Questions of playoff readiness were silenced after Game 1 this past weekend when the Houston Rockets derailed the young and talented Portland Trail Blazers in an overwhelming double-digit victory. But the criticism is showing up again and rightfully so.
The Rockets fell to the Blazers 107-103 in game 2 on Tuesday, exactly the way they knew they could. The game plan was no secret, it was no surprise. Double team the biggest player on the floor, and live with the smaller players beating you.
Yao Ming dominated in game 1, while going 9-9 for 24 points in the first half alone. His services weren’t even needed in the second half, where point-guard Aaron Brooks and the rest of the Rocket squad sealed the deal.
Game 2 was a totally different story. The Blazers exploited the Rockets’ evident weaknesses, which ironically resembled their own. Neither team has a lot of playoff experience, not to mention the lack of success. Most of the Blazers key players are making their debut in postseason play. But the inexperience showed more in the Rockets on Tuesday night.
“We put ourselves in a bad position,” Coach Rick Adelman told reporters. “We have to get into our offense quicker and then we have to have patience. We didn’t have patience all night long.”
Blazers guard Brandon Roy was unstoppable scoring 42 points in 42 minutes. But he didn’t really beat the Rockets. As good as he was, his performance never dominated the game, even though it was fun to watch. Power forward LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 27 points on 11-19 shooting which is similar to the performance he was expected to give in Game 1, but failed. As good as he was, he didn’t beat the Rockets either. He missed a few 18-foot jump shots down the stretch but the Rockets could not capitalize.
Credit the Blazers for answering the challenge of defending the best offensive post player in the league. They held Yao to 11 points on 3-6 shooting. It was a decent defensive effort, but the Rockets can blame themselves for not winning this game. Statistically, they did well but anyone who watched the game could see they were shaky towards the end. Yao isn’t just their best player, but everything that they do offensively begins with him. So when he was taken out of the game midway through the 3rd quarter with his fourth foul, those Rockets who had been so good suddenly had no clue how to execute.
They shot 50% from the field overall and were only slightly outrebounded which may have been the difference. They didn’t play that well and still had the win within their grasp. The Blazers had six offensive boards to the Rockets’ four. I’ll remind you that this was only a two-possession game. Game 3 will be Friday at the Toyota Center.