The Houston Rockets squandered home-court advantage in their first round series with the Portland Trail Blazers, falling in games one and two. Sure, this has been one of the most exciting series thus far in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, but the Rockets are now in a hole as they head into game three on Friday night in Portland.
Dwight Howard has been eating big thus far in the series, averaging 29.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and four blocks per game on 51.2 percent. However, he’s been demanding post touches with his back to the basket, which takes the Rockets out of their patented fast-paced, long-range bombing style. Moreover, James Harden has been awful as he’s shooting just 29.8 percent from the floor and 26.3 percent from three. Offense isn’t where they’ve had most of their problems, though.
Clearly the biggest issue for the Rockets in their first two games has been their defense. LaMarcus Aldridge has terrorized them, scoring more than 40 points on both nights. The Blazers have come out and been able to execute their offense to near perfection and find buckets at seemingly every big moment when they’ve needed them.
As the series heads to Portland, the Rockets have to be extremely worried about playing on the Trail Blazers home floor. Not only are they going to be in pivotal games that could essentially determine the outcome of the series, but the Blazers are also dominant on their home court.
Given the crowds that are present in Portland, it’s not totally surprising that they’d be better at home, but the difference in their play at home and on the road is substantial. For starters, Portland finished 31-10 at home on the regular season as opposed to 23-18 on the road. They’ve also been better statistically across the board.
During the regular season, the Blazers were 1.6 points per 100 possessions better offensively at home, 3.9 points per 100 possessions better defensively at home, grabbed 2.5 percent more rebounds at home, and had a 1.3 percent better true shooting percentage at home. They simply play better in front of their home crowd.
As the Rockets head to Portland in this series, they have to be concerned that they could legitimately get swept. With the way they’ve struggled defensively already, with how Harden has played, with how their offense has been running regarding Dwight, and with how well the Trail Blazers play at home, things aren’t working in their favor.
If Houston wants to come close to meeting expectations and want to avoid getting swept, the Rockets need to make a big statement in game three. They have to come in and play at peak form, Harden especially, and have to take the crowd out of the game to a certain degree. If not, this could be an entertaining series, but one that only lasts four games.