(Brief note before I start this post. I was feeling really good about Houston’s lack of playoff karma until Kerry Eggers just had to bring up the fact that Portland is 1-10 in the Toyota Center. Definitely feel like I was playing pickup and said the ball was off the other team, only to have my teammate involved in the play raise his hand and say it was off him. I know this, you just don’t have to say it. Same thing here.)
Ok, people…there’s an elephant in the room and no one’s really talking about it. But I think it’s time to talk about the impact that the loss of Dikembe Mutombo will have on this series. Despite the sadness surrounding Mutombo going down, there’s no way around stating that it is going to have an impact on the rest of this series. Houston fans may point to the fact that Mutombo only played in 9 games this season or that he wasn’t counted on for production or some other excuse I can’t think of. And while all of these may be true statements, I’m not sure I buy it. Without Mutombo in to give Yao a breather, Houston has a couple issues. For one, Yao absolutely, positively can not get in foul trouble. With Mutombo out their big-man depth chart off the bench smells a little something like this:
- Chuck Hayes, Carl Landry, Brian Cook, Joey Dorsey.
Yeah. There is a difference between putting Hayes and Landry out there and having to put Hayes and Landry out there. If Yao gets in foul trouble, Adelman will have no choice but to turn to them. There…are no other alternatives. If you’re a Blazer fan you want to see Brian Cook out there. He’s like their version of Channing Frye, and that’s going to sound like the ultimate diss to Channing but I imagine you get what I’m saying. Also, Oden will demolish Dorsey on sight for not keeping GO’s name out of his mouth in college. Hayes and Landry can provide quality minutes, but not the same kind of quality minutes Mutombo could put out. Why? They are completely undersized for their position. Yes they are physical, yes they are talented, yes they will battle….but there is no getting around the fact they are undersized. The difference between driving at the basket with Mount Mutombo in the lane against seeing Hayes, Landry or even Scola is pretty huge. Double that when you consider the fact that no Blazer will catch Mutombo’s ELBOW OF DOOM. (Someone was going to bleed this series, you and I both know it). I’d obviously expect some adjustments from Houston but regardless it’s a frontline that the Blazers can attack the basket against. And attacking the basket is exactly what the Blazers will have tdo. Having to play Hayes and Landry is going to cost the Rockets on the offensive end. Not saying that they can’t score, just that they aren’t exactly scary on the offensive end. I feel confident in Portland’s ability to keep them in check. I just feel like if your opponent is depending on scoring from Chuck Hayes and Carl Landry at this point in the season, you shouldn’t be shaking in your boots. Let’s be honest….if Houston trots out a lineup like ‘Lowry-Wafer-Battier-Hayes-Landry’ I feel it is a unit that Portland should be able to take advantage against. Of course that requires stopping Von Wafer which is a different story.
Adelman could opt to just play Yao more minutes than usual but I’m not sure I have too much beef with that. I’ll take a tired Yao in the 4th quarter or the next game. Or him picking up a foul because of a slow rotation.
So quick summary…Houston without Mutombo means Yao can’t get in foul trouble, Yao may play more minutes and get tired, Hayes and Landry are not rim protectors and Brian Cook might step on the court. Small chance but still. Not to mention that whole ‘heart and soul of the team’ thing.
On the other hand…the loss of Mutombo could spark the Rockets emotionally. Game 3, in their home building, I’m sure some sort of tribute will be coming. It could help them on Friday night. But that would only last one game in my eyes.