Ladies and gentlemen, the playoffs are here. I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs. And I’m super excited. It has felt like forever since Wednesday night’s game. I don’t think I have ever been this excited for a Blazer game in years. This is taking me back to little kid territory and I’m sure it’s scaring some of my peers and definitely my roommates. I giveth not a crapeth. I’ve almost forgotten what playoff basketball means as a fan. Here is the thing about Game 1′s. Before them there is all this hype and all these questions about what is going to happen. And generally speaking, after a Game 1….you either have a ton more questions or everything you thought gets confirmed. This fact is driving me nuts and making it nearly impossible to properly think about this game.
After the days of anticipation and Coup’s series pre-thoughts, I don’t think the table could be set anymore than it already has. It’s time to eat dinner. Let’s dig in.
Keys to success:
- Protect home-court advantage. Portland fought all year for the right to have home-court advantage. Now it is time to protect it. Sounds easy right? Far from it. To win this series Portland has to keep home-court advantage. We have known that home-court advantage has been key for weeks. The ability to win at the Rose Garden is what is going to allow this Blazer team to make some noise in the post-seasn. Granted they’ve won 34 out of 41 games in the Rose Garden. However, none of those wins matter anymore. Why? Because a Game 1 loss will dramatically change the course of this series in ways we don’t want to talk about. Kind of like how ’17 Again’ actually being good completely blew my mind. Yeah I said it.
- Make Yao have a rough night. This is the most important key to Portland’s success in this series. If Portland wants to win this series they will have to find a way to give the big man issues. It’s as plain and simple as thought. The Houston offense runs through Yao Ming. Think about it, when Yao is flowing the whole Rocket team is generally flowing. You throw it in to Yao and you’re either getting a bucket, a good chance at an offensive rebound or a look to someone else while the defense tries to rotate. It’s not just his ability in the post that is dangerous. It’s also the defensive attention that he brings and the fact that it creates offense for those around him as well. Essentially he frees up guys who…well….need to be freed. Houston really good at punishing defenses either with ball reversal or smart play. But if you can take Yao away, you have a great chance at winning. Notice in Dallas when the Mavs took Yao away the other night. For one, Houston stopped looking to go to him as much. Secondly, they could not score the ball. One of their bigger weaknesses was exposed: a lack of a guy who can create their own shot whenever it is necessary. Of course Artest can but he’s shown some iffy playmaking ability and shot selection. Aaron Brooks can get hot but is wildly inconsistent. Nearly everyone else needs help. If Portland can figure out the Yao quandary they will help themselves immensely.
- Joel, Oden and LaMarcus need to stay out of foul trouble. This piggybacks off the first point, but these guys have to stay on the floor. The less Channing Frye the better. Yao will eat him alive and he can’t bang with Scola, Hayes or Landry.
- Win the battle of the benches. Rudy Fernandez, Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw have to show up offensively. They have to show up to help Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge. They just have to. Those two will have tough matchups between Battier and Artest trying to kill Roy and the undersized beast combo of ScolaHayesLandry Inc. It won’t be easy for Rudy and Travis since they have the other side of the Battier/Artest problem. Also, Portland cannot let Houston’s bench get points. Last time in Houston I think Von Wafer, Kyle Lowry and Chuck Hayes combined for 27 points. They get that kind of production from their bench on the road I guarantee they are happy.
- LaMarcus Aldridge needs to go to work. He has the game to punish Scola and Hayes, if he can do it the game changes. Houston fans really feel like they have the upper hand in this match-up. We’ll see.
- Don’t let Ron Artest get it going. Artest is kind of like Travis Outlaw with his schizophrenic game. You know how there is Good Travis, Bad Travis and OMG Travis? The same can go for Ron Artest. If he’s on he can make life living hell for teams. Especially for the Blazers when you consider we don’t have the type of perimeter bulk to really stop him. When he’s off….oh boy he is off. Houston loses their main scary perimeter guy who can go to work. Also he can start shooting iffy shots, making iffy decisions and walking around with that ‘I’m slowly going to Crazy Artest mode but I can’t show it anymore so I’m going to act like everything is cool but I’m looking off Yao for the next 5 mnutes’. I’m hoping that guy shows up.
- Keep Aaron Brooks out of the paint. Seriously. He’s going to get by his defender. The key is rotating over before he can start doing damage. If he starts getting in the paint and creating for others and getting his mojo going, it could be a long night.
- Don’t settle, be physical and box out. When Portland struggles for stretches on offense it’s because they settle for jumpers and turn the ball over. In the playoffs…you can’t have those kinds of stretches because every possession is uber-important in the post-season. Have to match the Rockets physical play and keep them off the boards. Portland should be able to stop Houston’s first possession. However, letting Scola, Yao and co. get second shots up will be killer.
- Protect the paint. I want Houston shooting jumpers like Denver did on Wednesday. Let’s do it.
Tags: Aaron Brooks Brandon Roy Channing Frye Game 1 Greg Oden Houston Rockets Joel Pryzbilla Kyle Lowry LaMarcus Aldridge Luis Scola Nba Playoffs Rockets Blazers Portland Trail Blazers Ron Artest Rose Garden Rudy Fernandez Shane Battier Steve Blake Travis Outlaw Von Wafer Yao Ming