Two of the Western Conference’s top three playoff seeds from last season will square off in Houston today. This contest will be between the 11-14 Houston Rockets and the 15-11 Portland Trail Blazers, two teams that aren’t playing their best basketball at the moment (8 p.m. ET Tuesday on NBA TV).
Sure, Portland is on a two-game winning streak, but the team is 7-8 overall since an 8-3 start. They have had a few blowout losses in that stretch and have lost four straight road games.
Houston has underachieved last year despite keeping five of its key players (James Harden, Chris Paul, Clint Capela, PJ Tucker and Eric Gordon) from last season’s 65-win roster. The Rockets have lost their defensive intensity and have a very thin bench.
Both teams figure to be angling for a playoff spot by the end of the season, so this game actually could end up having major significance. Let’s pinpoint some defining questions for the contest before we offer some final betting advice with our Portland Trail Blazers vs Houston Rockets predictions & picks.
Which Team Can Get its Young Center Involved More Effectively?
The driving forces of both of these offenses are explosive backcourts. Chris Paul and James Harden make all sorts of things happen for the Rockets with their crafty ball-handling and passing, while Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are ace scorers who demand a lot of defensive attention.
That said, a huge X-factor for both teams is how well they get their young centers involved. Clint Capela for the Rockets and Jusuf Nurkic for the Blazers are both 24 years old with some offensive talent, but they rely on others to set them up for their offensive production.
Looking at the stats, both guys are more efficient and productive on offense in their team’s wins versus their losses this season. They should be guarding each other this game, so this should be a very important matchup to monitor.
Will Eric Gordon Stick Out As This Game’s Best Reserve?
Neither of these teams has a good bench. As such, this could be a game where a big performance from just one bench player can make all the difference.
The Rockets’ Gordon is the most decorated bench player in this game. The perennial Sixth Man of the Year candidate is always a threat to score 25 points with his outside shooting ability and aggressive slashes to the rim.
This season has been a rough one for Gordon so far, though. He is averaging 15.7 points, but he is shooting a mere 36.6 percent from the field and 30.9 percent from three-point range. He has had his strong moments, like a stretch of three games out of four where he had 28, 36 and 26 points.
Houston needs Gordon to step up with more frequent games in the range of 20 to 25 points to help the team out of its slump. A good game today would set a nice precedent for him.
Will the Blazers’ Offensive Rebounding Give the Rockets Trouble?
A key part of Portland’s identity early this season has been its offensive rebounding. Nurkic, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Collins and Meyers Leonard all do a good job in that area to penalize times for not boxing them out.
On Houston’s side, defensive rebounding is a weakness. Capela is the team’s only really good rebounder. P.J. Tucker is strong but undersized at power forward and no one else really sticks out in that area.
The Rockets will have to invest a lot of manpower into securing defensive rebounds when they are available in this game.
Our Preview’s Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Betting Picks & Predictions Verdict
At some point, the Rockets have to figure things out. To be fair, they are better than their record indicates — they are 10-7 when Chris Paul and James Harden both play, and 1-7 when one or both is missing.
With Houston coming back home after three consecutive road losses, the motivation should be very high for them. The Blazers are a good team, but they are on a four-game road losing streak and don’t have enough quality depth to punish the Rockets for their short rotation.
- So how do the American odds setters see this? Houston is favored by a reasonable number of 6.5 points. Bet on the Rockets to find enough of a rhythm at home in this game to take down the Blazers by at least that much. Put your money on the Rockets -6.5pts @ best odds of -105 with Bovada. It is -110 with Intertops and BetOnline.
- Both of these teams are on the lower end of the spectrum of pace. I think Houston will lock in on defense in front of its home crowd. Bet on the under 220 total points being scored @ -105, again with Bovada, who offer the best line on this selection.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.