With the playoffs starting in just a few days, national media predictions for how the first rounds are going to play out are starting to make their way onto the internet.
Despite having the same record as the Rockets and being a last-second three-pointer away from splitting the season series 2-2, there are very few pundits picking the Trail Blazers to make it out of the first round, with many of the predictions picking Houston to win the series rather handily.
Below is a collection of predictions from around the web, which will be updated as more media outlets go on record with their predictions from the four/five matchup between the Blazers and Rockets, which tips off Sunday at 6:30 PM on KGW, TNT and 620 AM. Currently, four people have picked the Trail Blazers to win the series.
And if you’re so inclined, go ahead and put your predictions in the comments as well.
· Zach Lowe of Grantland.com picks the Rockets to win the series in five games …
Portland has other weapons — Wes Matthews is going to post the crap out of Harden, and the team’s expert offensive rebounding could hurt Houston, which goes through fits of laziness on the glass. But the Rockets should have enough on both ends to take this — provided Beverley is really ready to go.
Matt Moore of CBSSports.com has the Rockets taking the series in six games …
Offense. That’s the prediction. Lots and lots of offense, because neither of this teams defend well. Since All-Star Break, the Blazers have the 12th best defense in points per possession, but have struggled against the West playoff teams.
The Rockets aren’t exactly defensive stalwarts either, but they have mot in the way of playoff style personnel. Beverley should give Lillard problems and the Rockets will be able to get what they want offensively.
It should be an entertaining, wide open, and high-scoring series, but Portland’s defense and lack of home court eventually does them in.
· Dan Feldman of Pro Basketball Talk has the Rockets winning the series in seven games …
The Trail Blazers slipped from their perch atop the Western Conference after a 31-9 start, but they’ve bounced back. Portland won its last five and nine of ten, providing momentum entering the playoffs. But the Rockets won the season series, 3-1, so they have homecourt advantage.
· NBA.com’s Fran Blinberry, who is based out of Houston, picks the Rockets to win in six games …
The statistics and the seedings say this should be a high-scoring, entertaining and evenly matched series. Both teams have a pair of All-Stars and both can fill up the basket. A healthy Howard is the difference-maker around the rim.
· The Yahoo! Sports “Ball Don’t Lie” crew of Kelly Dwyer, Dan Devine and Eric Freeman all pick the Rockets to win the series. Dwyer goes with Houston in six games, while Devine and Freeman both have the Rockets in seven.
· Lee Jenkings, Rob Mahoney and Matt Dollinger, all of SI.com, pick the Rockets to win the series.
· ESPN.com has an excellent “5-on-5″ roundtable with Henry Abbott, Tom Haberstroh, Rahat Huq, Danny Nowell and Ethan Sherwood Strauss in which all five pick the Rockets to win the series. Abbott, Nowell and Strauss pick the Rockets in seven games, while Haberstroh and Huq pick the Rockets in five.
· Of the 18 NBA experts ESPN.com has making picks, just three — Israel Gutierrez, Amin Elhassan and Benjamin Morris of FiveThirtyEight.com — have the Trail Blazers winning the series versus the Rockets, with all three picking Portland to win in six games. Of the 15 who are picking the Rockets to win the series, six went with the Rockets in seven games, five had the Rockets winning in six games and four have the Rockets winning in five games. The four who are picking the Rockets in five often use advance stats heavily in their work.
· NBA TV’s Steve Smith and Stu Jackson both pick the Rockets to beat the Trail Blazers, although they don’t say in how many games. They also picked every team in the West with home court advantage to advance.
· Ben Golliver of SI.com picks the Rockets to win the series in six games …
Elite offense requires success behind the arc, at the rim and at the foul line, and the Rockets cover all of those bases better than the Blazers. During the postseason chess match, Houston looks to possess a deeper pool of offensive counters, and its primary options — Harden and Howard — should be the two best players on the court. Throw in Portland’s defense — which is inconsistent overall and has struggled to slow the Rockets’ stars — and Houston’s home-court advantage, and the Rockets should emerge from a very competitive series.
· Chris Mannix, also of SI.com, picks the Rockets to win in five games.
· Howard Beck and Rick Bucher of Bleacher Report both pick the Rockets to win the series, though they don’t say in how many games. Both Beck and Bucher also pick all of the top teams in the West to advance.
· It’s not exactly a prediction, but Paul Flannery at SBNation.com does a best case/worst case for the Blazers vs. the Rockets, with both hypotheticals going seven games …
Best Case: The Blazers win a seven-game series with Houston as LaMarcus Aldridge goes for 20 and 12 every night and each game is decided on a cold-blooded Damian Lillard three.
Worst Case: The Blazers lose a seven-game series with Houston as Dwight Howard keeps Aldridge in check and every game is decided by a Mo Williams three after Pat Beverley keeps the ball out of Lillard’s hands.
· Of the six writers making predictions for Basketball Insiders, only Alex Kennedy has the Trail Blazes beating the Rockets, doing so in seven games. The other votes are split between the Rockets in five (two votes), the Rockets in six (two votes) and the Rockets in seven (one vote).