s rebounding and assist numbers have taken a slight dip with the Rockets (down to 8 and 6.8 per game, respectively), but his scoring has remained steady (21 points per game) as has his turnovers (4 per game).
  • Bench scoring. The Blazers are one of the worst teams in the league as far as bench scoring. Their reserves are only contributing 28.8 points per game. The Rockets, however, are even worse. Houston’s bench only scores 25.1 points per game—the worst mark in the league. Part of that is probably by design as Mike D’Antoni tries to keep one of his two high-usage guards on the floor at all times. It could go a long way if either team can get some solid contribution off the bench.

What they’re saying

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle wrote about 5’9” rookie Chris Clemons who scored 19 points on Saturday:

It took just one conversation for the Rockets to see how confident rookie Chris Clemons would be. They had no trouble identifying his skills when at Campbell he became the third-leading scorer in NCAA men’s basketball history. The attitude needed one question to be revealed.

“He knows what he does and he’s very confident,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said. “In the rookie interview in Chicago (at the NBA predraft camp) I said ‘What position do you think you should play?’ He said, “Well, you got (Russell) Westbrook and (James) Harden. I guess I’m a three.’ That’s smart.”

Coty Davis of The Dream Shake wrote about how well Clint Capela had been playing before he sustained a concussion last Wednesday (Capela is likely to make his return against Portland):

Capela had been on a tear as of late averaging 13.6 points, 17.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks over the past five games. Prior to his premature exit against the Clippers, Capela made history by become the first Rockets player since Moses Malone (1982) to post three consecutive 20-rebound games after recording a performance of 12 points and 20 rebounds in the win.

After Capela took his game to an elite level, the Rockets have looked to be one of the top contending teams in the league. In the midst of riding a five-game win streak, Houston has held its opponent to an averaged of 103.0 points per game (5th best in the league), placed in the top-five in defensive rebounds (41.2 rebs) and blocks (6.6 blk). All while possessing the league’s best defensive rating at 98.5 per game.

BONUS: On the Blazer’s Edge Podcast, Tara Bowen-Biggs (aka Team Mom) spoke with Coty Davis of The Dream Shake about Houston’s start and their upcoming matchup with the Blazers. Check it out below: