If there’s one series that going to set itself apart from the others when it comes to scoring and very little defense, it’s going to be the one between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers. James Harden and Dwight Howard on one end, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge on the other, while Jeremy Lin might get his chance to shine in a very open kind of style that most likely will be present throughout the series.
The average score in the four games this season? A combined 228 points, with no teams scoring less than 101 points in any of the meetings. James Harden, who has averaged 25.4 points per game in the regular season, leading the Rockets in points and assists and playing more like a point guard than a shooting guard (Lin and Beverley are spot up shooters in this offensive system), has done even better against Portland with 30.3 points in the encounters.
Dwight Howard is the same. He averaged 18.3 points and 12.2 rebounds in a successful first season for him after the rough experience in Los Angeles, but against the Blazers, who have Robin Lopez and that’s about it to put on Howard, he averaged 25.5 points while shooting 63.3% from the field in the four games. Despite both teams loving to shoot from beyond the arc (no one shoots more than Houston in the league), the Rockets have an inside threat in both Howard and Harden, while scoring in the paint is a problem for Portlnd.
One of Jeremy Lin’s best games this season came against the Blazers: 26 points in the most recent 118-113 win. It’ll be interesting to see how McHale uses him, and how much, in the series. The same goes for Mo Williams, pretty much the only viable scoring option off the bench for the Blazers, who mostly rely on Aldridge and Lillard to get things done, although trying to use Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews a bit more creatively can go a long way for them.
Thomas Robinson is playing against his former team. A lottery pick no one has been able to really get a lot out of so far. He’s had a few big games, but the Blazers don’t look good with him on the floor, even though his per minute numbers aren’t that bad at all. Robinson playing means no Aldridge, and they haven’t looked very good in any variation of lineups that doesn’t include Aldridge and Lopez manning the front court.
Prediction – The Blazers are fun to watch and look at, but aside from Batum there’s really no defense on this team, and their offense sometimes seems to count on luck more than actual thinking, hoping the law of averages doesn’t catch up with them. The Rockets have their down moments but Harden is mostly dependable, and as long as he doesn’t go too out of control in his selfish streaks, the Rockets should take this series in five or six.