Well, we just played the Rockets the other day and SJ covered most important points about them in his preview, so we won’t be doing anything full today. Here’s a list of what we’ll be watching for:
-Expect to see LaMarcus Aldridge with the ball early and often. Against two physical opponents, he has yet to really show up at all on the offensive end. You can’t just wait until you play the OKC Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves of the world to get your star players going, so the Blazers should make a concentrated effort to get LMA points in the paint. Would be nice to see that running hook shot, no?
-The single most worrisome aspect about the loss to Denver was the almost complete absence of any help defense — not to mention the Blazers strangely not doubling on Carmelo Anthony at all. The Rockets don’t have anyone who will command a consistent double team, but you don’t want to leave Aldridge guarding Luis Scola on an island all night. As much as Greg Oden could improve this defense and make up for a lot of shortcomings, the team’s ability to recover and help each other will be a huge sticking point all season long if it continues as it did the other night.
-Watch. That. Rotation. Steve Blake and Andre Miller eventually need to find some rhythm to how their minutes will come, and the first step towards that is Nate McMillan figuring out how he wants to use them. Miller has a good matchup against Aaron Brooks on offense, but it remains to be seen how they will use that.
-Beware the slow first quarter. The first road game of the season is tough for any team and it can usually take awhile to find your flow. There’s a physical adjustment to travelling, napping and going through pregame routines in a visitor’s locker room. These guys are experienced enough now that it shouldn’t be a huge problem, but if they aren’t getting dunks and bunnies we could be looking at a low shooting percentage early on.
-Oden’s off-ball play could have huge impact for the offense or it could put him in turnover prone positions as it did on opening night. Chuck Hayes is one of the single toughest players in the league to back down, so Greg won’t be able to muscle through him like he wants to do with everybody (as he probably learned). The key will be Greg establishing himself deep in the paint, followed by the team actually feeding him there once and Oden finishing without having to make a dribble-move.