Houston Rockets (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Portland Trail Blazers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS), 10:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, October 27, 2009, Rose Garden Arena, Portland, ORby Ryno of Predictem.com
Point Spread: Rockets +9.5/Trail Blazers -9.5
The Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers will get their NBA season underway in Portland. Both teams are coming off a great season last year, but the Blazers are more optimistic than the Rockets coming into the new season.
Rockets center Yao Ming had foot surgery and is out for the season. Tracy McGrady has a knee injury and won’t be playing for at least a few weeks. That leaves the Rockets with a bunch of role players to hold the team together.
Aaron Brooks is now the go-to guy in Houston. The scoring point guard averaged 11.2 points and 3.0 assists per game last season. He stepped up in the playoffs with almost 17 points per game, including a 34-point effort against the Lakers.
Surrounding him will be the likes of Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, Luis Scola, Kyle Lowry, rookie Chase Budinger and newcomer Trevor Ariza, who was signed in the offseason after playing for the Lakers last season. Ariza could challenge Brooks as the feature player on offense, but Ariza will certainly be an asset on defense. He can lock down the opposing team’s best wing player and he can knock down perimeter jumpers and use his athleticism to get to the rim on offense. Budinger is a 6-foot-7 wing player who has good athleticism and will give the Rockets a 3-point threat on the perimeter.
The Trail Blazers are coming off a 54-win season and they should be even better than last season. The Blazers signed point guard Andre Miller in the offseason and added some depth in the frontcourt with Juwan Howard. Miller helped improve the Sixers over the past couple years and hopes to do the same in Portland. He is very good at running the offense and will score some points when he has to. But the Blazers have plenty of scoring options.
The main scoring option for the Blazers is Brandon Roy, one of the most underrated stars in the league. The 6-foot-6 small forward can score from anywhere on the court and he knows how to hit the big shot down the stretch. The Blazers have plenty of other perimeter threats, such as Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster and Nicolas Batum (Update: Batum is out 3-5 months with a shoulder injury).
The best matchup in this game will be Roy vs. Ariza. Roy is the better offensive player, but Ariza is the better defensive player. Both players are similar in size and it will be interesting which player gets the best of that matchup. The Blazers have the size advantage down low, but Greg Oden hasn’t yet proven that he can be a dominant player. The most important matchup will be at point guard, where Miller and Brooks will face off. Miller has the size and experience advantages, but Brooks has the quickness advantage.
The Blazers were 54-28 overall last season and 46-36 ATS. They were tied with the Cavs for the best home ATS record at 27-14. The Blazers were also 33-20 ATS as a favorite. The Rockets had a 53-29 record last season and 40-41-1 ATS. They were 20-21 ATS on the road and 11-9 ATS as an underdog.
The Rockets are 24-8 ATS since 1997 as an underdog of more than nine points. They’ve covered in their last four games in those situations, including an 89-95 loss at Boston last season when the Rockets were 10-point underdogs. The Blazers were 4-9 ATS last season when favored by more than nine points.
Ryno’s Pick: The Blazers definitely have a better roster than the Rockets, but for a team with clearly less talent than the Blazers, Houston matches up fairly well with them. Brooks will be able to score on Miller, and Ariza should be able to contain Roy. The Rockets also have other solid defenders like Battier, Landry, Scola and Hayes. The Blazers won’t dominate too much down low with Oden and Aldridge. Winning by 10 points on opening night isn’t too easy, and the Rockets were pretty good in the playoffs last season when they defeated the Blazers and almost upset the Lakers. With the ATS records for both teams as strong as they are with such a high spread, it makes this an easy pick. Take the Rockets +9.5.