Blazers/Rockets Game 1 Recap
The Rose Garden? More like the House of Yao in Game 1
Everything leading up to Game 1 of the Houston/Portland series led me to believe that the Trail Blazers would hold serve. How wrong was I? Yao Ming was at his best, making visions of Hakeem Olajuwon dance in Rockets fans’ heads on his way to scoring 24 points in 25 minutes on 9-9 shooting. The Trail Blazers? They came out flatter than Gwen Stefani’s chest in a 108-81 loss at home. Even at their best, it would have been hard for the Blazers to match the Rockets’ offense. How many teams shoot 59% overall in a road playoff game?
The Rockets set the tone early thanks to Yao’s first-half scoring. He didn’t take a shot in the second half. Usually that means that the Rockets are doomed. Not anymore. Aaron Brooks picked up where Yao left off with 27 points and 7 assists, and got inside like he was Clive Owen in a Spike Lee joint. Memo to Portland. Do not let the youngster get confident. It will be your undoing.
It’s hard to remember a more inauspicious beginning for a home team. The only Blazer that looked comfortable with the pressure was Brandon Roy. Greg Oden showed up against Dikembe Mutombo, scoring 15 points, but it was for the most part inconsequential. The Blazers looked scared. I’m talking Heather from The Blair Witch Project scared. If that continues, you can go ahead and mark the Rockets down for a second round trip. Lord knows it has taken them long enough to get there.
The Rockets’ supporting cast kept the engine running, even increasing the team’s lead to 30 while Yao was out. Luis Scola was quicker to balls off the rim. Ron Artest dropped 17 in spite of his insistence to shoot threes with players draped all over him. We even got entrance into the house of Mutombo again, getting to break out the Denver Nuggets throwback to celebrate the 100-year-old Dikembe Mutombo doing his famous finger wag not once, but twice after blocks.
The loss at the Rose Garden gives home court to the Rockets now, but it doesn’t mean that Portland is out of this. Not by a long shot. The question is whether the young Blazers will be able to shake off a Deebo in Friday style beatdown or if it will suck the wind out of them. The Rockets clearly have the edge in maturity. Mutombo himself has appeared in twice as many playoff games as the entire Blazers roster. But the Rockets are notorious for letting teams back into series. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have predicted that they’d lose their 7th straight opening round series. It was as good of a beginning to the Playoffs as Yao and Houston could have asked for, but it won’t mean much if they can’t finish the whole thing off.