Portland Trailblazers: 28-22 (8-16 on the road), 4-6 in their last 10
Houston Rockets: 30-20 (14-9 at home), 9-1 in their last 10
The good guys are 2-0 on the season versus Portland. An 89-80 victory at home early on and an 89-79 win at Portland, handing them their first loss to a team in the West at home on January 25. Both 10 point victories came on the heals of hellacious defense by the Rockets. In the first game the Rockets held them to 12 in the first, 19 in the second and 15 in the third. They led by 18 and relaxed in the fourth of that game as did the Trailblazers as both teams mostly traded baskets. In the second game the Rockets took the opposite tactic, letting Portland out to a lead and then clamping down allowing 12 in the third tying the game up and 17 in the fourth to outscore them by 10.
The Trailblazers have struggled after their mid-first half hot streak. They've suffered from some players absences lately, most notably Roy has been out with a death in the family the last two games. I for one am hoping he does not decide that this needs to be a dedication game. Please save that for a home game Brandon. Since a 17-1 streak from December 3rd to January 9th, Portland has struggled to the tune of 6-9.
Portland has 8 road victories on the year: Memphis by 1, Utah by 8, Denver by 11, Minnesota by 11, Chicago by 6 in OT, New Jersey by 26, Miami by 7, and Atlanta by 2 in OT. Only the last two came while outside of the 17-1 streak. Beating Utah and Denver by those margins are great wins on the road, but beating Memphis by 1 (The Rockets actually lost there, so I'm not casting stones) and Atlanta by 2 in OT really evens them out. Utah was also struggling during that stretch and frankly I'm not convinced that Denver is that good (They have a ton of potential but too many wildcards on that team).
The Rockets should win this game. They really should. The Trailblazers only have warm bodies to foul Yao to keep him in check. Luckily for us Yao is an excellent free throw shooter, so that should eliminate any issue there. Portland simply does not match up well with the Rockets. If Roy doesn't make it back or Aldridge doesn't play that will just amplify the issue for them.
What is my prediction? Win number 7 of 10 in a row. With the win against the Hawks the Rockets are finally a better home team than a road team, let's keep it up gentlemen.
Dave over at BlazersEdge has a good preview of the game.