The NBA's Two Hottest Teams Meet Tuesday At Moda Center

by Casey Holdahl
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The Portland Trail Blazers (44-26) have passed every test they’ve come up against during their current winning streak, but there’s still a game on the horizon whose outcome could show just how ready they are to challenge the elite teams in the Western Conference.

After beating the Clippers in Los Angeles Sunday night to extending their league-leading win streak to 13 games, the Trail Blazers return home to host the Houston Rockets Tuesday night in a nationally-televised game on TNT. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

While the Trail Blazers have surely benefited from a home-heavy schedule during the winning streak — nine of their last 13 games have been held at the Moda Center — they’ve also dispatched some of the best teams in the NBA during that stretch, including the Golden State Warriors (twice), the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz, a team that has lost just twice in their last 23 contests.

But the Rockets, winners of five straight and 22 of their last 23, present the most difficult challenge the Trail Blazers have faced this season.

“It's a big game,” said Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard. “I think we've had a lot of games over the course of this stretch where we've had the opportunity to come out and make a statement. The best team in the league this season has been Houston. We've won 13 in a row, they're playing great basketball, they've beat us twice, so it's another opportunity for us to come out and make a statement.”

It's true that the Rockets have been the most dominant team in the NBA this season, though the Trail Blazers have been just as good over the last month. Portland is 12-0 since the All-Star break, slightly better than Houston's 12-1 record since the break, and own the best point differential in the league (12.6) during that period while Houston’s point differential ranks third (9.8).

But the Rockets also won the two previous meetings this season, with the most recent being a 121-112 victory in Houston on January 10. Luckily for the Trail Blazers, Tuesday night's game will be played at the Moda Center, where Portland has lost just once since the calendar turned over to 2018.

"In a tough Western Conference, we've been steady," said Lillard. "You don't accidentally do what we've done in this league, so I don't think we're trying to surprise anybody. We're just trying to continue what we doing, continue to get the results we've been getting.'

Tuesday night's broadcast on TNT is a "Players Only" game, with Brent Barry, Derek Fisher, Nate Robinson and Dennis Scott call in the action. Brian Wheeler and Michael Holton will have the call on Rip City Radio 620 AM and on all the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.