The Houston Rockets are coming off possibly their best win of the season when they limped into Salt Lake City and took down the red-hot Jazz despite missing James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Clint Capela. The Rockets, buoyed by a career high 50 points from Eric Gordon and contributions up and down the bench, came out victorious in a game that Las Vegas expected them to lose by 15.
Now, the Rockets will complete their road trip in Portland, home of the hottest player in basketball, Lord Voldemort himself, Damian Lillard. Portland is currently three back in the loss column for the eighth and final playoff spot, and seemed to indicate they were punting on the season by cutting their payroll when they traded Kent Bazemore to Sacramento for Trevor Ariza.
Lillard has been having himself a great January and has the inside track to Player of the Month. He’s coming off Player of the Week honors and has dropped 61, 47, and 50 points in his last three games. He’s also tallied 7 or more assists and 6 or more rebounds in each of those games. Put simply, he’s playing at the level Harden was playing at last January. Now all that remains to be seen is if he can continue this torrid pace and drag Portland into the postseason.
These teams met just a couple of weeks ago. The Rockets were mired in their biggest slump to date and it got worse after that game before it has started to trend in a better direction.
Tonight, Houston will get back Westbrook and probably Harden back. Expect Carmelo Anthony to try just a bit harder than usual tonight like he did in the last matchup. The Rockets can let Lillard get his numbers, but CJ McCollum and Hassan Whiteside join in on the fun, Houston will be in trouble. Of immediate interest is how Mike D’Antoni will react with his rotations in light of how Houston played in Utah.
Tonight’s game also features six players who have scored 50 or more points in an NBA game: Harden, Westbrook, Gordon, Lillard, McCollum, and Anthony. There have been games with seven such players, but it’s always pretty cool to see so many good scorers on the court at the same time.
Tip-off is at 9pm CT on ESPN