The first round series between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets has been everything we thought it would be, with close games and dazzling offense leading to a tight series. The Blazers seized control with a 3-1 lead, but the Rockets won Game 5 last night to make things much more interesting. The teams had back to Portland for Game 6, and the Blazers need to close the series in that game.
The road team is just 22-90 in Game 7 in NBA history, not a promising statistic for the Blazers. The Blazers would be much better off closing out this series in front of one of the best crowds in the NBA at the Rose Garden, where they will have the crowd on their side and a higher comfort level. What the Blazers don’t need is to go back to Houston having lost two in a row and playing an elimination game.
Last night’s loss shouldn’t be overly concerning for Blazers fans, as it was the first time in the series that LaMarcus Aldridge turned in a bad game. The Rockets have improved in their defense of Aldridge from Games 1 and 2 (not that they could get any worse), but there is very little chance that Aldridge will only score 8 points on 3-12 shooting again. If anything, the Blazers should be encouraged by the way the rest of the team stepped up around him, particularly Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews. Aldridge will bounce back and Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum continue to perform, so there shouldn’t be much concern there. However, the Blazers certainly need more help from the bench, which was non-existent in Game 5.
Matthews has done an outstanding job defending James Harden all series, and Dwight Howard and Chandler Parsons have not been able to do quite enough to overcome that for the majority of the series. Playing at home in a game of this importance should get the entire team pumped up and focused to go out and play at the top of their game, and the Blazers will badly want to close the series in Game 6. Losing Game 6 would not be the end of the world for them, but there is no doubt the Blazers want to avoid a Game 7 in Houston.