Trail Blazers-Rockets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 03, 2012
James Harden has put on quite a show in each of his first two games with the Houston Rockets. The reigning Sixth Man of the Year is only starting to get comfortable. Harden looks to continue his remarkable play Saturday night as the undefeated Rockets open their home schedule against the Portland Trail Blazers, who haven't experienced much success during their last several visits to Houston. The Rockets (2-0), who sent Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks and a second-round selection to Oklahoma City in exchange for Harden and three other players last Saturday, could be in for an exciting season if their early efforts are any indication. After posting 37 points and a career-high 12 assists during Wednesday's 105-96 season-opening win at Detroit, Harden went off Friday in a 109-102 victory at Atlanta, scoring a career-best 45 points on 14-of-19 shooting. "It's a lot different," Harden said of his new role. "Having the offense run basically through you, it's a lot different, but that's my job now so I've got to get used to it. ... I just go out there and play hard." While Harden stole the show, fellow newcomer Jeremy Lin quietly had 21 points, a career-best 10 rebounds and seven assists. Omer Asik was scoreless on seven shots, but he came up big with a career-high 19 boards. "(Harden) frees everybody up," Lin said. "He knows what he's doing. We're thankful that he showed up." Houston, which last won its first three games in 2008-09, has to like its chances of matching that start given its recent results against Portland (1-1). The Rockets have limited the Blazers to an average of 88.7 points in taking 13 of 15 home matchups. They also won twice on the road to sweep last season's three-game series, though each win came by seven points or fewer. Portland beat the Los Angeles Lakers 116-106 in Wednesday's season opener before kicking off a three-game trip Friday with a 106-92 loss to the Thunder. Oklahoma City shot 51.3 percent from the field while the Blazers were limited to 36.0 percent. Portland went 1-11 last season when shooting under 40.0 percent. "We competed for most of the game," first-year coach Terry Stotts said. "We had a hard time putting the ball in the basket." LaMarcus Aldridge had 22 points and 15 rebounds while Damian Lillard scored 21 to go along with seven assists. Lillard, who joined Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Isiah Thomas as the only players to record at least 20 points and 10 assists in their NBA debuts with 23 and 11 against the Lakers, is quickly making a name for himself. "It's not really about how I play," said Lillard, the No. 6 overall pick in this year's draft. "It's more about the team making a few more shots to get the win." Aldridge has averaged 22.6 points in eight road matchups versus Houston dating to 2007-08 - his third-highest mark in any opposing arena over that stretch. The Blazers haven't opened 0-2 on the road since losing their first three contests as the visiting team in 2008-09. Harden has recorded 19.6 points per game - 6.6 more than his career mark - in his last five matchups against Portland.
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