Are you ready? The playoffs are here. I write this about 10 hours before tip off of Game 1 between the Blazers and Rockets. Let's break down tonight's matchup.
What's at Stake Tonight?
A 1-0 lead in the series. A Houston win helps the Rockets steal home-court advantage. A Blazers win helps them keep it. Wayne Havrelly correctly pointed out that in a best-of-seven series, a loss in game one isn't the end of the world for either team. However, I think a win tonight is pretty crucial for Portland, mainly due to the team's lack of playoff experience. The core of the Blazers lineup has played a total of 14 playoff games (9 for Steve Blake, 5 for Joel Przybilla). If most of the players can get over the nervousness, get their first playoff game under their belts, AND get a win, it will be huge in creating momentum moving forward.
What must the Blazers do on offense?
Get everyone involved. The Rockets are more than happy to admit they plan to D up huge on Brandon Roy. If the Blazers can get everyone on the floor involved in the scoring, it will help cut down on some of the double teams Roy will see. Rudy Fernandez, Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, and Steve Blake will be key. They must hit those outside jumpers. However, I think LaMarcus Aldridge is the most important Blazer tonight. If he can play well offensively, the Blazers will do well, and perhaps force Houston to change things for Game 2.
What must the Blazers do on defense?
Use their fouls wisely. Yao Ming can be a force inside. The last thing the Blazers want to do is have Przybilla and Oden in foul trouble. They're not going to be able to keep the ball out of his hands all the time, but if the Blazers can cut down on Yao's offensive chances, it will force guys like Shane Battier, Ron Artest and rookie Aaron Brooks to take more shots. I like the Blazers chances tonight if that happens.
If all that fails, maybe Greg Oden can sneeze on Yao and share his sinus infection (only joking).
Game 1 tips off at 7:30pm on KGW. Enjoy it, Blazers fans. I'll try and write in on Tuesday, and break down Game 2.