The Portland Trail Blazers are playing with confidence and improved chemistry as they try to match their longest winning streak in nearly three years. The return of Brandon Roy can only help them achieve that goal.
The rookie guard is expected to be in the lineup for the first time in over a month Wednesday when the Blazers host the Houston Rockets.
Roy has not played since Nov. 10 because of an impingement in his left heel that forced him to wear a protective boot for a couple of weeks. He averaged 11.6 points in five starts before getting injured and his return will only help the Blazers, who have won a season-high four straight games.
Portland (11-14) hasn’t won five in a row since Feb. 18-24, 2004.
“You can see that the guys are just having fun,” coach Nate McMillan said. “They’re doing a good job understanding one another, of playing team basketball, and following the game plan and executing it.”
The Blazers, buoyed from going 4-2 on a recent road trip, opened a three-game homestand with a 109-99 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday that McMillan called the team’s best game of the season.
Zach Randolph had 26 points, seven rebounds and five assists and six players scored in double figures for Portland, which shot 51.3 percent from the field.
“Zach especially is really stepping up,” McMillan said. “He’s making the effort on both ends. He’s passing the ball out when the double teams come and he’s making an effort on defense as well.”
The victory over the Clippers snapped a four-game losing streak at the Rose Garden for Portland, which finishes its homestand on Friday against Toronto.
Houston (15-9) snapped a three-game losing streak with a 108-103 win over the Clippers on Sunday, the team’s fourth game in a row without star guard Tracy McGrady.
The Rockets had lost the first three without McGrady, who’s averaging 19.2 points, 6.3 assists and 5.6 rebounds, but got 32 points and 10 rebounds from Yao Ming and 26 points and eight assists from Rafer Alston to get by Los Angeles.
“We’re trying to show that we can win games and pull games out without Tracy,” Alston said. “His absence has been a factor in stretches of games where we were staggering, didn’t have much continuity and weren’t scoring the ball. Today we were trying to stop the losing streak, No. 1, and we also needed to play better on both sides of the ball.”
The Rockets are hoping for a better effort on defense as they continue a five-game road trip. Houston has allowed opponents to score over 100 points in five consecutive games, the longest streak in Jeff Van Gundy’s 11 seasons as an NBA coach.
“It’s just a lack of concentration on defense, along with energy and effort,” Alston said. “Not making the second effort has been hurting us— letting teams get to the offensive glass on us and pound us in the paint. So we have to look at film and get back to the things we’re capable of doing.”
Houston finishes the trip with a matchup against San Antonio on Friday.
The Rockets had defeated Portland nine straight times before the Blazers won 76-75 on April 5 at the Rose Garden in the last meeting between the teams.