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NBA Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, April 20th (All times Eastern)

(5) Portland Trail Blazers (0-0) at (4) Houston Rockets (0-0), 9:30 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - Two of the league's best offensive units take center stage Sunday night when the Houston Rockets host the Portland Trail Blazers at the Toyota Center.

The Rockets are the NBA's second-ranked offense at 107.7 ppg, followed by the Trail Blazers, who are fourth with 106.9 ppg.

Houston secured the home-court advantage with a win on Monday against the NBA's best, the San Antonio Spurs.

"We fought hard for it. It took a little longer than I hoped but we knew we had to get 54 wins and we got there with one to spare," said Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

The matchup between the two squads has been decidedly in Houston's favor over the last few seasons. The Rockets have won nine of the last 12 meetings, including three of four this season.

"It's the West. We don't care who we're going to play, it's going to be tough anyway," said Portland forward Nicolas Batum. "Houston is a good team, a great team. They've got a good group of players. We match up pretty well with them. We've had good games, tough games."

The Rockets were believed to be a serious contender for an NBA title when they signed prized free agent Dwight Howard in the offseason. Along with All-Star guard James Harden, they form a formidable one-two punch.

Portland, on the other hand, was a bit of a surprise this season. The Blazers hadn't made the playoffs the last two seasons, but the core group stayed healthy and the bench improved significantly.

These two teams met in the first round back in 2009, but oh how different they both are just five years later. Houston has no players on the roster from that team, which was led by Yao Ming, while only LaMarcus Aldridge and Batum remain for the Blazers.

"It won't be easy. It is going to be fun," said Batum. "Excited finally for playoffs to start because we wait too much for that, now almost three years, so ready to start."

The Rockets got healthy at the right time. Howard missed significant time late in the season with an ankle injury and starting point guard Patrick Beverley was shelved with a knee problem. Both came back before the end of the season and should be all-clear for the playoffs.

Portland is healthy.

This matchup is so even, down to the matching 54-28 records. Each team had two All-Stars in Howard and Harden for Houston and Aldridge and Damian Lillard for Portland.

As expected due to both teams' high offensive output, defense has suffered. The Blazers ranked 22nd in opponents' scoring, while the Rockets were one rung below.

"It's going to be a great series," said Harden. "There are so many guys that can score for them and for us. It's going to be a matter of the small things: who can limit their turnovers and rebound the basketball."

04/20 10:39:24 ET

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TV
  • NCAA: Division II Championship: Indiana (Pa.) vs. Florida Southern

    Today at 3:00 pm on WRAL-TV

  • NCAAT: Louisville v. Michigan State

    Tomorrow at 2:20 am on WRAL-TV

  • NCAAT: Duke v. Gonzaga

    Tomorrow at 5:05 pm on WRAL-TV

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7:00pm Tonight
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7:00pm Tonight
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NJD
 
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4th
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6:05pm Friday
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1:05pm Today
NYY
BAL
 
1:05pm Today
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BOS
 
1:05pm Today
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HOU
 
1:05pm Today
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1:05pm Today
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1:05pm Today
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1:07pm Today
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1:10pm Today
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4:05pm Today
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4:05pm Today
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CLE
 
4:05pm Today
CHC
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4:05pm Today
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4:05pm Today
TEX
SDP
 
4:05pm Today
SEA
SFG
 
4:10pm Today
ARI
KAN
 
4:10pm Today
ANA
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Final
WAS 110
CHA 107
Final
ORL 97
DET 111
Final
PHI 98
LAC 119
Final
NYK 92
BOS 96
Final
BRK 106
CLE 98
Final
TOR 94
LAL 83
Final
ATL 99
MIA 86
Final
MEM 84
GSW 107
Final
HOU 120
MIN 110
Final
NOP 102
SAC 88
Final
SAN 94
DAL 76
Final
DEN 107
UTA 91
Final
PHO 81
POR 87
7:00pm Tonight
CHA
ATL
 
8:00pm Tonight
CHI
NYK
 
8:30pm Tonight
MIL
GSW
 
9:00pm Tonight
UTA
OKC
 
10:00pm Tonight
POR
DEN
 
Final
GONZ 74
UCLA 62
Final
LOU 75
NCSU 65
Final
DUKE 63
UTAH 57
Final
NARZ 74
KSU 73
Final
OKLA 58
MSU 62
6:09pm Tonight
WISC
ARZ
 
7:30pm Tonight
YALE
CAN
 
8:49pm Tonight
KENT
ND
 
Final
MIN 4
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12:30pm Today
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NAS
 
1:00pm Today
NYI
ANA
 
1:00pm Today
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ARI
 
1:00pm Today
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1:00pm Today
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2:00pm Today
DET
TAM
 
7:00pm Tonight
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FLA
 
7:00pm Tonight
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NJD
 
7:00pm Tonight
TOR
OTT
 
8:00pm Tonight
STL
CLB
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
LOS
 
9:00pm Tonight
COL
BUF
 
10:00pm Tonight
VAN
DAL