Western Conference playoff contenders trending in opposite directions face each other today as the 19-4 Houston Rockets visit the 13-11 Portland Trail Blazers (10 p.m. ET Saturday).
The Rockets have won eight straight and 13 of their last 14 games now. Only one of those 13 wins came by fewer than 11 points. With Chris Paul back from injury, this squad looks almost invincible.
Portland, meanwhile, has lost three consecutive contests, all on its home court. None of the Blazers’ opponents in the stretch were particularly formidable, either.
Houston will do everything in its power to keep this groove going, while Portland is trying to reverse course as quickly as possible. We will discuss some factors that will affect each team’s ability to play well and then decide how the contest will play out and make our predictions and picks.
Is the Trail Blazers’ Replacement Center Ready to Bang With Clint Capela Inside?
Blazers starting center Jusuf Nurkic is dealing with an ankle injury and will miss this game because of it. This is a major blow to Portland, because Nurkic’s interior presence on both ends is key to the team’s success, especially on defense.
His replacement will likely be Noah Vonleh, who is a high-energy role player who rebounds well. Unfortunately, he is not a fearsome rim protector. Capela puts a lot of pressure on the rim with his pick-and-roll play and will test Vonleh there.
Capela isn’t immune to foul trouble, though. That is probably Vonleh’s best avenue to outplay his opposing center in this contest.
Can Anyone on Portland Hang With James Harden Defensively?
This isn’t just a rhetorical question that illustrates how good Harden is. The Blazers literally need someone who will hound The Beard all night, forcing the superstar shooting guard into tough shots and getting hands on his passes and dribbles.
Harden is having the best season of his career, with insane marks of 31.6 points per game a 63.1 true shooting percentage. In his last 16 games, he has failed to score 29 points in all but two contests.
Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless are the two players who are most likely to limit Harden, though Harkless is questionable with a quad injury. Remember, however, that another star shooting guard, Bradley Beal, dropped 51 points on the Blazers in Portland’s most recent game. Harden is even better.
Is Al-Farouq Aminu’s Improved Three-Point Shooting For Real?
Over the past couple of seasons, the Blazers have established themselves as a team with two excellent three-point shooters (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum) and few other outside weapons.
Aminu, however, has provided a spark from downtown in his 11 games this season. The veteran forward has hit nearly two three-pointers per game at a 45.7 percent so far. He just hit five of his eight long balls against the Wizards on Tuesday.
To hang with the Rockets’ vaunted outside attack, the Blazers need to get some three-point game going themselves. Aminu must continue to hit those open shots that teams will give him.
Our Preview’s Houston Rockets at Portland Trail Blazers Betting Picks & Predictions
I’ve given up on underestimating the Rockets, especially on the road. They’re 9-3 against the spread when they play in other teams’ arenas, while the Blazers are 3-9-2 against the spread at home.
Trends here suggest the effect of home-court advantage could be minimal in this contest, and the Rockets (especially given the Blazers’ injuries) are just a far superior team.
- Despite Houston being a heavy favorite here (9.5 points) with the major American sports betting sites, this team rarely wins by fewer points than that. The best odds of Rockets -9.5pts @ -110 can be found at Bovada, Bookmaker, 5Dimes and BetOnline.
- The loss of Nurkic decimates the Blazers’ defense, which has been strong to this point in the season. Houston’s offense right now is playing fast and extremely efficiently right now. Our preview’s prediction and pick is to bet the over 214.5 @ -110 with BetOnline. The spread is higher with the other bookies.