Houston (28-29) at Portland (30-27)
When: Thursday, February 25th 2016
Where: Moda Center, Portland, OR
Time: 10:35 ET | TV: TNT
The surging Portland Trail Blazers conclude their five-game home stand when they host the Houston Rockets on Thursday night. The Blazers beat up the Rockets 116-103 to open the home stand prior to the All-Star Break and look to complete it with a perfect 5-0 record. Overall, the Blazers have won six straight games and 15 of their last 18. At one point, it was looking iffy that they would make the playoffs, but now they have distanced themselves from the bottom of the playoff seedings. Portland currently sits at 7th in the West, two games clear of Houston (9th) and just three games back of the five seed. Guards Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum have been the driving force in their recent run. The pair 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. 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. McCollum has been on fire from long range hitting 12-of-17 from beyond the arc in the last three games. Portland will start a six-game East Coast road trip after tonight beginning Saturday in Chicago.
Houston is a team going in the opposite direction and are on the outside looking in a the playoffs. The Rockets are 1-3 on their current five-game road trip that ends tonight in Portland. Tuesday’s loss was particularly hurtful as the Utah Jazz took over the 8th spot in the West with a 117-114 overtime victory over the Rockets. Houston has dropped seven of its last 10 games, including a pair of losses to the Trail Blazers by an average of 15 points. James Harden is doing his part with an average of 34.6 points in the last five games and scored 42 in the loss to Utah on Tuesday. Dwight Howard, who was the talk of some trade rumors prior to last week’s trade deadline, grabbed 16 rebounds on Tuesday and now has 13 or more boards in five of his last six games. Defense has been an issue for Houston all season allowing an average of 106.8 points a game (28th) and 46.3% shooting (25th). They have given up 116 points or more in three of the last four games and now have to slow down a hot Blazers team.
I like the way Portland is playing right now and when you get great guard play, you’re hard to stop. This seems like a small number to lay against a team struggling to slow down anyone recently.
Pick: Blazers -4.5