Blazers Rockets

Will The Portland Trail Blazers Close Out Their Series Against The Houston Rockets?

The Portland Trail Blazers may have just lost their second game in the series, but they only need to win one of the next two games in order to finish off the Houston Rockets and advance to the Western Conference Finals. There are several things that the Blazers are doing right, and there are several things they are doing wrong.

So what is the verdict after Game 5?

Again, the Blazers need to rebound the ball. In their three wins of the series, the Blazers have been outrebounded by five twice (59-54 and 49-44) and outrebounded the Rockets by one (43-42). In their overtime loss, the Blazers were outrebounded by six (53-47). In their Game 5 loss, the Blazers were outrebounded by 14 (48-34).

Robin Lopez is only averaging nine rebounds per game in the series. LaMarcus Aldridge is averaging 10.8 rebounds per game, but his time is better spent scoring. Thomas Robinson is not performing at the same rate he had been before the playoffs, Joel Freeland has not been the same since coming back from injury and Myers Leonard has not stepped foot on the floor since the playoffs began.

It’s pretty safe to assume that Dwight Howard and Omer Asik are better on the boards than the Blazers’ bigs. Howard is averaging 14.2 rebounds per game. Asik is averaging 8.4 rebounds per game.

Aldridge is the key to the Rockets’ win. And yes, I meant to say Rockets. In the Blazers’ three wins, Aldridge has averaged 39.3 points per game. In the two losses, he has averaged 15.5 points, including an eight-point outing in the Game 5 loss.

I do not say this often when speaking about basketball, but Aldridge needs to focus on scoring because he is the offensive anchor of the team. Damian Lillard is a strong scorer; he has averaged 25.6 points per game, but he cannot carry the team, especially when the Blazers’ six bench players scored a total of five points in the Game 5 loss.

Interestingly, Robin Lopez’s offense is bad for the Blazers. In the Blazers’ three wins, Lopez averaged just six points per game. In their two losses, Lopez averaged 14 points per game. While I feel for the guy (he probably wants his points as well), Lopez is more of a rebounder and a passer than he is a scorer.

I still like Lopez’s defense on Howard, though. While Howard is still averaging 26 points per game, Lopez is really getting to Howard and it shows. Howard is averaging 55 percent shooting. And, as a center, that is not very impressive. Frankly, Lopez is completely outmatched by Howard. I agree with Shaquille O’Neal is saying that every time Howard gets the ball, he should score over Lopez. But Lopez has really stepped it up when it counts.

Jeremy Lin is also a key to the Rockets, and someone the Blazers need to cut down. In the Blazers’ three wins, Lin has averaged 7.7 points per game. In the Rockets’ two wins, Lin averaged 17 points per game. Despite the whole “Linsanity” thing, he is a scorer and little else. Lillard has streaks where he gives up on defense and that is when Lin gets his big points.

I’m fairly okay with the Blazers losing this game. And that is because the Blazers knew they did not have to win that game and were able to (sort-of) rest their players. James Harden and Chandler Parsons each played 41 minutes in Game 5 and only one Blazer (Lillard) played that many. The Blazers are so reliant on their starters that it will do them wonders to sit a few of them.

I’m expecting the Blazers to close out the Rockets in Game 6 in a big way in the Moda Center, May 2.

Nik Streng

About Nik Streng

Nik is currently the Assistant Sports Information Director at Pacific University, where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in creative writing in 2013. In the summer, he will start work on his Master's Degree at the University of Oregon School of Communication and Journalism. A wrestler for ten years, Nik's favorite sports to watch are football and basketball. His favorite teams are the Kansas City Chiefs, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Portland Trail Blazers.