Scanning the blogs and beats following the Blazers' 107-103 win over the Rockets in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals ...
Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: "Sure, the Rockets need to get Yao Ming the ball more no matter what defense the Trail Blazers play. Six shots are not enough. That, however, is only a sliver of the story. First, understand that he was sandwiched between the two biggest guys the Trail Blazers had on the court at any one time — Joel Przybilla and LaMarcus Aldridge or Aldridge and Greg Oden. They fronted him relentlessly, and if he somehow held off a defender on his back, the other came over on the touch to double team. They committed a lot of fouls, 16 between them, but they did keep Yao from tearing them apart as he did when they tried to defend them alone. This is completely understandable. Yao is a big guy, but he is not 14-feet tall, and that's how much defense the Trail Blazers devoted to stopping him."
SLAM Online: "Let’s talk a bit about Yao. I love the big man, but from now on maybe it’s best we call him the Patrick Swayze of the NBA, because no other star in the league can turn into a ghost like him. Yao shot 3-6 from the field. Six shots. Could you ever imagine Shaquille O’Neal shooting the ball that little in his prime? Why is Yao not swearing in multiple languages at the coaching staff a la Michael Jordan to Doug Collins in Game 5 of the 1989 NBA Playoffs? Keyshawn Johnson wrote the book, but it’s Yao Ming that needs to be saying, 'Just give me the damn ball.' Not all of the blame goes to the players. Rick Adelman had no answer as to how he can get the ball to Yao versus Portland’s fronting him on defense. They better figure it out quickly, because even with 20+ point performances from Aaron Brooks (Brooks made critical mistakes in the 4th, in spite of his scoring) and Von Wafer, they still lost. Props to Nate McMillan for winning the coaching battle in Game 2."
Joe Freeman, The Oregonian: "The Blazers evened the best-of-seven, first-round series at 1-1 and ensured there will be at least one more game at the Rose Garden, where the Blazers have a 35-8 record this season. In the process, the Blazers injected a heavy dose of optimism — to their fans and to themselves — that the franchise's first foray into the playoffs since 2003 might not be a quick exit after all. 'We got to believe that we can win,' Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. 'We go in there doubting ourselves and we lose before we even take the floor. And after that first game, basically the last two days were about getting this team to believe that we can do it.' With grit, physical play and precision — and a whole a lot of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge — the Blazers looked nothing like the team that endured their worst loss of the season Saturday."
Blazer's Edge: "Sergio, Rudy, Travis, Joel and Greg are on the court simultaneously. I turn to [Kevin] Pelton and say, 'Wow, how many minutes do you suppose this group has played together this season?' Without blinking or saying a word, KP2 straightens his psychedelic tie and cracks open Microsoft Excel. He plugs in a ridiculously complicated formula that included roughly sixty-seven brackets. Roughly 2.5 minutes and 1.5 furrowed brows later KP2 replies, via live chat (even though I'm sitting right next to him), that this is, in fact, the first time this group has played together in the 2008-2009 season. Kevin Freaking Pelton, ladies and gentlemen. The man, the myth, the legend."
Rockets Buzz: "As well as the Rockets played in Game 1, that’s how bad Game 2 was. The shots that slipped in so smoothly in Game 1 just couldn’t find the bottom of the cup. Instead of doing everything right, Aaron Brooks seemed to do everything wrong. Ron Artest let his emotions get the best of him at times, and found himself taking unnecessary shots. Yao Ming was in foul trouble early and couldn’t get involved in the offense. And to top it all off, not only did the Rockets lose their backup center, but with Mutombo went the heart, soul and spirit of this team."
Bust a Bucket: "On the defensive side, the Blazers didn't allow Yao Ming to get involved in the Rockets' offense. We all knew this would be the game plan, but who knew it would be so successful. Yao was visibly frustrated a number of times and ended with only six field goal attempts. Quite a change from Game 1 where he did whatever he wanted and couldn't miss. Our big guys racked up the fouls, but they used them wisely for the most part. We still don't have an answer for Aaron Brooks. Apparently he has decided that he is now an all-star caliber player. We need Brooks to go back to his former, average self in Houston. Von Wafer also caused us a bunch of problems. That guy likes to shoot, he drives hard and he's got a lot of confidence. We need our guards to step it up on the defensive end, because we're making their role players look better than they really are."
Talk Hoops: "The Trail Blazers won by committing to an aggressive style of play. Roy and Aldridge got inside all night, helped by Yao Ming's early foul trouble. The bench wasn't spectacular tonight, but they made shots and played defense when it counted. Both Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw's production late in the 4th swung the game the Blazer's way. Nate McMillan also brought an outstanding game plan for Game 2, fronting Yao and making role players like Von Wafer and Aaron Brooks carry the load. The Rockets nearly pulled it off, but aren't nearly as deadly without Yao's production."
TrueHoop: "Ron Artest's confidence in his own offensive arsenal was one of Portland's better weapons tonight. Several times he fired up the kinds of prayers that would get lesser NBA players benched. On a play in the final minutes of the first half, little Portland point guard Steve Blake was switched onto mountainous Yao Ming. But Artest never noticed and chucked up a contested 3 that missed. His shot selection, on bad nights, seems, to me, to be unprofessional. And of course his GM told that story about wanting to talk to Artest about his shot selection, but Shane Battier advised him not to, saying 'you can't cage a pit bull.' It occurs to me that most pit bulls actually do live within fences."
FanHouse: "Portland did what they had to do: they evened the series going back to Houston and picked up some momentum. But they still have a lot of questions to answer. If Joel Pryzbilla isn't able to get the referees to believe in magic and Yao doesn't start racking up fouls, are they going to be able to consistently maintain pressure on him? All night long you waited for Yao to take over — and when he would begin to, another foul would be called. Obviously, the Portland crowd didn't agree, as their loudest noise was mostly reserved for an officiating crew that actually gave them the edge in free throws and personal fouls. The Blazers were tremendously effective with the front-and-baseline-double, but it's likely the Rockets will spread the offense out and find shooters, which the Blazers have yet to prove they can defend."
The Dream Shake: "You thought Mehmet Okur was bad? Andrei Kirilenko? Matt Harpring? Anderson Varejao? Nope, none of them compare to the Vanilla Gorilla himself, the newly crowed 'King of the Floppers.' Apparently, Przybilla isn't as strong or as powerful as some claim him to be. From the looks of it, a light shove to his back sends him flying into the air like he's just been electrocuted, flailing arms and all. For example, Kyle Lowry puts his palm on Przybilla's back and gives him a little shove without extending his arms at all during a rebound. To this, Joel suddenly flies into the air like a bat, falls onto the floor, and just for kicks, rolls around like he just flew off a motorcycle. Then he sits up and holds his hands in the air as if he feels cheated with not being rewarded for his acting job. Then, late in the third quarter, Joel is boxing out Yao Ming when a ball flies in his vicinity. Yao gives him a light shove, as do all big bodies during a box out, and Joel hits the deck as if we're back in the Cold War preparing for the bomb to strike. I watched the replay a hundred times: the arm movement that Yao made wasn't even close to being enough to knock anyone down to the ground, and especially not a big guy like Joel."
Dan Shanoff: "'For me, basketball is over.' It's rare to see a pro athlete get injured and have them immediately tell you they are retiring from the sport. But that's what seems to be the case with Dikembe Mutombo, the ageless shot-blocker whose signature finger-waggle was one of the great taunts in NBA history and whose image of lying on the floor clutching the ball after the eighth-seeded Nuggets upset the No. 1 seed Sonics in 1994 remains one of the most indelible moments in NBA playoffs history."