Trail Blazers vs Rockets Friday, 11/16/12 AT 07:00PM

Portland Looks To Continue Recent Defensive Success Against Rockets

11/15/12
  1. Written by: erikgundersen  / avg. rating: 5.0

    BY ERIK GUNDERSEN

    After four consecutive losses, the Trail Blazers (3-5) got back on track in Sacramento. On Friday they will face the Houston Rockets (4-4) who nearly blew a 21-point lead in their last game. These two teams faced each other in the third game of the season, which went to overtime where the Trail Blazers eventually prevailed 95-85. Tomorrow’s game tips off at 7PM at the Rose Garden and will be shown on CSNNW and can be heard on the radio on 1190 AM and 102.3 FM.

    •    Can the defense continue its recent success? In their first six games only once had the Trail Blazers forced an opponent to shoot under 50 percent from the field, the same Rockets they will face on Friday. In consecutive nights, their opponents shot under 50 percent and even though the Kings and Hawks won’t be mistaken as offensive juggernauts at this point in the season, it was still a positive sign that they are starting to play better as a defensive unit. The Trail Blazers still have a very poor defense statistically, no matter where you look. Hoopdata has the Trail Blazers ranked 28th in defensive efficiency and Basketball-Reference has them ranked 26th (both rankings have them giving up somewhere between 105 and 107 points per 100 possessions). Despite having weapons offensively, the Rockets have an offensive efficiency below the league average and Portland could very well have a third consecutive solid defensive performance.

    •    #BeardSanity has finally cooled off after it took the league by storm during the opening week of the season. Beginning with their game against Portland, the Jeremy Lin-James Harden backcourt has started too look human, especially Harden. Harden had a bad night against Portland despite having 24 points and it wasn’t just because Wesley Matthews denied his attempt to win Houston the game in regulation. He was eight for 24 on the evening, missing over half of his 12 attempts at the rim and going one for six from the three-point line, according to Hoopdata. Harden ranks in the 90th percentile in points per possession of all pick and roll ball handlers according to Synergy Sports Technology.

    •    In pick and roll plays where the ball handler finishes the play, Portland ranks second in the league in points per possession (0.972 PPP) according to Synergy.  Damian Lillard has run over 57 percent of such plays for the Trail Blazers and ranks in the 84th percentile in the NBA in points per possession. The secondary pick and roll ball handlers, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are in the 96th percentile and 99th percentile respectively. Batum has run only 13% of the Trail Blazers pick and rolls but his efficiency in those situations makes you want to see more of them. Matthews has been great as a shooter (63.6%) in the pick and roll but has turned it over in over 29 percent of those situations. 25 percent of Batum’s pick and rolls have led to free-throws but he has only turned it over on 7.1 percent of those possessions. When Batum finishes pick and rolls as the ball-handler, the Trail Blazers get points 57 percent of the time.

    •    In their last game against the Rockets, Aldridge had a season-high eight shot attempts at the rim hitting five of them, according to Hoopdata, on his way to a 27 point, 11 rebound, two block performance. Only twice has Aldridge attempted more than four shots at the rim (seven against the Lakers, eight against the Rockets) and in both games the Trail Blazers have won. Although a lot of those plays came in transition, it is still a telling statistic that getting their star power forward around the basket is a recipe for success. In Portland’s last win against the Kings, Aldridge only had 1 shot at the rim but he also had a sore wrist, which made finishing on the interior and shooting his jumper difficult. He did get to the line a season-high ten times against the Kings. Portland also shot over 50 percent from three in that game, something that isn’t the norm for any NBA team. Aldridge has been very good in the post, ranking in the 82nd percentile on post-up plays according to Synergy. Aldridge’s wrist is apparently much better than it was on Tuesday according to head coach Terry Stotts, which is a great sign for Portland. Aldridge has not been as efficient as he has been in recent years doing the other things he frequently does on the court, specifically as the roll man in pick and roll situations where he ranks in the 16th percentile in points per possession according to Synergy. His shooting percentage on jumpers in pick and pops (which account for 83 percent of those plays up from 74 percent last season) is down seven percentage points (51.7 to 44.4). He is also rolling to the basket less frequently so far this year as that has dropped from 17.7 percent to 13.4.  Those numbers will likely bounce back but for Portland, you’d like to see them bounce back sooner rather than later. Portland currently ranks 11th in offensive rating according to Basketball-Reference (13th according to Hoopdata), but if Aldridge can get his shooting numbers back to where they've been, their good offense could become a great one.

    •    Damian Lillard’s performances have become something of a barometer for the Trail Blazers. According to NBA.com’s statistics, Damian Lillard is averaging 21.7 on 52 percent shooting and 9.7 assists in wins while averaging 16.4 points on 38 percent shooting and 4.8 assists in losses.

    •    Portland faces a tough match-up on the glass. According to percentages, Portland has been a very good rebounding team, ranking 13th and 3rd in offensive and defensive rebound percentage respectively. Houston is 10th on the offensive end and 13th on the defensive end but currently rank 4th in the league in rebounds per game. Houston has played at a slightly faster pace than Portland and they average nearly four rebounds more (45.6 RPG) than the Trail Blazers (41.8 RPG) per contest. This game will also feature a battle between two of the league’s best rebounders so far this season in Omer Asik and JJ Hickson. Asik (12.9) and Hickson (11.9) rank third and fourth respectively in rebounds per game. Percentage wise, Hickson is tied for first with Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao collecting 23.4 percent of total available rebounds while Asik is third collecting 22.2 The battle on the glass will be a major factor in deciding this one.

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