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Saturday, April 18, 2009

Game report: Rockets 108, Blazers 81

Well, there's two hours of my life I'll never get back. The Houston Rockets gave the Blazers a serious shellacking tonight -- one of their worst home playoff losses ever, 108-81. The game was over in the first three and a half minutes. Yao Ming scored 9 points in that span of time, and Aaron Brooks had Houston's other 2, while the whole Blazer team scored only 2. After that, the Blazers never threatened.

Yao killed them. But it wasn't just Yao. Brooks scored 27 and dished out 7 assists, embarrassing the Blazer defense time after time down the court; nobody laid a hand on him. Ron Artest scored 17 points on 7 for 12 shooting. Luis Scola added 19 points and 8 boards.

Offensively, the Blazers had little going on. Their long bombs weren't going in, and they had nothing else to offer. Yao completely scared them away from trying to drive to the basket. They looked as though they didn't know what they were doing. Clearly they did not show up ready to play.

The referees were terrible -- both ways, but especially against the Blazers. It was a no-name officiating crew, and one that doesn't belong in important games. But it really didn't matter much -- the Blazers were stone cold beat from start to finish.

The home crowd at the Rose Garden wasn't impressive, either. With nothing to cheer about, in the second half it vacillated between library silence and several chants of "These refs suck!" The house entertainment program, never one of Portland's strong points, has become so irrelevant that the more seasoned fans resorted to an old-fashioned "Let's go Blazers," trying to drown it out.

A first-game playoff loss may or may not shake a team's confidence, but getting blown out of its own building, trounced in every department, is definitely going to have Portland looking over its shoulder come game 2 on Tuesday. It's a good thing that the Blazers held their victory party in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Thursday. Barring a miracle -- and especially if they don't shut down Brooks, who isn't as good as Portland let him play tonight -- they'll be available for autographs at golf courses throughout the area quite soon.

Here's our patented lousy photo from the game. This was first quarter action, with LaMarcus Aldridge taking a rare inside shot. After this, I put the camera away, and there wasn't much to move me to take it back out:

The halftime show was Red Panda Acrobat, a gal from San Francisco who balanced on a tall unicycle and flipped multiple bowls onto her head with one foot. She really got the job done. For Blazer fans, it was the only good part of the night.

UPDATE, 2:07 a.m.: Rich Adelman's a darn good coach -- always has been.

Comments (16)

The victory party on Thursday featured a "Beat LA" chant. So ridiculous.

I've played enough sports to remember what it feels like when you know you are better than your opponent. It's a different level of confidence than just being hot. It's that 100% certainty that if you just play like you can, you will win. It makes things a lot easier.

The Blazers could yet win this series. Underdogs sometimes do. But the Rockets believe in their hearts they are better than us and that's a tremendous problem.

I didn't see a Blazers choke, even though they were clearly tight. What I saw was a team that couldn't do its thing because the other team had clamped down on them. We could still win but we are in real trouble here. We do not match up with these guys very well and that is not something adjustments can change. The Rockets will have to choke a little to lose this or get injured and the Blazers will have to play out of their minds. That's the sad truth and it was evident at their place last time we played them.

I was proud of Aaron Brooks. I can't help it. He showed Derrick Rose-like cool tonight.

The best thing about the game: Spinal Tap in the house.

The Blazers aren't going to win any games in which Brooks gets 27. You've got to hang this loss largely on Blake. Outlaw also looked like he might be picking up playoff disappearances where Cliff Robinson left off.

Spinal Tap IN THE HOUSE! Yesssss!

The game reminded me of the championship series with Chicago when Jordan Nike'd in walking on air and broke the Blazers' spirit beaten lopsidedly at home. And the refs had the leading Assist stats, feeding Michael. Either there were two or three Big Games which fit that description, or else I have merged multiple mirages into one. Those Blazers bounced back (except not quite high enough), and these Blazers can't.

Rick Adelman coached those Blazers. And he has exacted long-running vengence on Blazers, with whatever team he's given -- he'd beat them with a high school junior varsity, or Yao Ming, because of the dirty deal when the Blazers dumped him. I didn't know he was at Houston, and the instant I saw that, tonight, I knew Paul Allen's pretenders are pickled. 4 and out.

