National Basketball Association
Preview
Houston at Portland
When: 10:30 PM ET, Friday, April 25, 2014
Where: Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Portland, Oregon

LaMarcus Aldridge has put together back-to-back historic efforts and the Portland Trail Blazers are in position to take a 3-0 series lead when they host the Houston Rockets on Friday in the first-round Western Conference series. Aldridge excelled by recording outings of 46 and 43 points in Portland’s two victories in Houston. The All-Star forward joined Michael Jordan and Tracy McGrady as the only players to post consecutive 40-point outings on the road in Games 1 and 2 of a series.

After Aldridge set a franchise playoff-record in the opener, the Rockets asserted that they would adjust and limit the damage. That didn’t happen as Aldridge was a more efficient shooter in Game 2 (18-of-28) than the opener (17-of-31). “LaMarcus Aldridge killed us once again,” Rockets guard James Harden said after Wednesday’s loss. “Game 3 is our season.” Harden is part of the reason Houston is in a big hole as he is a porous 14-for-47 from the field.

TV:
10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, CSN Houston, KGW (Portland)

ABOUT THE ROCKETS: Harden has wilted badly in the first two playoff games and is shooting just 29.8 percent from the field while averaging 22.5 points. He insisted his offense wasn’t an issue but admitted the club isn’t clicking on all cylinders despite center Dwight Howard pouring in 32 points in Game 2. “We don’t have our same flow, our same mojo that we had throughout the season,” Harden told reporters. “We don’t have our same swag that we go out there and just play and have fun with it. We have to get that back.” Harden also attempted just four free throws in Game 2 – he averaged 9.1 attempts during the regular season.

ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS:
Aldridge has one of the best midrange games in the NBA and Houston hasn’t figured out a way to prevent him from doing whatever he pleases. The 89 points are fourth-most in a team’s first two playoff games over the past 50 years – behind Michael Jordan (1986, 1988) and Jerry West (1965) – and he is also averaging 13 boards in the series. Point guard Damian Lillard is averaging 24.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and eight assists but is thoroughly enjoying Aldridge’s performance. “What can they do to stop him?” Lillard said to reporters. “He was hitting tough fadeaways, getting into the lane, getting guys into the air, drawing guys. He was great once again.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The teams split two regular-season meetings in Portland with Houston’s victory coming by 15 points.

2. Howard is averaging 29.5 points, 14.5 rebounds and four blocks in the series.

3. Trail Blazers SG Wesley Matthews is just 2-of-12 from 3-point range in the series.

PREDICTION:
Rockets 117, Trail Blazers 115
Stats and Records
Team Comparison
  W/L Strk Home Away Day Night Div Conf
Houston 54-30 L3 33-10 21-20 0-4 54-26 11-5 31-23
Portland 56-28 W7 31-10 25-18 2-1 54-27 13-3 33-21
Last Meeting
Houston Portland
Date Away Home Pts Reb FG% Pts Reb FG%
4/23/14 POR 112 HOU 105 105 42 43.3 112 43 47.6
Player Stats
Previous Matchup
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston D. Howard 32 59.1 6
Portland L. Aldridge 43 64.3 7
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston D. Howard 14 6 8
Portland R. Lopez 10 4 6
Assists Player  
Houston J. Lin 5
Portland D. Lillard 11
Season
Points Player Total FG% FTM
Houston J. Harden 2027 45.3 622
Portland D. Lillard 1886 42.3 429
Rebounds Player Total Off Def
Houston D. Howard 959 259 700
Portland L. Aldridge 822 181 641
Assists Player  
Houston J. Harden 483
Portland D. Lillard 499
Quickchart Matchup
Houston Off vs  Portland Defense
107.8 Points For
103.0 Points Against
47.1 FG%
45.0 FG%
45.5 Reb
43.6 Reb
Portland Off vs  Houston Defense
107.0 Points For
103.4 Points Against
45.0 FG%
44.3 FG%
43.6 Reb
41.8 Reb