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Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers Preview

The Blazers need this one against a last-place Rockets team.

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

Houston Rockets (13-46) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (28-31)

After the Portland Trail Blazers spent much of Wednesday in an airplane waiting in vain to take off, the coaching staff decided that flying in to Sacramento close to game time on Thursday wasn’t helpful for the health of Damian Lillard and Jerami Grant. Those two stars were held out, and the result of that and a host of other injuries was a 133-116 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The Blazers are now back home safe and sound, they desperately need a win against the tanking Houston Rockets.

You have to go back to Feb. 1 to find a win for the Rockets. Since then it’s been eight losses in a row. Most recently Houston was soundly defeated by the Golden State Warriors, 116-101. With Houston fans (and team executives) dreaming of a certain 7’2” Frenchman, there’s really no excuse for Portland to lose this one.

Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers - Sunday, February 26 - 6:00 p.m. PT

How to watch on TV: Root Sports Plus, NBA League Pass

Blazers injuries: Justise Winslow (out), Ibou Badji (out), Jusuf Nurkic (out), Anfernee Simons (out), Ryan Arcidiacono (out)

Rockets injuries: Jalen Green (out), Kevin Porter (out)

SBN Affiliate: The Dream Shake

The Matchup

  • Rebounds. There aren’t too many areas where the Rockets are genuinely really good, but rebounding is one of them, especially on the offensive end. In fact, Houston leads the league in offensive rebounds at 13.1 per game. I know what you are going to say: Sure, that’s just because they miss a ton of shots. While they do miss a lot of shots, advanced stats show they’re just really good at cleaning the glass on their own end. The Rockets grab 34.1% of available offensive boards, also best in the NBA. Houston crashes the basket after a miss, and they’re good at it. A poor night rebounding is one of the more likely ways that the Blazers could lose this one.
  • Keep the fouls to a minimum. Houston is also remarkably good at getting to the line. They draw 21.3 fouls per game, good for third in the NBA. Not coincidentally, they are fourth in the league in free throw attempts. Fortunately for the Blazers they aren’t all that good at making them. Still, Portland would be wise to keep the Rockets from building an advantage by getting fouled.
  • Set the tone and don’t let up. Damian Lillard and Chauncey Billups have expended a lot of energy this week in denying that tank is on. Well, sometimes you seek out the tank. Sometimes the tank seeks out you. The Blazers are still significantly shorthanded, but they absolutely should still win this game. Portland should set the tone early, build a first quarter lead and not look back. If they can’t do that against this Houston team, the questions about tanking will return. If they lose outright it would be devastating.

What Others Are Saying

Coty M. Davis of Sports Illustrated writes that the Beard might be looking to get back to Houston.

It’s hard to imagine why James Harden would leave a championship-contending team with the Philadelphia 76ers to reunite with the Houston Rockets. But with NBA free agency five months away, it appears Harden is strongly considering the latter.

NBA rules state a team must have 14 players on the roster. The Rockets have 13. Ben DuBose of Rocketswire has the details.

In the case of the Houston Rockets, it wasn’t directly the deals they made, but instead the buyouts that resulted from their sequence of trades at the Feb. 10 deadline. With veterans Danny Green, John Wall, and Justin Holiday all being waived, the Rockets currently have only 13 players on their roster with standard contracts.

The Rockets have lots of picks, many of them from Brooklyn. James Piercey of The Dream Shake says Houston should send some back to the Nets.

Either way, the Rockets have an advantage at this particular bargaining table. They have something that’s more valuable to Brooklyn than it is to anyone else, including the Rockets. The combinations of possible, mutually beneficial deals are endless.