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Portland Trail Blazers vs. Houston Rockets Preview

Back on the road for the Blazers in Houston.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Portland Trail Blazers (20-28) vs Houston Rockets (14-34)

The rollercoaster ride continues. After a successful 4-2 road trip, the Portland Trail Blazers came home to Moda and promptly lost twice. That will take the wind out of your sails. More distressingly, they may have lost Nassir Little for the season, just as he was really starting to come into his own. Now it’s back on the road again for the next four games, starting with a visit to Houston.

The Houston Rockets are a team in the midst of a rebuild and their record shows it. Last in the West, the only outstanding question would seem to be where in the lottery they will be drafting. Still, they have talent, and their recent record has been more mediocre and less abysmal. Last time out though they got spanked by the San Antonio Spurs by the score of 134-104. Way back in November the Blazers beat the Rockets in Houston by the score of 104-92.

Friday, January 27- 5:00 p.m. PT
How to watch on TV: Root Sports NW, NBA League Pass
Blazers injuries: Damian Lillard (out), Larry Nance Jr. (out), Cody Zeller (out), Nassir Little (out), CJ Elleby (doubtful)
Rockets injuries: John Wall (out), Usman Garuba (out)
SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

UPDATE:

Covington and Smith Jr are available.

What To Watch For

  • Improved play from Houston. The Rockets aren’t a great team by any means, but on their night they can be a handful. After going 1-11 from mid-December to January 10th, they’ve won three out of their last six games and look to be improving. Eric Gordon and Christian Wood are both capable of making the scoreboard light up, and the team has show some ability to play tough down the stretch. Against an understrength Blazers they might just have enough to get it done.
  • Crying foul. Houston takes more foul shots than any other team in the NBA. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they also have the worst free-throw percentage in the league at 71.6%. Still, they take so many that they are fourth in the NBA in makes from the free-throw line. Regardless of what that all means, the Blazers would do well to avoid fouling too much, if for no other reason than they are going to be shorthanded and can’t afford major foul trouble.
  • Turnovers. The Blazers are a middle-of-the-road team in terms of holding on to the ball, but Houston are terrible, worst in the NBA in turnovers. The easiest roadmap for beating the Rockets is to pressure them into mistakes and capitalize on them. If Portland wins the turnover battle and has at least 4 or 5 more points off of turnovers than the Rockets, the Blazers will put themselves in good position to win this one.

What Others Are Saying

With so much money still owed to John Wall it looks like a buyout isn’t in the cards. That’s bad news for a rumored move Miami writes Paolo Songco of ClutchPoints.

Now that a buyout appears out of the picture, the odds of the Heat bringing Wall to South Beach drop significantly. As the above report states, Wall is set to earn close to $50 million next season — a number that will surely turn off Miami in their pursuit. The same goes for any other team that could have an interest in Wall. It’s just hard to swallow the fact that your team will take such a huge cap hit for a 31-year-old who’s been battling major injuries over the past few years. As such, it sounds like John Wall will be remaining in Houston for the time being.

Rahat Hut on Chron writes that it’s too early to tell whether Jalen Green was worth the second overall pick.

The fact of the matter is that it’s completely possible that Green ends up as just a good player. It’s also still possible that he one day leads the league in scoring. I don’t think I’ve seen anything yet to preclude that early projection from scouts. It’s still just too early to tell. To be sure, Green has overall had a disappointing rookie season (37% from the field overall; 28.4% from 3), but there has been plenty of promise sprinkled in as well - that first step is blinding. And his overall numbers through 32 games are right on par with Bradley Beal’s through Beal’s age-19 rookie season (36.7% from the floor, 32.4% from 3 on 4.3 attempts).

Lots of trade rumors in Houston according to Darren Yuvan of The Dream Shake.

It’s that time of year. It’s trade season in the NBA, and that means rumors galore. We already know teams are after Eric Gordon if they’re willing to throw in a first round pick, and the Los Angeles Lakers can have John Wall for Russell Westbrook if they throw in a first-rounder and Russ is willing to accept a buyout.

But the Houston Rockets have other pieces teams are interested in, and two of their three centers are reportedly getting interest from other teams.