Sports Out West

James Harden says Blazers will be major test

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America

As the Houston Rockets (15-7) get set to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (18-4) at the Moda Center, Rockets guard James Harden knows it will take a near-perfect game from Houston to defeat the Blazers for the second time this season. Houston handed Portland its first home loss of the season on Nov. 5, 2013.

Houston handed Portland its second loss on the season, the first at the Moda Center on November 5th before the Blazers went on an 11-game winning streak that lasted nearly the entire month, and they did it behind 33 points from Harden and 29 from Dwight Howard. – CSNNW

With Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge in the starting lineup, there is no shortage of “weapons” of the Blazers. As touched upon by Harden in the interview, Portland’s ability to hurt the opponent from the outside, mid-range, and inside is the main reason they are off to one of the best starts in franchise history. Portland’s starting lineup (Lillard, Matthews, Batum, Aldridge, Robin Lopez) is the league’s second-ranked high-usage unit, sporting a net efficiency rating of +12.1.  Only the Indiana Pacers’ starting five is better. For how well the starting unit has played, Portland’s bench has been quite the opposite. The Blazers’ bench ranks 27th in the league in scoring, averaging just 23.4 points per game.

AccuScore has Portland as a slight 54.7 percent favorite to win Thursday night versus Houston. The average score after 10,000 simulations is: 109-108. The key to the game will be how competitive Houston can stay to start the second half. So far this season, the Blazers have been 10.4 points per 100 possessions better than opponents; in the first half of games, they have only been about one point better than their opponents. 

Thursday night’s game tips off at 7:30 PST. The game will be shown on TNT following the Los Angeles Clippers-Brooklyn Nets game.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images North America

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Rohit Ghosh

Rohit is an L.A.-based sports journalist who contributes to SB Nation's Silver Screen and Roll, AccuScore, and the Taxi Squad Show based out of Utah. He also runs his own sports blog, Metta Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter @RohitGhosh where he discusses AccuScore projection data, a variety of sports-related topics, and even some Jazz music.