Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers

NBA Playoff Preview: Houston Rockets vs. Portland Trail Blazers



Houston Rockets: 54-28

Portland Trail Blazers: 54-28


Houston Rockets: none

Portland Trail Blazers: none

OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS (points per 100 possession)

Houston Rockets: Offense 108.6 (4th in NBA), Defense 103.1 (12th in NBA)

Portland Trail Blazers: Offense 108.3 (5th in NBA), Defense 104.7 (16th in NBA)


1) Will anyone stop anyone?

Cue the fireworks. This is the only first-round series featuring two top-five offenses.

Both teams have middling defenses, indicating both offenses will win the proverbial battles. Even when narrowing to playoff rotations, both teams perform worse defensively.

There is defensive talent on both sides, though. The Rockets have Patrick Beverley, Dwight Howard and Omer Asik. The Trail Blazers have Robin Lopez, Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews. Yet, neither team has put together a strong defense.

This might come down to whether James Harden or Damian Lillard, notoriously disinterested defenders, summons more defensive effort.

2) Will this just be a parade to the rim for the Rockets?

More specific to the general defensive concerns, Portland faces a particularly daunting challenge in keeping Houston away from the rim.

The Rockets take 39.8 percent of their shots at the rim, best among playoff teams. The Trail Blazers allow their opponents to take 34.0 percent of their shots at the rim, worst among playoff teams.

Portland must somehow cut off Harden’s attacks (by methods other than fouling and sending him to the line for easy points) and keep Howard from getting too deep (maybe fouling him, in certain situations, is OK). Even the Trail Blazers’ soft pick-and-roll coverage might not do the trick. The Rockets both drive and roll with reckless abandon.

The Trail Blazers need a new trick up their sleeves.

3) What happens between Damian Lillard and Patrick Beverley?

The starting point guards don’t exactly like each other.

Lillard is a small-college player trying to prove himself as an NBA superstar, and Beverley is an underdog scrapper himself. Because they’re so proud (and so similar), there’s frequently friction when they meet.

In this series, their matchup is key. Beverley will try to hound Lillard defensively, disrupting Portland’s offense by making its point guard miserable. Lillard is more skilled. Beverley is more physical.

Whichever wins out could swing the series.


The Trail Blazers slipped from their perch atop the Western Conference after a 31-9 start, but they’ve bounced back. Portland won its last five and nine of ten, providing momentum entering the playoffs. But the Rockets won the season series, 3-1, so they have homecourt advantage.

Rockets in 7

Watch Kobe Bryant’s entire retirement-announcement press conference (video)

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Kobe Bryant reflected, told stories and showed his emotions.

For nearly 25 minutes, the Lakers star talked about his pending retirement. It was pretty cool.

Report: Wizards signing Ryan Hollins

Blake Griffin, Ryan Hollins
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Nene hurt his calf. Drew Gooden is banged up. Martell Webster is out for the season.

Those are three players the Wizards expected to play power forward this season.

So, Washington – which has lost four straight – will bring in another big man: Ryan Hollins.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Wizards have a full roster of 15 players. They don’t qualify for a hardship exemption, which a team gets if four players have missed three straight games and will continue to be out. Only Webster and Alan Anderson definitely fit that bill. Gooden, who has missed five straight, might. But it’s unclear both how many of those absences were due to injury and when he’ll return.

So, Washington will have to waive someone to sign Hollins now. It’ll probably be Webster, whose $5,845,250 2016-17 salary is just $2.5 million guaranteed. If he’s out for the year and the Wizards plan to drop him by the summer to clear cap space, why not just do it now?

Hollins is more center than power forward and doesn’t appear to fit well with Marcin Gortat. But at this point, Washington just needs big bodies. Hollins – a nine-year veteran who plays decent interior defense, lacks offensive skill and rebounds poorly for his 7-foot frame – is at least that.

Dwight Howard crushes Kristaps Porzingis with dunk (video)

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Sometimes – as Kristaps Porzingis sees against Dwight Howard – it’s more flattering just to play James Harden-level defense.