PORTLAND — After a loss ended their seven game home stand with a 5-2 record, the Portland Trail Blazers will play two of their final three games before the All-Star break on the road.
And two of those will be against the Houston Rockets.
The trip presents the Blazers with an opportunity to exorcise some demons from earlier in the season as they return to the site of two of their most gut-wrenching losses, in Houston on Nov. 18 and Memphis on Nov. 13.
Things get under way for the Blazers on Saturday afternoon in Houston, where they’ll be looking to avenge what was their most improbable loss of the season.
They blew a 15-point fourth quarter lead and were forced into overtime when Corey Brewer hit a running 3-pointer as he crossed half court. The Rockets went on to win 108-103.
“I think it’s incentive in general just because of the way the last game ended,” CJ McCollum said. “We were up, ended up blowing the game and then Corey Brewer hits a half court shot to send it to overtime. That’s tough, looking at the Standings they’re in seventh. We just have to compete every night.”
Damian Lillard believes the Blazers are a better team now than the one that blew that lead in Houston and gave up a last second tip-in to Zach Randolph in Memphis.
“We ready for it,” Lillard said. “Every game is important for us. Especially (Houston). The last time we played them, we let the game slip out of our hands. We had it won. We’re a better team now so hopefully we’ll go down there and continue to progress.
The Blazers have made improvements, especially after being home for most of the last month.
The Rockets can’t exactly say the same.
While James Harden is still an All-Star, he’s nowhere near the MVP level he was at last year and the Rockets defense has been a travesty, ranked 25th in the league in defensive rating after being eighth in the NBA last year.
Dwight Howard’s health has been a question mark for most of the season, but the same was true last season.
They re-acquired Josh Smith from the Clippers after he left in free-agency in the summer, which has helped some.
But no matter how each team has performed relative to expectations, there’s no question that Saturday in Houston and Wednesday’s match-up at the Moda Center is important for each team.
The Blazers have an excellent opportunity to drag Houston back into a dog fight with themselves, Utah and Sacramento.