NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals Betting Picks: #4 Houston Rockets vs #5 Portland Trail Blazers

2014 NBA Playoffs
Western Conference Quarterfinals 

#4 Houston Rockets vs #5 Portland Trail Blazers
Best of Seven Series Format: 2-2-1-1-1
Series Price: Rockets -200 / Trail Blazers +170 (odds courtesy of 5Dimes Sportsbook)

Game #1, Sunday, April 20, 2014, 9:35 pm Eastern, TV: TNT
Toyota Center – Houston, Texas 
Opening Line: Houston -5
Current Line: Houston -5 1/2
Opening Total: 216
Current Total: 214 1/2
Opening Money Line: Rockets -225 / Blazers +189
Current Money Line: Rockets -215 / Blazers +182

The Rockets and Trail Blazers open up the Western Conference quarterfinals Sunday night in Houston.

The Rockets and Trail Blazers open up the Western Conference quarterfinals Sunday night in Houston.

The Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers both qualified for the playoffs with identical 54-28 records. The #4 seeded Rockets and #5 seeded Blazers will open the Western Conference Quarterfinals against each other Sunday night in Houston. The winner will face either the #1 seed San Antonio Spurs or #8 Dallas Mavericks in the conference semifinals.

Houston finished second in the Southwest Division 8 games behind the Spurs. Portland finished second in the Northwest Division 5 games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. Houston is making their second straight trip to the playoffs, and Portland returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Blazers have lost six straight first round series and haven’t won a playoff series since they advanced to the 2000 Western Conference Finals.

Houston took three of four meetings against Portland this season. Portland’s only win this season came at home on December 12 111-104. Houston won in Portland 116-101 November 5. The Rockets also won both games in Houston 126-113 January 20 and 118-113 in overtime March 9. This is the fourth time since 1987 that Houston and Portland have met in the first round of the playoffs, with Houston taking all three series. The Rockets won the last meeting in 2009 in six games.

Portland is coached by Terry Stotts. The Trail Blazers have won 9 of their last 10 games including 5 straight. Portland won at home Wednesday against the Los Angeles Clippers 110-104 to close out the regular season. The Blazers came into that game locked into the #5 seed, so they had nothing to play for. Still, Portland had a 22 point lead in the third against the Clippers playing without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul. The Clippers would come back and lead in the fourth quarter. The Blzaers came back for the win after the short handed Clippers ran out of gas. Portland is 44-38 ATS this season and the total is 46-35-1 this season.

Portland is outscoring teams 107-103 this season. The Trail Blazers are #4 in scoring and #22 in points allowed. Portland is shooting 45% from the field and 37.2% from 3 point range. The Blazers are #10 in 3 point shooting. Portland leads the league in free throw shooting at 81.5% from the line. Opponents are shooting 45.1% from the field and 35.5% from 3 point range. The Blazers average 46.4 rebounds per game and opponents average 43.5 per game. Portland leads the league in rebounding but is #22 in rebounds allowed. The Blazers average 23.1 assists, 13.8 turnovers, 5.5 steals, and 4.8 blocks per game. Opponents average 20.4 assists, 12.1 turnovers, 7.8 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.

Forward LaMarcus Aldridge averages 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1 block per game. Point guard Damian Lillard averages 20.7 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. Guard Wesley Matthews averages 16.4 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Forward Nicolas Batum averages 13 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Center Robin Lopez averages 11 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Mo Williams, Dorrell Wright, Thomas Robinson, Will Barton, and Joel Freeland will also get significant minutes.

Houston is coached by Kevin McHale. The Rockets have struggled down the stretch losing 3 of their last 5 games. Houston rested their starters Wednesday night at the New Orleans Pelicans in a 105-100 loss that snapped a two game winning streak. The Rockets are 40-40-2 ATS and the total is 44-36-2 this season.

Houston is outscoring teams 108-103 this season. The Rockets are #2 in scoring and #23 in points allowed. Houston is shooting 47.2% from the field and 35.8% from 3 point range. The Rockets are #5 in field goal percentage. Houston is #28 of 30 teams in free throw shooting at 71.2% from the line. Opponents are shooting 44.3% from the field and 35.3% from 3 point range. Houston is 9th or better in both categories. The Rockets average 45.3 rebounds per game and opponents average 41.7 per game. The Rockets are #4 in rebounds and #8 in rebounds allowed. Houston averages 21.4 assists, 16.3 turnovers, 7.7 steals and 5.7 blocks per game. Opponents average 22.2 assists, 14.2 turnovers, 8.6 steals and 5.6 blocks per game.

Guard James Harden averages 25.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, 6.1 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He is questionable with an ankle injury and missed the last 2 games.  Center Dwight Howard averages 18.3 points, 12.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.8 blocks per game. He returned last week after missing 8 games with an ankle injury. Forward Chandler Parsons averages 16.6 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. Point guard Jeremy Lin averages 12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Forward Terrance Jones averages 12.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game. Guard Patrick Beverley also returned to to the line-up after missing extended time with a torn meniscus that didn’t require surgery. He averages 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Omri Casspi, Jordan Hamilton, Francisco Garcia, Omer Asik, and Donatas Motiejunas will  also get minutes in the rotation.

Portland is 4-0 ATS in road games, 5-2 against teams with winning records, 3-7 against Southwest Division, 2-5 on 3 or more days rest, and 1-9-1 in Conference quarterfinal games. The last 7 games in this series have gone over the total, and the over is 7-1 in the last 8 in Houston between the teams. The underdog is 11-5-1 ATS in the last 16 between the teams.

Houston is 3-1-1 ATS on 3 or more days rest, 6-2 against teams with winning road records, 2-5 when the opponent allows 100 points or more in the previous game, 3-8 against teams with winning records, 7-20 in Sunday games, 1-4 after a straight up loss, overall, against Western Conference teams, and after scoring 100 points or more in the previous game. The Rockets are 8-3-1 ATS in the last 12 against the Trail Blazers.

I expect Harden to play, despite the sore ankle. He sat out the last 2 games but Houston was already locked into the #4 seed and the games were meaningless. I don’t know how effective Harden will be. He lit up the Blazers in four meetings averaging 30.3 points per game. The unenviable task of containing the #5 scorer in the league fall on Portland’s Wesley Matthews. Both of these teams have top 5 offenses and suspect defenses, so this should be an exciting high scoring series. I think Houston wins game #1 and wins the series in seven games.

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