The Portland Trail Blazers missing their star point guard and are 5-2 in games without Damian Lillard. He’s day-to-day.
The Houston Rockets are missing their star point guard and are 2-2 in games without James Harden. He’s out for the foreseeable future.
While Houston has lost against two playoff teams (Golden State and Detroit) and beat two bottom-dwellers in the East (Orlando and Chicago), the Blazers have pulled off a couple of impressive victories during their recent three game winning streak.
They beat a San Antonio Spurs team missing Kawhi Leonard and others, but that same Spurs group has beaten just about everyone else and you can’t discount any Gregg Popovich team. Then, they went into Oklahoma City and demolished the Thunder in the second half en route to a 117-106 win.
The Blazers have to be flying high with confidence. C.J. McCollum has been his typical lethal self, averaging 24 points per game and shooting 54% from the field. Shabazz Napier has stepped into the starting lineup and is getting 15/5 on 67% shooting. Oh, and Jusuf Nurkic is also hazardous to most defenses.
Even Zach Collins is showing signs that he’s legit. And never forget the Meyers Leonard might be the most divisive player among Blazers fans yet always saves his best games for the Rockets. Get ready for him to hit five triples tonight.
For Houston, the key is once again their defense. They can score with anyone, even without James Harden. However, if Chris Paul and company can’t keep opponents from blitzing them, it’s going to be as if the Rockets are living out a Counting Crows sequel song and having a long January.
Tip-off is at 7pm CT