The 2014 NBA Playoff are underway and this matchup will be very intriguing. James Harden looks to lead his Houston Rockets past second year phenom Damian Lilliard and Rip City. The Rockets so to say “owned” Portland in the regular season beating them 3 out of 4 times. We can’t forget that the playoffs are a completely different beast, slates are clear and its 0-0. Home court advantage goes to the Houston Rockets, so games one and two will be at the Toyota Center. In their home building Houston possesses a 33-8 record, last loss at home was nearly a month ago. Head coach Terry Stotts has Portland playing stellar road basketball. The Blazers finished the regular season with a road record of (23-18), but they have been sluggish lately. Both teams have their advantages and disadvantages, so lets dissect this series a bit further.
KEYS TO VICTORY: (HOUSTON)
– James Harden “MUST” show up from start to finish and play consistent defense. On the year Harden is averaging (25.4) points per game good enough for 5th in the NBA
– FEED Dwight Howard he absolutely has to be all of 88 million dollars in this series. Robin Lopez is a physical defender he will have to find ways to score on the block. On the other end Dwight must be “The Enforcer” and patrol the paint like a police officer on duty.
– Bench play has to be good. Jeremy Lin will need to come into his own this series and be second unit catalyst. Also Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Omer Asik & the rest of the bench have to also make plays throughout.
– Houston ranked 12th in defense will need to close out on shooters and rebound well. Guys like Nic Batum and Wes Matthews have the ability to knock down treys.
KEYS TO VICTORY: (PORTLAND)
– Do not get rattled by Houston’s home crowd. They must execute in the half court sets and knock down free throws on the road.
– Damian Lilliard has to sensational along with the big fella LaMarcus Aldridge. Combined the duo is averaging (43.9) points per game
– STOP James Harden!!! We know that they will not completely stop Harden but they have to at least make life difficult on him. Stotts will more than likely start out with Wes Matthews defending him. Don’t be surprised to see a dash of Nic Batum on him as well.
– Frontcourt must stay out of foul trouble being that they are extremely thin up front. Also Mo Williams and Thomas Robinson must give them something off of that short bench of the Blazers.
Patrick Beverly will be the x-factor in this entire series. If he has the ability to defend Damian Lilliard and also be productive offensively. Beverly one of the best on ball defenders in the league will have his work cut out for him in this series. Pat Bev didn’t put up eye gauging numbers, but the things he does for Houston do not show up in the stat sheet. He just has to play with energy defensively, run the offense, and occasionally knock down shots.
LaMarcus Aldridge is going to be everyones meal ticket in this series. Meaning if he has his interior game going it will open up shots for the perimeter guys. Like the Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, and Damian Lilliard’s of the world. At times Aldridge goes in and out of scoring funks, not to mention earlier in the year he was an MVP candidate that slowly faded though. As much as Damian Lilliard is a superstar in the making the Blazers only go as far as LaMarcus carries them. LA will also have to clean the glass and keep Houston from getting second chance points.
Projected Starting Lineups;
Portland: PG Damian Lilliard SG: Wesley Matthews SF: Nic Batum PF: LaMarcus Aldridge C: Robin Lopez
Houston: PG: Pat Beverly SG: James Harden SF: Chandler Parsons PF: Terrance Jones C: Dwight Howard
PREDICTION: Houston in 6