Game Time: 7:00 p.m. Pacific TV: KGWHD
It's a game. A real...live...game! The start of the season is upon us!!! Pull out your remotes, brush off those season tickets, order that extra-large hot wings appetizer, or whatever it is that you do when the Blazers hit the floor. It's go time.
A Look at the Rockets
You probably remember the Rockets from the last time we played them which was, well, the last game we played. Who can forget Portland's first return to the playoffs since the Wallace years? Who did not tremble at the coming of Yao Ming, the behemoth who owned the...what? Yao is out with another foot injury? How many feet does this guy have? Is he an octopus or something? OK, then I'm sure we all remember the way Ron Artest pushed the Blazers around and scored at wil...huh? With the L*kers? Fine, fine. But you still can't take the Rockets lightly with Tracy McGrady around. He may be getting older but he's still tall, fairly agile, and can hit shots that mere mortals wouldn't dare to appro...o...ohhhh what NOW? Why are you tittering behind your hands? Let me guess. Tracy McGrady went to get a chili dog at an all night stand and as he was paying he dropped the a quarter which rolled towards a sewer grate and when he bent over to pick it up he was rudely assaulted by a vicious yo-yo gang who left dents and bruises on tender parts of his anatomy and he won't be in service for another six months.
Will somebody please tell me who IS actually available for the Rockets?
I see. Aaron Brooks. He's speedy. Trevor Ariza. The most overrated acquisition of the off-season. Shane Battier. An older, but better, Ariza. Scola, Hayes, and Landry. Isn't that the firm that represented Ben in his latest round of contract negotiations? And that's it? Oh...excuse me. How could I forget Kyle Lowry, Chase Budinger, and Pops Mensah-Bonsu?
Look, there are some good players there. They're great complementary players even. But this is just...ouch. Somebody's going to score in that lineup, but he's not going to be anyone's first choice. Brooks' speed and the rebounding and jump-shooting of the three forwards tied the Blazers in knots last spring but all of them keyed off the threat of Yao and Artest. Without those two breaking ground the Blazers should be able to handle the threat the rest of this lineup poses, both individually and combined. They'll still rebound. They'll still defend well. They'll still manufacture some points. But every single shot is going to be harder without those stars. Every single miss will be more crucial. And every single Blazer is going to be harder to handle.
There's not much you can say about this 0-0 version of the Rockets except that they're going to try really hard but the game will be a struggle for them every single night. It's like going to a potluck at the nursing home. Maybe, just maybe, you'll find some hidden gems on that table. But most of it you're just going to want to avoid.
Keys to the Game
1. Greg Oden...SMASH!!!
2. Greg Oden...SMASH MORE!!!
3. Just contest every shot. Mid-range jumpers are no threat if you have a hand in the shooter's face. Since you don't have to commit to stopping Yao in the post your hand should be in their face approximately 100% of the time. Similarly Aaron Brooks is going to get past our guards but he should meet some nifty and only slightly-stressed help defense on the way to the bucket. If you do any kind of reasonable job on defense there's no way they should be able to manufacture enough points to win.
4. Don't let the defense of Battier and Ariza frustrate you. Just work around them. Score from other positions first and then when they run to help set your shooting guards and small forwards loose. The one danger in this game is that you simply try to butt heads with the Rockets, grinding out a one-on-one offense that's not likely to score any more points than theirs does. Move the ball, make them chase it and deal with mismatches elsewhere, then once they're scrambling take them out.
5. They're not deep, so pound, run, scratch, and move them around. They'll get rebounds but make sure they're hard-fought. Push the ball up and make them run with you even if you don't have a fast break. Substitute enough to keep you fresh while they tire. Watch the fun commence as the second half progresses.
6. Greg Oden ANGRY NOW! SMASH EVERYONE GOOOOOD!!!!!!!
Since we're going with the semi-serious preview for Game 1 anyway we might as well open up the joviality in the comments. In addition to speculating about tonight's game share with us your favorite pre-game, in-game, or beginning-of-season superstitions and rituals. What do you do to bring the Blazers good mojo? What kind of welcome do you have planned for the season? Where, how, and with what bells and whistles will you be viewing the game tonight?
Be extra sure to check out the always-excellent TheDreamShake. Seriously, these guys put up one of my favorite sites ever. It has literally everything: analysis, emotion, goofiness, and sometimes flat-out jaw-dropping cantankerousness. Plus they're going to be angry about that nursing home potluck reference. "Who lost their partial in the mashed potatoes? Mr. Kamenski, that is NOT a serving spoon! Yes Mrs. Peters, I'll try your special recipe bean casserole. But you didn't have any beans or seasoning? You improvised? Oh...and that's not cream of mushroom soup either? Oy veh."