Originally written November 03, 2012 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Time for Road Redemption The Portland Trail Blazers looked outstanding in their opening-night matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, but a lack of depth on the roster was exposed in their first road contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Can they take down a team more on their level come Saturday night? Matchup: Portland (1-1) @ Houston Rockets (2-0) Venue: Toyota Center, HOUSTON, TX. Time: 5:00 PM PT Date: Nov. 3, 2012 The team is going to need more bench production against the Houston Rockets on Saturday, and the starters must handle the pressures of the road better if they hope to escape the Toyota Center with a win. The Trail Blazers play the Rockets in the second game of a back-to-back. Photo: Jaime Valdez-US PRESSWIRE Game Notes/How They Match Up The Trail Blazers and the Rockets are two teams who could be fighting for the same playoff spot come the end of the season. Both rosters have a drastically different look than they did last year, and both units are in rebuilding mode. Each team has a plethora of young prospects, but it’s the Rockets who added a max-contract player in James Harden and another free-agent pickup in Jeremy Lin. Both of these teams are playing in their second of a back-to-back, but you won’t be able to tell considering the youth on each roster. Both the Blazers and the Rockets are centered around a young core, and with infinite amounts of energy throughout the rotation, this game should be up-tempo from beginning to finish. These two teams are going to be considered fringe playoff squads at best until they can prove themselves otherwise. The Blazers couldn’t take down a perennial contender in their matchup against the Thunder, but whatever the result ends up being in this game, it will tell us much more about where they stand against “someone their own size” to begin the season. What to Watch: Portland The Blazers played solid defense in the first half against the Thunder, but they’re still allowing too many points to be succesful. On the perimeter, Wesley Matthews has looked quick and strong to start the year, but he’s going to be given a tough assignment in Houston against Harden. Nicolas Batum is the kind of player who has all the tools in the world to be a great defensive player, but he’s yet to show he can execute on that side of the floor on a regular basis. Houston should look to get out in transition, so preventing fast break points is going to be crucial come Saturday. The other area to watch is bench production. The starters scored all 42 points for Portland in the first half against OKC, and the reserves finished with an insignificant 15 points. The young starting five can only carry the team so far, and a game against an inexperienced Rockets team should be a good opportunity for the bench to get involved. What to Watch: Houston At this point in the year, the main story in Houston is Harden. He is averaging 41 points per game through his first two contests, and he is showing that he truly deserves the max contract that he signed upon his arrival. James Harden is averaging 41.0 points per game to begin the season. Photo: Rick Osentoski/US PRESSWIRE His efficiency might be what’s most impressive, so if the Blazers are going to slow him down, they must make him take tough shots. Although the Rockets aren’t going to be known this season for posting up down low, there’s a good chance they’ll score in the paint because of the slashing ability and isolation style Harden plays. He is a great perimeter scorer, but he can be a threat to score down low in the same fashion as a Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Key Matchup This game could very well come down to how well the Blazers defend Harden. He has quickly deemed himself the main scoring option for the Rockets, and he is showing he can be a leader amongst a group of lesser-experienced rotation players. Wesley Matthews is going to be given the assignment here, and it will be a battle between a great perimeter scorer and a very good perimeter defender. Physically, these two players are as similar as can be. They both measure in at 6’5”, they both weigh in at 220 pounds and they both run all over the floor making plays from start to finish. Statistically, Harden may have the edge, but that’s what Matthews will try and bring to a halt on Saturday. Injury Report Portland: OUT—Elliot Williams, PROBABLE—Ronnie Price Houston: DOUBTFUL—Greg Smith Prediction The Blazers won’t post up much in this matchup, but if they can find a balance between scoring in transition and getting LaMarcus Aldridge his looks outside, the team from Portland should come out on top in a tightly contested battle. Blazers 103 – Rockets 100 CLICK HERE CHECK OUT OUR TRAIL BLAZERS BLOG AT THE NWSB!
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