Portland Trailblazers vs. Houston Rockets Preview and Pick

Portland Trailblazers +4.5 (35-20) at Houston Rockets -4.5 (35-21) O/U 191 8:30 PM ET Tuesday February 24, 2009
By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight in a big Western Conference game the Portland Blazers travel to the Lone Star State to play the short-handed Houston Rockets. The Rockets have to play the rest of the season without Tracy McGrady, who is out with a knee injury. It’s the same old song and dance for the Rockets, as the main thing keeping their back in the inability to stay healthy. These teams are neck and neck in the West, as the Blazers are game ahead of the Rockets holding the 4th position, while the Rockets hold the 5th position. Both teams are playing well as of late, as they are both 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Rockets have won 4 games in a row and the Blazers have won 3 in a row. Both these teams really want to get into the top 4 in the Western Conference in order to host a first round playoff series.

This season the Rockets are 22-6 at home and the Blazers are less than .500 away from home, as they are only 12-15 in away games.

Hoops bookies have the Rockets as 4.5 point favorites with a total around 191. The Rockets are posted at -135 as home favorites and the Blazers are posted at +115 as away dogs.

The Rockets come into this game after crushing the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday night 99-78. The high scorer for in that game was Ron Artest going for 26 points on 9/15 shooting. For the game the Rockets shot well going 36/72 for a FG% of 50%. On D the Rockets played great holding the Bobcats to 27/75 for a FG% of only 36%.

The Blazers come into this game after laying a beat-down on the L.A. Clippers, yeah tough, on Sunday 116.87. The High scorer for the Blazers in that game was LeMarcus Aldridge going for 28 points on 13/20 shooting and also grabbing 10 boards. For the game the Blazers shot lights out, going 48/92 for a FG% of 52.2%. On D the Blazers played great only allowing the Clippers to shoot 27/79 for a FG% of 36.7%.

This season both teams are pretty even in terms of team offense and defense. The Blazers rank 16th in scoring this season (99.3 ppg) and the Rockets rank 18th (98.6 ppg) and on defense the Rockets rank 8th in points allowed (94.9 ppg) and the Blazers rank 9th (95.1 ppg). Both teams are legit on the boards, as the Blazers have a rebounding differential of +5.2 rpg and the Rockets are at +3.2 rpg.

This season the Rockets are 26-29-1 ATS and the Blazers are 28-27. In terms of Over/Under games this season the Rockets are 29-26-1 and the Blazers are 24-31.

On the injury front SG Martell Webster is Out and Greg Oden is day-to-day for the Blazers and Tracy McGrady is Out for the Rockets.

With the loss of McGrady and trading away starting PG Rafer Alston the Rockets were suppose to struggle but other players are stepping up and new starting PG Aaron Brooks is averaging 13 ppg, 5.5 assists and 5 rpg in two games since becoming the starter. Brooks cannot let Blazers’ PG Steve Blake (11 ppg) penetrate and dish out to Roy beyond the arc, as Roy is shooting over 40% from downtown.

Greg Oden (9 ppg 7.2 rpg) (if he even plays) is banged up and will have to play good D on Yao Ming (19.8 ppg) and keep him off the boards. It’s likely that the chore will be given to Joel Pryzbillia and a host of reserves.

The key match up in this game will be defensive ace Ron Artest against Brandon Roy (22.8 ppg) If Artest can contain Roy and not let him have a big scoring game, the Rockets will be in good shape.

LeMarcus Aldridge (17.9 ppg) has to play good inside tonight and give the Blazers some big inside buckets.

The Rockets are a good defensive team and if they can bottle up Roy and Aldridge they should easily win this game, as the Blazers do not have a lot of scoring options.

If the Rockets can win this home game they will leapfrog over the Blazers and take over 4th position in the Western Conference.

Jason’s Pick: I like the Blazers to cover.