Trail Blazers-Rockets Preview
By MATT BECKER
(AP) -- After opening the season in impressive fashion, back-to-back losses have muted some of the good vibes surrounding the Portland Trail Blazers' start. Adding to the disappointment, the team may have one of its top defensive players unavailable for a little while.
The Blazers are expected to be without center Marcus Camby as they try to avoid a third straight loss Saturday night against the Houston Rockets.
Despite losing Brandon Roy to retirement and Greg Oden to injury before the season, Portland (7-4) opened the year winning seven of its first nine games - its best start since going 10-1 in 1999-2000. The Trail Blazers have since lost to Orlando 107-104 on Wednesday and suffered a 99-83 setback in the opener of a six-game road trip against San Antonio on Friday.
The loss to the Spurs was magnified when Camby went down with a sprained left ankle with 4:22 to play in the second quarter.
Camby had started each of the first 11 games and came into Friday's contest averaging a team-best 8.7 rebounds. He said he won't be available Saturday, but hopes to return at some point on the road trip.
The Blazers had a difficult time on the glass without him, getting outrebounded 50-36 by the Spurs. It was the most rebounds they allowed and largest rebounding differential in an opponents' favor.
"Rebounding is about work, and we know we need to be a better rebounding team, so everybody has to play a part in that," coach Nate McMillan said. "I thought there were some times when we were assuming a teammate was going to get the board."
LaMarcus Aldridge had a team-high 29 points, but the Blazers still fell to 1-3 on the road this season. They could have trouble bouncing back in Houston, where they're 2-12 since 2003-04.
The Trail Blazers took two of three from the Rockets last season, and their 103-100 win at the Toyota Center on Jan. 5, 2011, snapped a six-game losing streak there.
Although the Blazers haven't enjoyed much success in Houston, Aldridge seems to enjoy playing there. His 22.7-scoring average at the Toyota Center since 2007-08, is his best at any Western Conference arena.
The Rockets (4-7) are near the bottom of the West standings, but have played well in Houston, going 3-1 with wins over San Antonio and Atlanta. They defeated Sacramento 103-89 at home on Friday, as Kyle Lowry led five Houston players in double figures with 25 points.
Samuel Dalembert added 21 points and 16 rebounds, and Luis Scola also had 21 points and grabbed 11 boards.
The Rockets are hoping Dalembert's performance is a sign of things to come, and not just a coincidence because he was facing his former team. The seven-foot center, who was signed by the Rockets on Dec. 26, was averaging 5.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in his first 10 games.
"He just had great energy," Houston coach Kevin McHale said. "It was just fantastic. That was just the Sammy we've been hoping to see."
Dalembert could be poised for another solid performance going up against Portland's depleted frontcourt.
Updated January 14, 2012