Blazers Look To Finish Homestand With A Win Versus Red Hot Rockets

by Casey Holdahl
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After losing their three first games of a four-game homestand, the Trail Blazers (13-11) have one last chance to get a win by hosting the Houston Rockets (19-4) Saturday night before before heading out for another extended road trip. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

After returning to Portland after finishing a five-game road trip with three-straight wins and a 4-1 record, the Trail Blazers dropped their next three to the Bucks, Pelicans and Wizards in games that weren’t all that close. The last two losses were especially concerning, as both New Orleans and Washington were playing on the second night of back-to-backs without their best players in uniform.

“We’re just not playing well,” said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard after losing 106-92 to the Wizards on Tuesday. “I think it goes back to the road trip. We didn’t play great but we found ways to win games. We came back home and we just haven’t played well offensively or consistent defensively. We dropped three in a row. Every year at some point adversity is going to hit and I feel like this is the start of a little bit of that adversity for us. We’ve just got to keep playing.”

While Lillard might be correct in general, the Trail Blazers will have to play much better than they have in their last three games to best the Rockets, owners of the best record in the Western Conference. Behind James Harden and Chris Paul, the Rockets have won eight-straight, with all of those wins coming by double digits, and 14 of their last 15.

"They space the floor, they’ve got great ballhandlers in James (Harden) and CP (Chris Paul)," said Ed Davis. "James himself, he’s a tough matchup, just what he can do with the ball and how crafty he is, drawing fouls, strong body. They have the perfect system for the way they want to play. Whenever you have a bunch of shooters who just shoot it whenever, where ever, it’s a tough guard."

The Rockets own one of the NBA's most prolific offenses, ranking second to only the Golden State Warriors in both points per game and offensive rating. They are also on pace to shoot more three-pointers than any team in NBA history, averaging 44 attempts from beyond the arc per game.

"You look out there and every guy except Capela can shoot the ball at a high level, so you’ve got to respect it," said Damian Lillard. "I think it’s going to be a matter of how well we can contain them, run those guys off the line instead of letting them stand out there comfortable and just firing away. You let them do that, they’ll run away from you quick."

But while you expect a Mike D'Antoni's squad to put up points, they're also one of the stingiest defenses in the league, giving up 101.0 points per 100 possessions, fourth-best in the NBA.

"Forty-four three attempts, great one-on-one players, they pass really well," said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts of the issues the Rockets present. "They buy into their style offensively, their players know their roles. Everything kind of revolves around Chris Paul and James Harden and everybody else knows their roles, they’ve got scoring off the bench with Eric Gordon. And I think they’ve picked up their defense this year."

To make matters worse, the Trail Blazers will be without starting center Jusuf Nurkić for Saturday's game due to a sprained right ankle. They might also be short a forward as well, as Maurice Harkless is listed as questionable with a quad contusion.

Saturday night's game can be seen locally on NBC Sports NW with Kevin Calabro, Lamar Hurd and Brooke Olzendam. Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton will have the radio call on Rip City Radio 620 AM.