The Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers meet each other Tuesday night for the fourth and last time this regular season. The Trail Blazers lead the series 2-1, but they’ve lost nine of their previous 14 encounters with the Rockets.
Both teams enter this clash with so much on the table, so let’s take a closer look to find the best bets for this Western Conference showdown. The tip-off is set at 9:00 PM ET.
The Rockets are without Eric Gordon (14.5 PPG, 37.0 FG%). The sharpshooter will miss a couple of weeks due to an ankle injury. The Trail Blazers cannot count on Trevor Ariza (8.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG), Rodney Hood (11.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG), and Caleb Swanigan (2.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG).
What’s at Stake?
The Rockets continue to battle for the highest possible seed in the Western Conference. The race is a mess, as four teams are within 1.5 games, fighting for the No. 3 seed. The Trail Blazers are 10th in the west, just half a game behind the San Antonio Spurs and 2.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
The Rockets are coming off a huge 120-116 victory over the league leaders Milwaukee Bucks this past Sunday. They’ve also defeated the Dallas Mavericks 153-149 in overtime in the re-opener. On the other side, the Trail Blazers have reopened the season with a 140-135 overtime victory over the Memphis Grizzlies, but they lost to Boston 128-124 on Sunday.
Houston thrashed off Portland 132-108 as a 7.5-point home fave in their first meeting of the season back in November. The Trail Blazers bounced back with a couple of victories in January, outlasting the Rockets 117-107 as 8.5-point road dogs and 125-112 as 5-point home dogs.
As I’ve mentioned, the Trail Blazers have won just five of their last 14 meetings with the Rockets. However, the Trail Blazers are 7-3-1 ATS in their previous 11 encounters with Houston, while they are 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS in their last six matchups with the Rockets when listed as underdogs. The under is 6-1 in the last seven meetings between these two conference foes.
This will be the clash of two tremendous backcourts. On one side, we’ll see James Harden and Russell Westbrook for the Rockets. On the other side, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will lead the way for the Trail Blazers.
The Rockets are playing without a true big man at five, forcing small-ball basketball for all 48 minutes. That will be a chance for Jusuf Nurkic and Hassan Whiteside. Nurkic had 30 points and nine boards in a loss to the Celtics. Interestingly, the Rockets outlasted the Bucks despite grabbing 26 rebounds fewer than Milwaukee (69-43).
Houston loves to push the ball in transition. The Rockets’ pace of 103.5 possessions per 48 minutes is the third-fastest in the NBA. The Trail Blazers average 100.7 possessions per 48 minutes (12th in the league).
The Trail Blazers should know how to play against the small-ball Rockets. They’ve proved it a couple of times this season. I believe the Trail Blazers will dominate the Rockets in the paint and manage to keep it close. Therefore, I would go with Portland to cover.
The betting trends are suggesting the under, but I would avoid wagering on the totals. The line will be set sky-high, and these two teams are capable of posting some serious numbers on the scoreboard. The Rockets take the most triples per game (44.6), while the Trail Blazers have the third-best 3-point percentage (37.4%).