HOME TEAM: Portland Trail Blazers (0-1, 0-0 at home)
The Blazers will come in looking to redeem themselves from a terrible season-opener. They got pounded by the Utah Jazz last Thursday, 120-100, and trailed by as much as 31 points.
Damian Lillard led the team’s parade of dud showings as he shot 4-for-12 (1/7 from three) for nine points. Two main co-starters followed suit, with Jusuf Nurkic scoring 13 quiet points and only grabbing three rebounds and Robert Covington going 0-for-3 from the floor for one point. CJ McCollum’s 23 points and Carmelo Anthony’s 15 off-the-bench sort of saved Portland from further embarrassment.
The good, however, is we can probably expect a more aggressive Lillard, who had his worst game in a very long time. Look for his shots to fall better against the undermanned Rockets. Note that Portland also dominated the season series in 2019-20 without Nurkic, winning three of the four match-ups by eight, 10, and 13 points.
AWAY TEAM: Houston Rockets (0-0, 0-0 on the road)
The Rockets have been a circus act due to James Harden’s controversial actions off-the-court. Along with the whirlwind of trade talks, there’s also the endless partying that has broken league protocols, which postposed their supposed season-opener last Thursday. While Harden is cleared to play tomorrow, Houston is cutting it close and may only field a league minimum of eight players.
Among the key rotation guys who’ll miss Sunday’s action are John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Gordon, and Ben McLemore, who are all required to undergo a seven-day quarantine.
Harden is sure to rack up massive numbers courtesy of the absences, but look out for the team’s new man in the middle as well: Christian Wood. The promising big man had a solid preseason, highlighted by registering double-double of 27 points and 10 rebounds in just 24 minutes against the San Antonio Spurs. Bench players Brunco Caboclo, Sterling Brown, and JaSean Tate may also produce more than usual.
Lillard and the Blazers are very motivated to make up for Thursday’s terrible loss, and they are very primed to accomplish it tomorrow as they’ll be in their backyard. I expect a monster game from Dame, and for the rest to take advantage of the Rockets’ depleted group.
The Blazers should be able to get this, 115-106.