The Portland Trail Blazers have decided that they aren't really interested in rebuilding.
After losing or trading away four of their five starters, the Blazers looked like a team destined to finish towards the bottom of the Western Conference and have a shot at landing Ben Simmons. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum, and the Blazers have progressed faster than most expected. Couple that with a down year in the Western Conference and you get the currently ninth-seeded Blazers just one game out of the playoffs.
What has made the Blazers so good this season? Well, there's a few reasons.
Obviously, the backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is capable of scoring tons of points. Both are good three point shooters and Lillard is adept at getting to the free throw line.
Second, the Blazers finally have a bit of a bench. For the last few seasons, Portland depended on a great starting unit to carry the team. They got lucky with health until Wesley Matthews blew out his Achilles last season and had to depend on Arron Afflalo. Now the bench consists of players like Gerald Henderson, Ed Davis, Allen Crabbe, and Rocket-Killer Meyers Leonard (or Meyers Legend if you're a Portland fan). Those are serviceable backups that are rarely going to cost you games. In this league, that's a big deal.
Finally, the young Blazers get after the glass. They're currently third in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing over a quarter of their missed field goals. More chances means more opportunities for Lillard and company to make something happy.
So for Houston, the keys will be finding a way to stop the vaunted young backcourt, playing even or better with the Blazers' bench, and gang-rebounding on defense.
Tip-off is at 4pm CST.
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