Found February 08, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
Road trip continues The Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets have played two closely contested games this season, and they’ll face off for a third time Friday night at the Toyota Center. Matchup: Portland (25-24) vs. Houston Rockets (27-24) Venue: Toyota Center Time: 5:00 PM PT Date: Friday, February 8, 2013 Portland took down the Rockets in their first two matchups, and they’ll go for three straight after dropping a tough game to the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night. Game Notes/How They Match Up When Wesley Matthews defends James Harden, basketball fans get their money’s worth. (Photo: AP) The bottom few spots in the Western Conference Playoff race are wide open, and the Blazers and Rockets are two of the teams looking to sneak in. Both have rebuilt their rosters since last season, and both feel that they’re talented enough to make that push and get in by the end of the year.The Rockets are a lot like the Dallas Mavericks, whom the Blazers just lost to, in the sense that offense is clearly the priority. The Blazers are the same way, but Houston is more extreme on both ends. As one of the best scoring teams in the Association, Houston averages 105.8 points per game. Unfortunately for them, they’re the fourth-worst team when it comes to points allowed, as they give up 102.9 points per contest. Like the game against Dallas, this matchup has the potential to see a lot of points scored. What to Watch: Portland When it comes to the Blazers’ plan of attack, the big question is, what can they do to slow down James Harden? As big of a threat as Harden can be from deep range, he’s proven this year that he’s much more efficient when he puts his head down and attacks the basket. His jump shot has been a bit inconsistent, but his ability to isolate is a constant weapon. Wesley Matthews will be given the bulk of the responsibility when it comes to Harden, but everybody else will have to do their part. If Harden gets into the lane, the Blazers’ bigs have to be ready to step up. How well Portland can contain Harden will have a direct impact on their success Friday night, as the Rockets’ 2-guard is the team’s leading scorer by a long shot. What to Watch: Houston Alternatively, it’s going to be interesting to see how Houston is able to slow down LaMarcus Alridge. The Blazers’ big man is averaging an impressive 23 points and 11 rebounds over his last five games, and it’s been clear that Houston has had trouble slowing him down so far this season. In the first matchup, LaMarcus Alridge posted 27 points and 11 rebounds. To follow that up, he scored 29 points and grabbed six boards the next time they faced off. At the power forward position, Patrick Patterson has shown that he can be a smart, physical player. The problem for Houston is that he hasn’t been the best defender up to this point in his young career. Omer Asik and J.J. Hickson are two of the NBA’s best rebounders this season. (Photo: Xinhua/Song Qiong) Double-teaming Aldridge appears to be the only way of slowing him down, so it will be interesting to see which players the Rockets leave open, should they go that route come Friday. Key Matchup Watching Wesley Matthews defend James Harden is always a treat for fans of good basketball, but this contest should focus on the two players down low who rarely receive the credit they deserve. J.J. Hickson and Omer Asik have been the unsung heroes on their respective squads this season. Both players can be a threat to score in the right situation, but offense isn’t where you expect them to thrive. Asik is the better low-post defender, but both can have a huge impact on the boards. Keeping plays alive has been J.J. Hickson‘s specialty, and while he’s going to have his hands full against the seven-footer, his energy and athleticism could propel him to success. Injury Report Portland: DAT-TO-DAY — Sasha Pavlovic, Ronnie Price, Nicolas Batum Houston: DAY-TO-DAY — Jeremy Lin, Carlos Delfino Prediction This is going to be a crucial matchup as we approach All-Star Weekend. A loss won’t knock the Blazers out of the playoffs, but it will make their goal that much tougher to reach. Blazers 90 – Rockets 98 CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE BLAZERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!

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