Preview: Houston At Portland
When: 10:30 PM ET, Thursday, February 25, 2016
Where: Moda Center at the Rose Quarter, Portland, Oregon
The Portland Trail Blazers are no longer thinking about just making the playoffs, but about earning a higher seed. The Trail Blazers are winners of six straight and 15 of their last 18 and will try to disappoint another team chasing them in the standings when they host the Houston Rockets on Thursday.
Portland came out of the All-Star break in a three-team race for the last two spots in the Western Conference with Houston and Utah but has continued its surge to put those team in the rear-view mirror. The dynamic backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have each gone over 30 points in the last two games after Lillard responded to his All-Star snub by dropping 51 points on the Golden State Warriors on Friday. The Rockets had a chance to claim eighth place in the West on Tuesday but could not find a way around Utah in a 117-114 overtime loss. Houston has dropped seven of its last 10 games, including a pair of losses to the Trail Blazers by an average of 15 points.
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT, ROOT (Houston), CSN Northwest (Portland)
ABOUT THE ROCKETS (28-29): James Harden is doing his part with an average of 34.6 points in the last five games and went for 42 at Utah on Tuesday. Jason Terry buried a 3-pointer to force overtime but could not get another to fall as the extra period came to a close. “This might have been the toughest loss of the season,” Terry told ESPN. “We fought back. Give credit to Utah, they were very resilient, hit big shots. But this one is going to sit with us. We’re going to be (an angry) team when we go into Portland on Wednesday.”
ABOUT THE TRAIL BLAZERS (30-27): Lillard joined Geoff Petrie (1970) as the only players in franchise history to score 30 or more points in five straight games with 34 on Tuesday in a 112-104 over the Brooklyn Nets. Lillard downplayed the big scoring numbers and insisted the small things are the reason for the win streak. “I say it all the time – we don’t have the luxury of coming in and expecting somebody to lay down to us or expecting to win games, period,” Lillard told reporters. “We’ve got to come out, we’ve got to play four quarters, we’ve got to do those small things that make us the team that we’ve become.”
1. McCollum is 12-of-17 from 3-point range in the last three games.
2. Houston G Marcus Thornton, who was returned to the team after a voided three-team trade, could be back in uniform on Thursday.
3. Portland has taken four of the last five in the series.
PREDICTION: Trail Blazers 102, Rockets 99