Trail Blazers-Rockets Preview
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By NOEY KUPCHAN
(AP) -- The surging Portland Trail Blazers haven't missed a beat on what was expected to be a difficult road trip against stiff competition.
They face another tough task when they take on the Houston Rockets, who have thrived at home in this series of late.
Looking to improve to 3-0 on their four-game trek, the Trail Blazers go for a sixth consecutive win overall when they visit Houston on Monday night.
One day after pulling out a 109-100 victory over San Antonio, Portland (31-9) easily got by Dallas 127-111 on Saturday. LaMarcus Aldridge led the way with 30 points and 12 rebounds while Nicolas Batum scored 21.
"I was really proud of the way our team played, especially on the heels of an emotional win in San Antonio," said coach Terry Stotts, whose team led by as many as 38. "Our resolve, defensively, I thought was very good and got us into a position to have a large lead."
The Blazers held a 55-30 edge on the glass and scored a season-high 60 points in the paint. They have also shined in transition over the last two games, outscoring the Spurs 16-3 and Mavericks 31-12.
Portland, which closes its trip Tuesday against Oklahoma City, is two wins away from matching its total from 2012-13.
"We have a pretty good record right now," guard Wesley Matthews told the NBA's official website. "We're beating teams that are upper echelon, home and road. We just got to keep our heads down and stay humble and know that we can compete with anybody. We're not getting too full of ourselves. We're sticking with the process."
Leading the NBA with 109.6 points per game, Portland is averaging 113.2 and shooting 47.3 percent during its five-game winning streak. Aldridge has averaged 29.0 points, 13.0 boards and 54.7 percent shooting during the run.
"We are just playing great basketball right now," he said. "Whenever guys guard the way they can, this team is good."
The Blazers split two home matchups with the Rockets (27-15) this season, but they may not be looking forward to a stop in Houston. Portland has dropped 14 of 17 road matchups in this series, including a 118-103 defeat during its last visit Feb. 8.
The Rockets are seeking a fifth win in six games after beating NBA-worst Milwaukee 114-104 on Saturday. Terrence Jones had a career-best 36 points and 11 rebounds while James Harden chipped in a season high-tying five steals.
"He's got enough skill that he can put the ball on the floor, he can make shots, he can drive, he can finish, he can pass," coach Kevin McHale said of Jones. "He's a very versatile player and tonight he had it going."
The Rockets are 16-3 when Jones scores at least 11. He's averaged 21.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 58.1 percent from the field in the last five games.
"He's been doing an excellent job," All-Star center Dwight Howard said. "He's still growing as a player and he's learning the game at a very fast pace, which is great."
Howard has dominated against the Blazers this season, scoring 61 points and grabbing 30 rebounds while shooting 68.6 percent. Harden has averaged 31.0 points and shot 56.0 percent in his last five games in the series.
Aldridge has averaged 28.5 points in his past six against Houston, scoring 31 and grabbing a career-high 25 boards in a 111-104 victory Dec. 12. Portland is 17-3 when he finishes with 25 points or more.
The Rockets, averaging 105.1 points, are 11-0 at home when scoring at least 107.
Updated January 19, 2014