Playoffs: Scouting Blazers-Rockets

James Harden and the Rockets won three of four regular-season meetings versus the Blazers. Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Insider offers a breakdown of every playoff series using an expert combination of scouting from Amin Elhassan and advanced metrics from Bradford Doolittle to answer three crucial questions. Also included are predictions from the writers and the classic Log5 formula for determining matchup probabilities.

One of the most intriguing matchups of the first round pits the Houston Rockets against the upstart Portland Trail Blazers, who finished deadlocked for fourth in the West with 54 wins. The Rockets landed home-court advantage by beating Portland in three of four regular-season meetings. All four of those games were high scoring, so this should be a close, exciting series. While the records were even, Houston averaged 2.2 points per 100 possessions more than Portland, establishing the Rockets as series favorites.

Houston was expected to become a contender in 2013-14 after landing Dwight Howard during free agency last July. Indeed, the Rockets ranked near the top of the West all season before faltering late because of injuries to Howard and Patrick Beverley. Portland was viewed as a borderline playoff contender entering the campaign, but with a revamped bench and newly acquired center Robin Lopez, the talented young Trail Blazers coalesced into a dangerous unit. After a dynamic start, the Blazers slid back to the pack before sprinting to the finish by winning nine of their last 10.

Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets

Western Conference playoffs

First-round preview