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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets Preview

The Blazers look to make it 2-for-2 against their rivals in Houston.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (20-27) vs. Houston Rockets (29-17)

January 29, 2020 - 7:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Skal Labissiere (out)
Rockets injuries: Gerald Green (out), Nene Hilario (out), James Harden (game-time decision), Clint Capela (game-time decision)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

The Moda Center gets ready to host a battle of two of the most prolific scoring guards in the NBA as Damian Lillard faces James Harden and the Houston Rockets.

In their previous outing, the Blazers took down the Indiana Pacers 139-129. Lillard dropped another 50 on an opponent, his eighth such game for the Blazers. Per Casey Holdahl, the 158 points Lillard has scored over the last three games ranks sixth all-time for a three-game stretch. The top spot is occupied by the late Kobe Bryant with 175.

The Rockets got a win in their last game as well, despite the absence of both Harden and Russell Westbrook. Eric Gordon scored 50 to lead Houston over the Utah Jazz 126-117. Donovan Mitchell scored 36 for Utah in the defeat.

What to watch for

  • It worked once. The last time these two teams faced off, Portland made it a priority to keep the ball out of Harden’s hands, and succeeded. Harden got just 13 points and the Blazers got a 117-107 win. Houston will be ready for the half-court trap that is so familiar to Lillard, but keeping Harden pressured leads to success.
  • Let the other one shoot. Westbrook is not shy about throwing up shots. He has averaged 25 shots a game for the last month, including 22 against Portland. However, he has stopped taking threes with the Rockets, shooting just 2.2 per game over the last fifteen games. For the season he is shooting an abysmal 23.4 percent from three. That said, he has never seen an open three he has not liked, and the Blazers should take advantage of that. Preventing his drives and giving him looks from three is a recipe for success, and it falls neatly into the strengths of the Portland defense.
  • Ride the hot hand. Lillard has gone absolutely supernova over the last month, and there is no reason to stop feeding him now. He scored 25 last time against Houston despite going 1-for-8 from three. Imagine what he can do when that signature three-point shot from the logo is falling.

What they’re saying

Conrad Garcia of The Dream Shake writes that the Rockets need to get their two top stars in sync:

James Harden and Russell Westbrook finally teamed up together once again on the Rockets, far removed from the young, promising duo they were in Oklahoma City, now proven generational players and each at least 11 years into their career. Even with all that experience between the two, they’re still suffering from growing pains.