This is what Dwight Howard and James Harden have waited for. Howard has led a team into the playoffs in the past but as a younger, more inexperienced big man. Harden has led his Rockets just once into the post-season after being part of the Thunder’s playoff forays.
Now both get to call this their playoff run. This is the referendum on the Rockets’ big plan to make a splash.
Portland were the biggest surprise in the league this season, non-Phoenix edition. Plenty of experts and predictions saw them challenge for the last few spots in the crowded West, but few expected them to challenge for homecourt advantage let alone lead the Conference during the first part of the season.
Damian Lillard will get to experience the playoffs for the first time while LaMarcus Aldridge gets to make his first trip without Brandon Roy or Greg Oden and the old Blazers core that flamed out so spectacularly.
Team Vs Team
While Houston had a rough start defensively, allowing teams to run up the score at will, they possess a very similar offensive game plan to the Blazers.
Both teams feature high-octane, offensively oriented guards in Harden and Lillard. Both also feature hulking low-post stars in Aldridge and Howard who can receive the ball and go to work down low.
These are the four players the focus will be on. However, the series could come down to the role players. Nic Batum has been critical this season, as has Wes Matthews’ shooting from deep. Robin Lopez has been a luxury on the offensive rebounds. Houston can boast similar rotational threats in the shape of board monster Omer Asik and spark-plug Terrence Ross.
Game 1: Rockets 116, Blazers 101 (11/5/13, Rose Garden)
Houston rebounded from a 137-118 shelling by the Clippers to roast the Blazers on their home floor. Howard and Harden combined for 62 points
Game 2: Rockets 104, Blazers 111 (12/12/13, Rose Garden)
When does Dwight Howard’s 32 points and 17 rebounds not win a game? When LaMarcus Aldridge posts 31 points and 25 rebounds.
Game 3: Blazers 113, Rockets 126 (1/20/14, Toyota Center)
Houston scored 71 first-half points and had 106 by the end of three quarters. Chandler Parsons scored 31 points and had a near triple-double with 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Game 4: Blazers 113, Rockets 118 (OT) (3/9/14, Toyota Center)
The closest of the four season games went to overtime in early March. Houston trailed by three in overtime before an 8-2 run clinched the game. Harden scored 41 points while Jeremy Lin added 26.
Game 1: Sunday, April 20th | at Houston | 8:30PM ET | TNT
Game 2: Wednesday, April 23 | at Houston | 8:30PM ET | TNT
Game 3: Friday, April 25th | at Portland | 7:30PM ET | ESPN
Game 4: Sunday, April 27th | at Portland | 6:30PM ET | TNT
*Game 5: Wednesday, April 30th | at Houston | TBD |
*Game 6: Friday, May 2nd | at Portland | TBD |
*Game 7: Sunday, May 4th | at Houston | TBD |
* – if necessary.