No. 4 Houston Rockets (54-27) vs. No. 5 Portland Trail Blazers (53-28)
- Game 1 in Houston
- Game 2 in Houston
- Game 3 in Portland, Ore.
- Game 4 in Portland
- Game 5 in Houston (if necessary)
- Game 6 in Portland (if necessary)
- Game 7 in Houston (if necessary)
Season series: Houston led 3-1.
Note: Statistics entering Monday.
Points per game (per 100 possessions): Rockets 107.8, Blazers 106.7 (Rockets 110.9, Blazers 111.5).
Points allowed per game (per 100 possessions): Rockets 103.2, Blazers 102.7 (Rockets 106.1, Blazers 107.3).
Matchups worth watching: Rockets PG Patrick Beverley vs. Blazers PG Damian Lillard, Rockets C Dwight Howard vs. Blazers C Robin Lopez. Scoring leaders: Rockets SG James Harden (25.5 points a game), Blazers PF LaMarcus Aldridge (23.2).
Why Houston will win: Their two stars, Harden and Howard, are better than Aldridge and Lillard. They have developed a solid defense this year, while the Blazers still struggle at that end. Rockets coach Kevin McHale dwarfs the Blazers’ Terry Stotts in playoff experience, and the same could be said of the players.
Why Portland will win: Beverley and Howard both have spent most of April nursing injuries, and the Blazers have the weapons to expose those shortcomings if they are not fully healed. Portland also has one of the best offenses in the NBA, and that could be in full effect if the Rockets try to push the tempo, as they often do.
Did you know? These teams met in the first round in 2009, but only two players are still around from that series: Aldridge and teammate Nicolas Batum. The Rockets have had a complete roster makeover in the past five years.
Prediction: Rockets in 5.