• The Trail Blazers will continue to run their offense through LaMarcus Aldridge, who has scored 46 and 43 points in the first two games. Houston coach Kevin McHale wouldn’t reveal who will defend Portland’s All-Star power forward but is expected to start 7-footer Omer Asik alongside Dwight Howard, giving the Rockets more length.
“It gives them good interior defense,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “When you have two defensive centers, it affects the defensive end. That’s the biggest impact. From an offensive standpoint, it doesn’t space the court as much, and they rely on getting to the rim and penetrating. It’s a different style, but they can pound the offensive glass. If they defensive rebound and get out into transition, it can be effective.”
• The Rockets will attempt to get James Harden going. The All-Star shooting guard is 14-for-47 from the field in the series.
“We have to get shots for James,” McHale said. “Guys have to set good screens. He has to come off screens, has to use them. Everybody has to work together to get good shots. We have to get better movement, more room, and for him to recognize how (the Blazers) are playing him and take advantage of what’s there.”
Said Stotts: “Coming into Game 2, they made a concerted effort to get Dwight shots. Now I would expect them to make a concerted effort to get James more involved. The ball is going to be in his hands.”
• The Rockets made 9 1/2 3-pointers a game during the regular season but are only 11-for-51 from beyond the arc in the series so far. McHale emphasizes the need for better spacing.
“We got jammed up, stopped early, didn’t get wide,” the Houston coach said. “It’s something we’ve been pushing the guys all year long to do. Not a good time to be playing on top of each other. We need a lot of space out there. You have to get [the wings] into the corners and into flats. If the guys shoot it like we can, we should be able to drive from the top a little more.”
• The Rockets are in desperation mode after losing the first two games of the series at home. Dropping a pair at home doesn’t create a lot of happiness.
“Everybody’s frustrated,” McHale said. “If you get your ass kicked and aren’t frustrated, you’re in the wrong business.”
— Kerry Eggers