Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trail Blazers vs. Rockets: Game 1

With added experience in veterans Andre Miller and Juwan Howard accompanied by last season's success comes high expectations, maybe too high at times. The biggest storylines of the night will be to see if Portland can handle the pressure of being the hunted instead of the hunter as well as executing on offense by using their bigs to their advantage. One of the biggest reasons Houston was able to fluster Portland during last year's Western Conference Quarterfinal match up had to do with their ability to hinder Portland's execution on offense. At times, it looked like it was Brandon Roy, one on five, vs. the Rockets, because he was the only one who knew how to attack their defense.
Obviously with Yao Ming lost for the year and the departure of Ron Artest, the Rockets take a huge hit on their defensive prowess. But, as we saw when Yao went out in the Semi's vs. the Lakers, the Rockets seemed to scrap harder and relished in the "us against the world" role. Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge will need to assert themselves down low as forces not to be pushed around and work the inside-out game, freeing up shooters like Travis, Rudy, and Martell for open jumpers off of double teams. Whether Portland likes it or not, they are going to be in for a fight tonight; I hope they will be ready. Do not be surprised to see a depleted Houston team keep up with the Blazers through 2 and a half or 3 quarters, but I think the combination of the Rose Garden crowd and Portland's overall depth will eventually wear Houston down and take off with a 10 point victory.
Game 1 Prediction: Portland 94 Houston 84
Post Game thoughts
If you were to tell me Portland would have committed 26 turnovers, Oden scores two points, and Houston has the advantage in the paint, I would have thought Houston came into the Garden and stole the home opener. As a team, we were just that good, to have all those things against us and still find a way to have the game comfortably in hand from the 2nd quarter on.
Portland got inspired play from their bench, most notable Travis Outlaw and his team-high 23 points on 9-14 shooting, but it was his defense that was most impressive. Many times he would get matched up with Scola in the post and he went toe to toe with the Argentinian who gave us such fits just 5 short months ago. Martell made us forget about Nicolas Batum for a night by coming out aggressive in his 2nd stint after a passive first shift. The poster in traffic showed he is back!
Although the turnovers were horrendous, even for an opening night, Portland hustled their tails off and out worked and out muscled a team that did exactly the same thing to them last spring. Portland did yeoman's work on the glass by going plus 18 and added a ridiculous 12 blocks, headlined by G.O.'s 5, and thieved their way to 9 steals.
The only downside was seeing Roy press too much in the 2nd half and Oden's lack of touches in the post. I'll chalk those up 1st game flaws and don't really have any doubts about getting those problems shored up.
Box Score

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