The Houston Rockets begin a three-game, West-Coast trip on Friday night when they head to the great Northwest to battle the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Rockets have won two of the last three and have done it without the services of head coach Kevin McHale. He took a leave of absence from the team on Saturday to attend to a personal matter.
Houston has been in the national headlines lately with the Royce White situation. The 16th pick in this summer's NBA Draft, White battles a severe anxiety disorder, but has not attended practices. He was sent to the D-League, but is embroiled in a standoff with the Rockets about how he perceives the team is helping him with his illness.
On the court, the Rockets have responded to interim coach Kelvin Sampson. They are 2-1 under Sampson and their last victory came Wednesday night at home against the New Orleans Hornets, 100-96.
Harden rebounded after some sub-par scoring nights on Wednesday with 30 points. Four other players scored in double-figures and the Rockets will look to avenge an early-season loss.
Houston fell 95-85 in overtime to the Blazers on Nov. 3 in Houston.
"We felt like that was a game we could have won," Sampson said after practice on Thursday. "The challenge with Portland is their inside/outside. They're well put together, too."
The Trail Blazers halted a four-game losing streak Tuesday night in Sacramento against the Kings with a 103-86 victory. They beat up on a depleted Kings team without DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas, Francisco Garcia and Aaron Brooks, who left the game with a sore left ankle.
All five Portland starters reached double-figures, but the bench only contributed 19 points in a blowout win. Rookie standout Damian Lillard led the way with 22 points and nine assists against the Kings and center J.J. Hickson registered a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
LaMarcus Aldridge battled through a wrist injury to put up 19 points.
"The game goes through him on the block. We're a better team when he's on the floor," said Blazers coach Terry Stotts.
Portland has allowed 100 points or more in five of their eight games this season, although in their last two, neither the Kings or the Atlanta Hawks reached the century mark. The only other time that happened this season was the overtime contest with the Rockets.
The Blazers are 28th in the NBA in opponents scoring and are one of just five teams in the league allowing 100 points or more per game.
Prior to the earlier victory by Portland, Houston won four in a row against the Trail Blazers and are 3-0 in their last three in the Rose Garden.