Dwight Howard carried the Orlando Magic to the Finals in 2009. None of his teammates that season were as talented as James Harden. The Houston Rockets were frisky against the Oklahoma City Thunder in last season's playoffs. That was with Omer Asik patrolling the paint, not Howard. Houston and Howard were a match made in heaven.
Howard can control the defense from the back line, dive through the lane on pick-and-rolls and score at times in post-up situations. He's healthy this season and thriving in a system that doesn't ask him to carry the offense.
Harden is a superstar: he averaged 25 points, six assists and five rebounds on 61.8 percent True Shooting. He can create his own shot in isolation situations, run pick-and-rolls, and dish the ball out to shooters around the perimeter. He's a real minus on defense, though, and he needs to pay attention on that end in the playoffs.
The Portland Trail Blazers have the tools to take advantage of Harden's porous defense. They have shooters from the first four positions on the floor and from every position when LaMarcus Aldridge slides over to center. Aldridge is a stud: He's a long, active defensive rebounder and savant in the post. He's also one of the best midrange jump shooters in the NBA.
But Portland has shooters everywhere. Damian Lillard is a creative playmaker and attempted nearly seven three-pointers per game with a 39.4 percent success rate. Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum can shoot from anywhere on the floor. The issue with the Blazers is on defense. They were right around league average on that end, and were the second-worst of all the Western Conference playoff teams, trailing the Mavericks by about a point per 100 possessions.
TV schedule: TNT; 9:30 p.m. ET
Announcing crew: Joel Meyers, Chris Webber and Marty Snider
Local: KGWHD, CSN Houston, KBME, Fox Sports Radio