When people complained about the Rockets early season schedule (yes, I know I did a lot of complaining too), I liked to point out that the Rockets have played the Spurs twice in San Antonio, the Jazz twice in Utah (never easy for Houston), Indiana in Indy, and Portland twice. The Rockets are 4-3 in those games.
Those are some of the toughest road games on a schedule, along with the eventual trips to Denver, OKC, and Miami.
Finally, the Rockets get the Blazers at home, and must capitalize on games at the Toyota Center. The Blazers have already beaten the Spurs and Mavericks on their Texas Triangle road swing, so Houston is the only team left to keep the Blazers from being Texas State champions. They kept the Knicks from accomplishing that goal earlier this month.
The Blazers have been incredibly lucky with injuries. So far, none of their starters have missed a game. Yes, the Blazers have had 1 starting lineup combination all year. The Rockets didn't miss a game from Omer Asik or Jeremy Lin last year until the playoffs, but they did lose games from other starters.
That's really important for the Blazers because their bench, while better than last year's group, is still not great. There is talent there, though. It's going to take a full 48 minutes to beat the Blazers.
For the Americans among us, Happy MLK Day! Hope you are off from work/school and enjoying the day with your families. For those outside of America, you know I love you too and hope your day is also fantastic.
Tip off is at 7pm CST on TNT.
Point Guard: Jeremy Lin/Patrick Beverley vs. Damien Lillard
I don't know who will start, but Lillard is better than either player.
Shooting Guard: James Harden vs. Wesley Matthews
In his last 5 games, Matthews is shooting 47% from three. Why can't one Rocket shoot in that area? PLEASE???
Small Forward: Chandler Parsons vs. Nicolas Batum
Generic comment about how important these players are to their team and are generally pretty similar in talent and ability.
General disclaimer that people will disagree with that assessment, but the stats say they're almost the same overall. Parsons averages more points, but Batum grabs more boards and dishes out more assists.
Power Forward: Terrence Jones vs. LaMarcus Aldridge
LMA was a ridiculous +40 against the Mavericks. Remember, most of that came while guarding Dirk Nowitzki.
He's so good, I can't even express it in words.
I know Jones was great against the Bucks, but the Bucks are not the Blazers.
Center: Dwight Howard vs. Robin Lopez
The Rockets need to feed the beast tonight.
I predict that Charles Barkley and Shaq will critique Dwight's post game no matter what.
I also predict that I won't care, because basketball was more considerate of big men when those two played, and now most of the rules benefit guards and perimeter players. So they can take their advice and shove it.
Rockets: Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi, Greg Smith (maybe), Donatas Motiejunas
Blazers: Thomas Robinson, Mo Williams, Joel Freeland, Dorell Wright, Meyers Leonard, C.J. McCollum, Will Barton
Prediction: Rockets come up with a big win in OT, 106-99.
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