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- Two of the hottest big men in the league will put their double-double streaks on the line Friday, when the Trail Blazers make stop three of a six-game road trip in Houston. Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge has posted six double-doubles in a row, while Rockets center Omer Asik has reached at least 10 points and 14 rebounds in four straight outings. “Aldridge, that’s a tough matchup for us,” Houston coach Kevin McHale said. “I think if you have a 7-foot [power forward] who’s long like that, you can get away with more.”
- The Blazers (25-24), who are 2-0 against the Rockets (27-24) this season, can clinch the season series and the associated head-to-head tiebreaker if these teams finish the season tied for the Western Conference’s final playoff spot with a victory. Portland erased a deficit of at least 12 points to force overtime in both meetings. “I think we’re very closely matched,” Stotts said. “For a February game, this has a lot of implications down the road. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere, but … I think both teams will rachet it up a little bit.”
- The Blazers have earned a league-leading nine wins in games decided by three points or less, an impressive accomplishment for a group of players whose average age is only 24.9 years. “I do believe winning close games … makes all the difference in where you are,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “Part of the belief in winning close games is when you do it a few times, that belief is reinforced. We got off to a good start in winning a lot of close games, and it just kind of perpetuated itself.”
- Guard Ronnie Price (sprained right ankle) will return to Portland’s lineup after missing the last two games. Houston’s Carlos Delfino (right elbow) will also be available for the first time in three games.
– Matt Miller