The inside track for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot tips-off in Houston Friday night.
The Houston Rockets host the Portland Trailblazers at the Toyota Center, with point Jeremy Lin and Houston holding a one-game lead over Portland for the eighth seed. Their two previous meetings have gone to overtime, with Portland prevailing each time. A loss for the Rockets could hurt them down the road in the playoff race.
The Rockets countered a seven-game losing streak in January, with a 6-3 mark in their last nine games, and hope to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Portland last made the postseason in 2011, when they lost to the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks in the first round.
The Blazers failed to gain some ground on Houston Wednesday night, when they fell to the struggling Mavericks 105-99 Wednesday. Portland kept up the Dallas for most of the night, but shot 6-for-18 in the fourth quarter, and struggled from the three-point line.
Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge pumped in 27 points and snagged 10 rebounds, while rookie sensation point guard Damian Lillard tallied 19 points and six assists.
Houston had no trouble from beyond the arc against the Golden State Warriors, tying the NBA record of 23 three-pointers in a single game on Tuesday, but couldn’t repeat that performance the next night in a 114-108 loss to the Miami Heat.
Guard James Harden continued his efficient scoring ways with a game-high 36 points, and Omer Asik netted 15 points and 14 rebounds, but the Rockets went 9-for-25 from three and committed 16 turnovers.
Lin struggled, going 3-for-10 for 13 points and three assists. Lin only attempted two three-pointers after going 5-for-8 against Golden State, and may look to re-find his stroke against Portland
Coverage of the game begins at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast by CSN Houston or CSNN depending on your region of the country. You can watch a live online stream of the game by purchasing NBA League Pass Broadband here.
Betting Odds: Houston is favored by 7 points
Over/Under: 211 points
Prediction: Harden and Lin should have a field day with Portland’s younger backcourt, while Asik and Aldridge trading blows down low. The team with the rebounding advantage should prevail, with Houston holding down home court.
Predicted Score: Houston 105, Portland 99