Expect points aplenty in this series between two of the NBA’s highest-scoring teams when Portland and Houston face off in the final series-opening game of the weekend on Sunday night. Houston, the fourth seed in the West, is a 5.5-point favorite for Game 1 against the No. 5 Blazers.
If you like 3-point shooting, this is the series for you. The Rockets and Blazers are one and three, respectively, in 3-point attempts per game and both try to bombard you with outside attempts. The Rockets shooting the most threes in the NBA but they make 35.6 percent of them, which is good for 17th in the NBA. The Blazers’ attempts are much more efficient, making the league’s ninth best percentage at 37.2 percent.
Both teams won 54 games, and their point differentials are separated by a smaller margin (Houston edges Portland +4.7 to +4) than those of the other seven series. Both teams also have two All-Stars (the Rockets’ James Harden and Dwight Howard vs. the Blazers’ LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard), top-five offenses, top-10 paces of play and top-three units in three-pointers attempted. The average score of their four regular-season games was 116-110 Houston, with the Rockets taking the series 3-1 thanks to a dramatic overtime victory in March.
After sitting out for two weeks and missing eight games with a strained left ankle, Howard says he’s fully recovered and ready to re-establish himself in the middle at both ends of the floor. If that’s true, Howard is the one who tips the scales. Wesley Matthews will have his hands full trying to stop Harden from scoring by the dozens. The bearded one dropped 41 and 33 on Portland already this season. Harden also led the NBA this season with 6.9 fast-break points per game. Houston is one of two teams (the other was Minnesota) with wins over the top two seeds in each conference (Indiana, Miami, Oklahoma City and San Antonio).
The Rockets turned the ball over 16.3 times per 100 possessions, the second highest rate in the league and the highest among playoff teams. The Blazers rank No. 3 in turnover percentage and No. 30 in opponent turnover percentage, meaning they protect the ball well on offense and play very conservatively on defense. The Rockets, on the other hand, rank No. 29 in turnover percentage and No. 28 in opponent turnover percentage, meaning they can be quite careless on offense while not really generating many free possessions on the other end.
Portland allowed 105.7 points per 100 possessions before the All-Star break (23rd in the league) and 103.0 after it (10th). No team improved more defensively after the break. Only 20.9 percent of their opponents shots were 3-pointers, the lowest opponent rate in the league.
Howard averaged 25.5 points per game against the Blazers, his highest mark against Western Conference opponents. Terrence Jones was a minus-45 in 49 minutes. No other Rocket had a negative plus-minus against the Blazers. The Blazers’ starting lineup was a plus-36 in 72 minutes against the Rockets. All other Portland lineups were a minus-62 in 125 minutes.
WagerWeb trends: Rockets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following a S.U. loss. Rockets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games overall. Rockets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. Western Conference. Rockets are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 after scoring 100 points or more in their previous game. Over is 7-0 in the last 7 meetings. Over is 7-1 in the last 8 meetings in Houston. Underdog is 11-5-1 ATS in the last 17 meetings. Trail Blazers are 3-8-1 ATS in the last 12 meetings.