Portland Trail Blazers (9-7) at Houston Rockets (7-9)
The Blazers kick off a six game road trip, playing in Houston before taking on the Eastern Conference. To say the team is dealing with some injury issues is a gross understatement, but with Damian Lillard on the court, the Blazers will always be in the hunt. Watch for continued contributions from third-year guards Gary Trent Jr. and Anfernee Simons. The Rockets have a number of new players they are still trying to integrate.
Thursday, January 28 - 4:30 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: TNT, NBA League Pass, or see games all season on fuboTV, follow on ESPN+, or the ESPN/Disney Bundle*
Blazers injuries: Zach Collins (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), CJ McCollum (out) Robert Covington (out)
Rockets injuries: Dante Exum (out)
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake
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What To Watch For
- The infirmary. The Blazers’ flight to Houston might have been mistaken for an airborne hospital. The latest visitors to the infirmary include Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr. and Rodney Hood. With that said, they still need players to take the court on Thursday, let’s hope a few of those names can actually play.
- New look Rockets. There have been a couple of changes to the Houston roster since December 26 at the Moda Center, most notably the departure of James Harden and the arrival of Victor Oladipo. John Wall, Eric Gordon and DeMarcus Cousins were also missing that day, so the Blazers shouldn’t expect the same personnel.
- On the road again. This will be the first stop on a six-game road trip, which includes the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers. The Blazers need to get off to a good to start against the Rockets to ensure the team’s record isn’t devastated when they return to Oregon in early February.
- Anfernee Simons. ...is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Let’s hope he continues to pick the candy that got him 26 points against the Thunder on Monday night. The Blazers need his sweet shooting and aggressive play to become his regular mantra.
What Others Are Saying
Rookie Jae’Sean Tate has been an unexpected positve for the Rockets this season after being pulled our of obscurity from Australia’s NBL, writes Darren Yuvan of The Dream Shake.
“You can see the guy getting better right before your eyes, as he’s putting together a complete reel of impact plays, subtle plays, hustle plays, and big shots.”
“With the Rockets in an all-new regime, there’s space for Tate to continually to get better. And while you never can fully predict the arc a young player will go on, Tate clearly looks like a building block for the future. And though the 25-year-old isn’t as young as most rookies, he still has some maturing to do and few years yet before he reaches his physical prime. The 6’4” 230-pound swingman has a game predicated on basketball IQ, which means he should age gracefully.”
First-year Rocket John Wall has seen something in his new squad, confident he can lead his ravamped squad into something special after the drama that was James Harden’s exit, according to Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire.
“Outside of James [Harden] not showing up to training camp and not wanting to be here, everything else was amazing,” said Wall. “The most important thing is we couldn’t control what he wanted to do. At the same time, as an organization, you’ve gotta understand they wanna handle it the way they wanna handle it. That was the most difficult thing. because we were all trying to find ways to get the team to come together as one.”
Dubose also highlights that since trading James Harden, Houston lays claim to the league’s third best defense.
“In seven games since the Jan. 13 blockbuster trade sending James Harden to Brooklyn, the Houston Rockets have had the No. 3 defensive rating in the NBA, allowing 102.9 points per 100 possessions.”
“Only the Los Angeles Lakers (102.3) and Clippers (102.7) rank ahead of Houston on the defensive end over that time. After starting the season 3-6, the Rockets are 4-3 over that seven-game span, and they haven’t lost since the return of John Wall from injury.”