Well, the playoff picture is set for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Houston Rockets. Houston came out as a fourth seed and Portland ended with the fifth seed. They will now play each other in a seven game, winner take all series to move on to the next round. First, let’s take a look at how each teams’ season went, and then we will look at their regular season series against each other and lastly make some predictions.
The Houston Rockets had a very good season, especially playing well late in the season. They have become a legitimate threat to other teams in the playoffs. With one game left in their regular season, they have a record of 54-27 and are on a two-game winning streak. They will end their season against the Pelicans on Wednesday. They had a very good offense, ranking 2nd in points per game with 107.8 and 5th in field goal percentage. Their defense also held their own, ranking 3rd in blocks, 3rd in opponent’s field goal percentage, fourth in total rebounds, third in defensive rebounds and 15th in offensive rebounds. James Harden has played well, leading the team in points per game, assists per game and steals per game. Dwight Howard has also played spectacular, leading the team in rebounds and is the Rockets second-best scorer.
The Portland Trail Blazers have been quite a surprise this season. There’s not too much to complain about for them. They started the season off very hot, winning eleven games in a row and going 31-9 through the first 40 games of the season. With one game left in the season, against the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, they have a 53-28 record and are riding four-game winning streak. Portland ranks 1st overall in rebounds, 8th in assists, 7th in turnovers, 3rd in points, 8th in three-point percentage and first in free throw percentage. LaMarcus Aldridge has really improved this season, leading the team in scoring and rebounds. Damian Lillard also has had a nice season, second in points per game and leading the team in assists per game.
Regular Season Series
Game 1: Rockets at Portland
In a high scoring game, the Houston Rockets ended up coming out with the first win on November 5. Their all-star tandem of James Harden and Dwight Howard refused to go home with a loss. Harden scored 33 points, Dwight Howard added 29 points and 13 rebounds and the Rockets beat the Trail Blazers 116-101. Jeremy Lin and reserve Patrick Beverly each added 12 points, as well. Howard was dominant under the basketball as Houston outscored Portland 54-28 inside the paint and outrebounded them 47-30. Houston went into half time with a 55-50 lead, but ended up starting the second half on a 15-2 run.
For the Blazers, Damian Lillard scored 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 21 points to lead the Blazers. Wesley Matthews also contributed with 19 points after they let go of a potential three-game winning streak. They let Houston’s lead reach up to 18 points before they started to chip at it. They got it down to five at one point with a jumper from Mo Williams. Unfortunately, Houston quickly got the lead back to double figures and Portland never came back.
Game 2: Rockets at Trail Blazers
In Game 2 of the series, Portland got revenge on Houston. LaMarcus Aldridge had a big night, with 31 points and a career-high 25 rebounds as the Trail Blazers ended up with a 111-104 victory on December 12th. Aldridge added two blocks and two steals. They led by 10 early in the fourth quarter, but Chandler Parsons hit a 3-pointer with 7 minutes left bringing the lead down to 5. Houston got it down to a 2 point game before Portland ran away with it. Blazers center Robin Lopez added 16 points and 10 rebounds to get his 10th double-double of the season.
Dwight Howard had 32 points and 17 rebounds for the Rockets and James Harden added 25 points, 6 rebounds and 7 assists. Houston was without Omer Asik, who missed his fourth straight game with a bruised right thigh. Houston had won two straight before this loss.
Game 3: Portland at Houston
In another high scoring game, Houston re-took the series lead after coming out victorious 126-113 against the Trail Blazers. They brought the series to 2-1. Houston scored more than 70 points in the first half, while Chandler Parsons scored a season-high 31 points and Howard added 24 to bring them to victory. James Harden added 22 points and five assists as Patrick Beverly returned from a broken hand to score 17 points. They dominated Portland all game long, never giving them a chance to fight back.
LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and 20 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who had won seven of their last 11 games. Houston was up by 18 points with about eight minutes left. The Trail Blazers went on a 9-2 run over the next two minutes to cut the lead down to 115-104. Damian Lillard scored 24 points and Wesley Matthews added 18.
Game 4: Portland at Houston
In a game completely controlled by James Harden, the Houston Rockets ended the four-game regular season series against the Portland Trail Blazers winning 3 and losing one. James Harden scored 41 points, with Jeremy Lin scoring 26 as they rallied for a 118-113 overtime victory. Houston trailed by double digits in the fourth quarter before using a big spurt to close the gap. Portland regained the lead 106-103 before Harden made a 3-pointer with seconds left in regulation to send it to overtime. LaMarcus Aldridge led Portland with 28 points and 12 rebounds, Damian Lillard added 21 points and Wesley Matthews scored 26 points.
Throughout the regular season, Houston has done very well against Portland. They ended the series at 3-1 and end up going into the playoffs as a fourth seed. Looking at how well both teams have been playing as of late and the fact that their records are quite similar, I can see this being a really fun and enjoyable series. You would think a series with these two games would go all the way to the seventh and final game. With that being said, I predict Houston advancing to the second round with a 4-3 series win against the Portland Trail Blazers. Don’t be shocked to see some overtime games in there, as well.
Editor’s note: This was a guess post from Justin Becker of FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com. You can follow him on twitter at @NBAFantasyInfo, and you can follow the Fantasy Basketball Money Leagues Google+ Page. For more NBA basketball news visit FantasyBasketballMoneyLeagues.com, a fantasy basketball blog.