Trail Blazers vs. Rockets Odds & Picks: Back Houston to Handle Struggling Portland
Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Houston Rockets star Victor Oladipo.
- The Houston Rockets host the struggling Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.
- Houston is not letting opponents fire away from deep, and Portland is not very good at scoring without the long-range shot.
- With that in mind, Brandon Anderson breaks down how he's betting this game and shares his pick below.
Trail Blazers vs. Rockets Odds
|Trail Blazers Odds||+2.5|
|Moneyline||+118 / -138|
|Time||9:30 p.m. ET|
The Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets have been playoff mainstays in the West for many years, but neither looks like a sure bet this season.
Houston is the bigger question mark. After trying for years to find James Harden the right dancing partners, and moving on from Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, the Rockets decided the right partner this time around was Brooklyn and moved on from Harden entirely.
With Westbrook and Harden gone, this is a team in transition. John Wall and Victor Oladipo are the new faces of the team, as things start to take shape.
For Portland, injuries are the problem. C.J. McCollum is sidelined after his best start to a season ever, and Jusuf Nurkic is hurt as well. That has left the Blazers with Damian Lillard and not much help, with them struggling to stay afloat.
Both teams are hungry for any win they can find right now, as they fight to stay in the playoff race out West. So which one will get it in this meeting?
Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers have the slightly better 9-7 record, but have the slightly worse overall profile. Portland is not always this way, but right now, it’s exactly the team it’s often caricatured to be: all offense and no defense.
And yes, Portland’s defense is really bad. It has never been particularly good during the Lillard era, and it’s always going to be hard to build a quality defense with him and McCollum at the top. Yet, Portland keeps trying.
I liked the additions of Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr. this offseason, but both have been very poor so far, with neither doing much on both ends of the floor. Covington, who missed the last game with an injury, is a question mark to suit up in this contest.
Portland has been switching defensive schemes on the fly this season and haven’t found any answers. With the injuries sidelining McCollum and Nurkic, that’s pushed Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony into bigger roles… which helps the offense and crushes the defense even more.
It’s not great when your second-best player right now is probably one of those two guys. Portland got 20-plus points from Anthony, Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. in their last game, but still gave up 125 points in a loss to an Oklahoma City team missing George Hill and Al Horford.
The bellwether with Portland is the 3-point shot. If the 3s are falling, the Blazers can look good. Portland leads the league in 3-point attempts, but that leaves them hot and cold, much like the Rockets have been for years.
The Blazers are not great inside the arc, so they need to hit 3s to win and they need Lillard to do the rest. It’s not a great formula right now.
The Rockets are 7-9 on the season, and we’re still trying to get a handle on this team’s overall profile with all the moving parts. Houston has won its last two games by 25 and 19 points, which has really helped the club.
The new-look Rockets still resemble the Harden teams in some ways, but not so much in other ways. Houston is still taking a lot of 3s, but not nearly as many as in the Mike D’Antoni era. The Rockets are still playing with pace, becoming one of the NBA’s fastest teams since moving on from Harden.
Surprisingly, the Rockets are now winning with defense, not offense. Houston had the league’s No. 4 Defensive Efficiency ranking as of Wednesday, with a lot of it due coaching and the current system.
The Rockets give up the second-fewest 3-point attempts in the league, forcing opponents inside the arc, and Houston is sixth best at opponent 2-point percentage, with both Christian Wood and DeMarcus Cousins playing quality defense near the rim.
Houston, which is also allowing the fewest assists in the league, is forcing opponents to play isolation ball and limiting their 3s.
Offensively, the Rockets don’t have much shooting and most of the complementary pieces were built to play defense and shoot open jumpers with Harden, so the offense is still adjusting.
Wall and Oladipo have had their moments, but neither is playing anything close to the All-Star levels they’ve gotten to in the past. Houston is also a pretty poor rebounding team, so that’s generating many extra chances.
Still, the Rockets are starting to find their way. DeMarcus Cousins has had a bit of a renaissance over the past week, getting bigger minutes while Wood has been out. Oladipo is scoring 21.8 points per game, and Wall’s playmaking has lifted the team.
Those two finally played their first game together last time out and Houston looked good in a 19-point win. They’re the healthy back court in this matchup.
Trail Blazers-Rockets Pick
The key stat that will determine outcome is Portland’s 3-point shooting, both in number of attempts and the rate at which the Blazers hit them.
We can’t predict the latter, but it’s the former number that worries me for Portland. Houston is not letting opponents fire away from deep, and the Blazers are not very good at scoring without the long-range shot.
I’m not sure the Blazers will be able to find enough offense to offset the bad defense here, and that’s a defense that Wall and Oladipo should be able to pick apart for easy baskets and get Houston’s offense going.
I like the Rockets here.
Pick: Rockets -2.5