TONIGHT: Trail Blazers at Rockets When/where: 6 p.m.; Toyota Center.
TV/radio: FSH, NBA TV; 610 AM, 850 AM (Spanish).
Records: Rockets 48-28, Trail Blazers 48-27.
Key matchup: Yao Ming versus Greg Oden. Though Oden comes off the bench with Joel Przybilla starting, the game will offer the first meeting of the first picks of the 2002 and 2007 NBA drafts.
Rockets update: The Rockets have won nine of their past 10 games against Portland in Houston. They have split their two games with the Blazers this season.
Trail Blazers update: They have won their past four games by an average of 24 points per game, whipping the Suns and Jazz in that stretch. Their next win or Suns loss would end their six-year absence from the playoffs. ? LaMarcus Aldridge had 35 points and 18 rebounds in Oklahoma City on Friday. ? Brandon Roy leads the team in scoring (22.9), assists (5.2) and steals (1.14).
Since moving into first place in the Southwest Division, the Rockets have played four games (losing three on the road and beating the Clippers at home) and held five practices, working on their offensive execution.
But against the Lakers, they spent much of the game bogging down offensively and racing the shot clock, with their frustration obvious.
"From the first minutes of the game until the last minutes, we did not run our plays well," Yao Ming said. "We did not execute well. We said that from the first day of the season until now. In two weeks, the playoffs will start. We're still not executing well."
The Rockets will face the Trail Blazers tonight with a chance to be playing Portland again when the playoffs begin, and for tonight's game to decide home-court advantage.
But with all that uncertain, Rockets coach Rick Adelman said there are substantial reasons to consider this an important game.
"I told the team, I think we have to validate our season," Adelman said. "We have to come back and win at home. They're one of the teams we could play, one of the teams we're fighting for position with."