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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets Preview

The Blazers face one of the West’s top teams in their third seeding game.

Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers (30-38) vs. Houston Rockets (41-24)

Tuesday, August 4 - 6:00 p.m. PT
Blazers injuries: Rodney Hood (out), Trevor Ariza (opted out), Caleb Swanigan (opted out)
Rockets injuries: Eric Gordon (out), Thabo Sefolosha (opted out)
How to watch on TV: NBCSNW, TNT
How to stream: Blazer’s Edge Streaming Guide
Radio: 620 AM
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

After a rough loss to the Boston Celtics on Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers are looking for a win. Portland is currently tied with the San Antonio Spurs for the 9th seed but would win the tiebreaker based on win percentage, and they are two games back from the 8th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.

What to watch for

  • Portland’s height advantage. The Houston Rockets are a small team right now. The tallest player that has registered minutes for Houston in their first two bubble games is Jeff Green, who is 6’8”. Portland currently has three healthy centers in Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Hassan Whiteside, all 7’0”. Height has proven to be an asset for the Blazers in the bubble, and it should serve them well against a shorter Houston team.
  • The three-point line. Damian Lillard is a masterful 3-point shooter. We have seen more 3’s from CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr., and Nurkic as well. However, Portland’s defense against the 3-point line has struggled. The Rockets are going to rely on their 3-point shooting, and if the Trail Blazers can keep that under control, they should be able to get the win.
  • Gary Trent Jr. I’m anticipating more minutes in this game for Trent Jr. He has become an asset for Portland in the bubble, and was proving himself to be even before the shutdown. But with Houston relying so heavily on Russell Westbrook and James Harden, I expect to see Coach Stotts giving him lots of playing time. His energy and contributions both on offense and defense could be a huge boost for the Trail Blazers.

What they’re saying

James Harden isn’t trying to prove anything, and he doesn’t seem worried about the naysayers, according to USA Today’s Mark Medina:

“I’ve got nothing to prove. I’m just happy we got a win. At this point, I don’t care about negative energy. I don’t pay attention to it.”

The Rockets don’t have the size they need, so they’re relying on their hustle, as detailed by the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen:

“Throughout a game, it’s tough (for opponents) to sustain how we play,” Russell Westbrook said. “We’re used to playing that way. Something that teams are not used to, and I think we work (it) to our advantage.

“I definitely feel it. I’m always looking at other guys and seeing when they’re trying to catch their breath. It definitely wears the other team down.”

Sam Quinn of CBS Sports explains how the Rockets survive on defense by actually giving up points:

So here we have a defense that looks bad on paper and seems like it should be bad based on our anecdotal understanding that big men drive great defense, yet when they’ve encountered teams designed to exploit their own lack of size, their defense actually contributes to winning. The explanation is as counterintuitive as the result. The Rockets have mastered the art of bad defense.