The Portland Trail Blazers are still in the drivers seat in the playoff series, up 2-1 on the Houston Rockets following an overtime loss in Portland last night. The Blazers did the unlikely by taking the first two games of the series in Houston, causing the Rockets to scramble to put together a lineup that would match up better against the dominant play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Aldridge put up a mind-blowing 89 points in those games, but was held to just 23 points in game three on 8-22 shooting from the field. A major change Houston made was to take Terrance Jones out of the starting lineup and insert Omer Asik to match up better with Aldridge’s size. The Rockets will most likely stick with Asik in the lineup the rest of the series considering the outcome, and Jones only played 13 minutes in game three.
Despite the outcome, the Trail Blazers played a great game. Damien Lillard played like a superstar, pulling up for three whenever he felt like it and putting his head down and fearlessly coming at Dwight Howard in the paint. Lillard finished with 30 points on 9-16 shooting from the field, including 4-8 from downtown. Nicolas Batum might have missed what would have been the game-tying three at the end but he played a solid game, finishing with 26 points, nine rebounds and five assists. The Blazers will need numbers like this put up by these guys, and the continued gritty play from Robin Lopez and scoring off the bench from Mo Williams to keep them competitive in this series.
Starters for both teams are playing huge minutes so far in this series. The Blazers and Rockets are only playing eight or nine guys every game, and only about seven players on both teams play double-digit minutes. But even with big minutes being placed on starters in this series the quality of basketball is incredible. I believe if the Blazers win game four they will win the series, but I also believe if the Rockets wins game four they will win the series. If Portland wins game four they will only need one more win to take the series, and considering how close game three was they almost were on track to sweep the Rockets. But if Houston wins game four they will go back to Houston for game five and will have momentum on their side. If this series goes to seven games I also think Houston has the upper hand because it will be played in Houston, but then again Portland has proven they don’t have a problem winning on the road.
Overall, I like the Trail Blazers chances. Game three was too close to say that Kevin McHale and the Rockets have found an answer to stop Aldridge and the Blazers great team play. Game four in Portland on Sunday will answer a lot of questions about this series. I’m curious to see what adjustments Terry Stotts will make and how the Blazers will respond to the Rockets coming in and taking one from them on their home court. This has been a great series, and NBA players and fans are taking notice.
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