Apr 27, 2014; Portland, OR, USA; Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons (25) shoots over Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez (42) in the first half in game four of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center. Mandatory Credit: Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Houston Rockets Face The Portland Trail Blazers In A Must-Win Game Five

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Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

After an extremely disappointing loss on Sunday night, the Houston Rockets are now down 3-1 in this first round against the Portland Trail Blazers. It doesn’t need to be said, but the Rockets will have to win tonight to stay in the playoff picture. So, how can they defeat the Trail Blazers for the second time in the series? Who will most likely have an impact on the game?

Matchups

Point guardDamian Lillard vs. Patrick Beverley

Looking at this matchup gives many people different opinions. While Lillard can score the ball with ease, Beverley is a pretty good defender. Sadly, Beverley hasn’t been living up to expectations. Whether it’s the torn meniscus causing him to be rusty or just feeling sick, who knows? He’s just not quite himself. Hopefully Beverley can get back in rhythm tonight and help with defense and ball movement. We all know that Lillard heats up at one point in the game. All we need, is for Beverley to chase him around and make him feel uncomfortable.

Edge: Trail Blazers

Shooting guardWesley Matthews vs. James Harden

Harden should completely dominate this matchup as most of us would think. As of late however,  Harden has been in a really bad slump at the wrong time. The ironic thing,is that the Trail Blazers aren’t guarding him that well. Sure, give credit to Matthews for contesting some of his shots, but Harden is honestly hurting himself in a number of ways.

Lately, he hasn’t been completely agressive. Whenever he drives to the rim, he can draw the foul, or perhaps get an easy bucket. Don’t ask why, but he hasn’t been doing that as of late. When you are in a slump like James is, you would want to move a little closer and knock down shots that aren’t as “hard” to make.

Another thing that drives all of us insane, is that he sometimes dribbles the ball for 15 seconds, then forces a shot or makes a late pass forcing a bad shot on a teammate. If it weren’t for his step-back jumpers, he would be a non-factor. We can also talk about his lack of awareness on defense, but let’s hold off on that. Tonight is a home game, and a must-win game for the Rockets. Expect Harden to become extremely motivated and be ready. He better be.

Edge: Rockets

Small ForwardNicolas Batum vs. Chandler Parsons

Both of these guys have rose to the occasion in this series big time. Whether it was Batum igniting a spark to the Blazers’ comeback win, or Parsons keeping his team in the game, both of these guys have really made an impact, one way or another.

When the Trail Blazers are having a tough time scoring, expect them to hand the ball to Batum, and let him heat up. Same for the Rockets. They especially need Parsons to heat up and contribute, because he really helps the team find good looks. Chandler came off of a big game in Portland on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to push the Rockets to the finish line. Both of these players can provide a spark.I expect Parsons to have a huge game tonight.

Edge: Rockets

Power forwardLaMarcus Aldridge vs. Omer Asik

Perhaps the biggest deciding factor in this game: STOP ALDRIDGE! We’ve all seen enough of Aldridge dropping outrageous numbers in this series. When Asik guards Aldridge, LaMarcus has a hard time scoring the ball. Asik is basically in the game to guard Aldridge, crash the boards, and to perhaps score off of the offensive rebounds.

Based on the success from Aldridge as of late, expect him to still find his rhythm and score on most plays that are specifically for him. Asik will definitely make it harder for Aldridge to score, but LaMarcus has exceeded expectations as of late, and he has the advantage in this matchup. We could only hope that he will cool off.

Edge: Trail Blazers

CenterRobin Lopez vs. Dwight Howard

Very interesting watching these two guys go head-to-head. Howard definitely wants the ball given to him down low a lot more. Personally though, I just don’t think that going to him as the number one option should occur. I hope that Dwight will crash the boards, and score off of the offensive rebounds just like Asik. Although Howard has been dominating Lopez on the offensive end, i’d rather have ball movement and get the players good looks. Whatever the strategy is, Howard still has the advantage.

Edge: Rockets

Bench

Portland Trail Blazers – Thomas Robinson, Dorell Wright, Joel Freeland, Mo Williams, Meyers Leonard, Earl Watson, C.J. McCollum, and Will Barton

Houston Rockets – Terrence Jones, Jeremy Lin, Troy Daniels, Josh Powell, Donatas Motiejunas, Jordan Hamilton, Omri Casspi, and Francisco Garcia

Edge: Even

Prediction

A must-win game for the Houston Rockets. The game is being played at home, and they should take care of business. I expect them to build a decent size lead, and hold on to it. Come out with energy, and force a game 6! I got the Rockets winning tonight, 114-105.

Tonight’s gamee is scheduled to start at 8:30 PM CST, and can be seen on TNT or CSN Houston.

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