By Brian Skinnell on April 16, 2014
The NBA Playoffs are just days away, and the Portland Trail Blazers are a team that not many people are talking about but have a very tough first-round test in the West. They’ll take on the Houston Rockets in a 4-5 matchup that surely won’t disappoint.
Portland will get three games at home, and they need to make those count. They went 1-1 at home against the Rockets in the regular season but 0-2 in Houston. If they want to have a chance then they need to win at home.
It seems like fundamental basketball, but it’s surprising how many games are actually lost at the free throw line. The Trail Blazers lead the NBA in team free throw shooting at 81-percent, and the Rockets rank near the cellar with 71-percent. It’s a small portion of the game, but making their freebies will go a long way.
To go along with 25 points, Dwight Howard averaged 13 boards against the Trail Blazers. Houston as a team outrebounded the Trail Blazers 48 to 43. Rebounding will lead to second chance points and lessen fast-break opportunities. LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez will need to battle down low.
In the regular season series against the Rockets, Aldridge averaged 26.8 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. Portland will need all of that to keep pace with Houston in this series. Getting the ball in his hands is their best bet to win.
This could very well be the case for any team that has to face the Rockets in the playoffs. Against the Trail Blazers this season, Harden averaged 30 points, seven rebounds and five assists. The next highest scoring guard in the regular season series was Jeremy Lin 12.8 points per game. If they can stop Harden, they stand a chance.
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