Game Preview: Houston Rockets vs Portland Trailblazers

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After a heart-breaking loss to the Thunder, the Rockets head back home to take on the Portland Trailblazers, on the second night of a back to back. Going into Thursday's game the Rockets rank 9th in offensive rating, 18th in defensive rating, and 11th in net rating. The Rockets continue to be led in scoring and assists by James Harden (28.7 points and 12.5 assists per game), and in rebounding by Clint Capela, who is pulling in 8.7 rebounds a night.

The Trailblazers have started the season 7-5, but have not looked as good as a 7-5 team should. The Trailblazers are 23rd in SRS (Simple Rating System), which is a net rating adjusted for scheduled strength, and 24th in net rating, both marks are the worst for any team over .500. The Trailblazers also rank 14th in offensive rating and  28th in defensive rating. The Trailblazers are led in scoring and assists by Damian Lillard (29.8 points a game and 4.6 assists), and in rebounding by Al-Farouq Aminu (6.6 rebounds per game).

Starting Lineups

Patrick Beverley is set to return to the starting lineup after missing the first 11 games due to a minor knee surgery and is expected to start. Beverley returning will move Gordon back to his sixth-man role, where he can try to give the second unit offense some punch. The Rockets are likely to put  James Harden at point guard, Patrick Beverley at shooting guard, Trevor Ariza at small forward, Ryan Anderson at power forward, and Clint Capela at center on the floor to start the game against the Trailblazers.

The Trailblazers are trying to get better internally, returning mostly the same roster, losing no core players while bringing in Evan Turner, who plays as their sixth-man. The Trailblazers will likely start Damian Lillard at point guard, CJ McCollum at shooting guard, Maurice Harkless at small forward, Al-Farouq Aminu at power forward, and Mason Plumlee at center, with Evan Turner and Allan Crabbe both playing over 23 minutes a game.

Three Things to Watch

  • Pat is back! - With the return of Patrick Beverley, the Rockets finally have the starting lineup they've envisioned since the off-season. Watch to see if Beverley adds the defensive intensity he's known for to the Rockets and how D'Antoni's rotations change.

  • Go away Nene - Nene signed with the Rockets for below market value this off-season, so either they feel like they owe him the right to close game, or D'Antoni is out of his mind. Nene has struggled on the glass and defensively all season - two areas where Clint Capela shines - and as of late has had trouble holding onto passes. The supposed reasoning for this is that Nene is a better free throw shooter, but with Hack-A being banned from the last two minutes, it's hard to see how a low usage big like Capela (who is shooting 9/13 from the line the last four games) is that much of a hindrance. Watch to see if D'Antoni continues to bang his head against the wall, or if he finally allows Capela to close games.

  • Playoffs? - I know it's early, but the Rockets could end up battling the Trailblazers for seeding in the playoffs (maybe even the last spot), so this is an important game, especially after last night's dud. Watch to see how much intensity the Rockets come out with Thursday night, just a day after blowing a game to the Thunder.


Prediction and Tip-Off

This game could go either way. Almost all of the metrics have the Rockets as the better team, and they are playing at home. However, back-to-backs, especially when there was a road game the night before, are always tough. This game will be a toss up, but I'll say the Rocket's win, because I need it for my sanity.

Tip-off will be at 7:00 P.M. Central Time in the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas on Thursday, November 17th. It will be televised on ROOT sports with the radio broadcast on Sports Talk 790-AM.

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