Paul Allen: pull out of Portland. Thank you bye.

These guys summed it up pretty well. "No empiezan con buen pie el play off," indeed.

Watching the game was depressing. It seems like we couldn't get anything going: the Rockets were effective in completely neutralizing our strengths. First home game Rudy didn't get a three; LA & Outlaw couldn't sink anything. The only strong point of the game was that Oden was in it to win it -- good head, decent game considering.

Biggest problem I noticed was the rebound game -- we had so many misses that the Rockets nearly always capitalized on while we failed on getting rebounds.

On the radio, Wheels summed it up best (and I paraphrase): "Rockets put it up ... and what do you think?" Any shot the Rockets put up was gold; we couldn't get a basket for any amount of effort.

PS: When the Morrison bridge re-opens, check out the buildings downtown: our office has "GO BLAZERS" in 27" letters across our floor.

Houston foul shots: 28
Portland foul shots: 16

uncalled elbows, hooks and shoves by Scola, Artest & Yao: 138

# of time Houston fought to the basket: 85
# of time Portland fought to the basket: 7

Pryzbilla, Roy and Oden(!) were the only players who played with any ferocity.

and Houston got an amazing gift in the officiating. it set the tone from the first few minutes. it was surprisingly awful.

It's all about match-ups and I knew it was bad when Houston fell to #5. Home court looked like the only saving grace, but that's not going to do any goog now. Portland would have destroyed San Antonio last night, but thanks to a late game collapse by New Orleans and a lousy last game performance from Houston, this is what we get. Houston is the legitimate #2 seed in the West. Had it not been for the .500 part of the season when they adjusted to the loss of McGrady, they would be.

Likewise, had Detroit not had all the Iverson distractions at the end of their season, they could have got that one extra game that would have sent them to Boston and matched up very well.

This is the error in not giving Bayless more playing time after Blake came back from injury. Blake can't keep up with guys like Brooks and Chris Paul. Neither can Sergio. Period. So either his 3 pointers are falling or he gets his ass whooped. Bayless needs big first half minutes and he's going to have to use all five fouls he has to slow Brooks.

A 75% shooting avg. most of the first half for the Rockets seems unsustainable, except when you consider the shots were primarily from Yao in the paint, Yao on the perimeter, and Yao from the foul line.
Yao now bangs inside like Shaq, but with finesse.
Can the Blazers neutralize their big man?
That is a key question.

I think the difference (for Houston) this year is that Yao looks incredibly focused. Adelman has clearly made this team Yao's team, and he has responded. Perhaps playing the Olympics in his home country, and now being the leader of this team are what caused the change, but Yao has the air, the swagger of Shaq in his prime. I think Houston could easily get to the Western Conf. finals. Portland may not be the only speedbump they run over.

"But there is no joy in Mudville— mighty Casey has struck out."

Houston in 5.

Portland will win game 2, but stand no chance in Houston with their 20-21 regular season road record. They will come back to Portland looking at a 3-1 deficit and without a player with the will to win like a Kobe, Lebron or Kevin Garnett or a reason to win like the Rockets (10 playoff appearance first round exits), Houston will take the series from Portland in the Rose Garden.

Houston in 5.

Portland will rebound by winning the next four.

Then go on to the finals and lose to Cleveland 4-2

Unless Portland gets the same officiating gift in #2 that Houston got in #1, this one's over in four.

Ecohuman, let us know where you live and we'll get the whaaambulance over there ASAP.

I sat 9 rows from the floor at game 1 and then watched it again on DVR tonight. Here is my simple, yet keenly observed conclusion - at this point in their development and level of experience, this team has some great individual raw talent, lots of potential as a collaborative unit, but many of the key players are s-o-f-t. They were manhandled, plain and simple. I don't think a few days of practice nor Sarge's best, creative schemes are going to do much to rectify that issue. Hardening players to the combat of the playoffs takes years...not days. This is over for this year. How quickly is academic, but let's chalk it up as a growth opportunity and maturing process.

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