Season series: 3-0 Houston Rockets, 1 to play
How do we evaluate the Blazers? They are playing some extremely good ball, including a recent 13-game win streak. Unfortunately for them, it was abruptly ended by the Rockets, yet good ball nonetheless.
The first question to ask is this: are these the real Blazers the Rockets will face in the playoffs? Or, are they peaking slightly too soon? The answer, quite honestly, is it doesn’t matter. Not to the Rockets anyway.
Houston marched in to Portland, the Blazers with 13-straight wins under their belt. Houston left Portland’s feelings all hurt because of a Chris Paul layup. Sure, Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum combined for 0-of-12 from deep. However, that won’t typically happen. But, Al-Farouq Aminu going 6-of-8 and Maurice Harkless going 5-of-5 are unlikely to happen again as well. Especially considering Harkless has no timetable to return from a knee procedure.
The Blazers are 10th in the league in net rating, third since the All-Star Break. Not too shabby. Except that the Rockets are first in both. So, it’s not that Portland isn’t good, because they are. It’s just that Houston is better. Yes, that’s a lazy argument that can be used virtually anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it has no merit. The Rockets are very, very, very good. Everything Portland is good at, the Rockets are one step better.
Ghosts of the Past
Lillard has been a beast this season and has dominated the Rockets in the playoffs once before. He played lights out and completely shut down Houston. However, Paul, historically, owns that matchup and that’s without the help of Harden.
As of now, the Blazers have a small cushion for the three seed. So, this matchup could be the most hypothetical of them all. Both Houston and Portland would have to advance to the conference final to match up. If that happens, the Rockets should be ecstatic all things considered.