Getting the Rockets in the first round was not great for the Blazers. Especially because one of the Blazers biggest strengths all season (the Center position) is now seriously mitigated. Instead of being able to shade over and deny the paint to the opponent's drivers, the Blazer Bigs will have their hands full trying to push against Ming. But it's not the worst matchup either. There's far too much bad blood between Portland and New Orleans (West's horsecollar takle on Roy, Chandler's Kung-Fu chop, etc.) Facing the L*kers in Round 2 would be better for the Blazers - especially psychologically. Maybe the Jazz would have been a good series, but I quickly get very bored watching Jerry Sloan's style of what he decided is "basketball."
This looks to be a fairly clean series. Adleman's a good coach. They'll be intense, trying to spook the youthful Blazers. If the Blazers do prevail, it will likely be becuase they managed Ming, which would mean a huge step forward for the Gregzilla.
Speaking of Ming
Yao Ming is the biggest factor in this series. Literally and figuratively. His position on the basketball court is listed as Center, but it might as well be listed as "Yao Ming" because there has never been someone quite like him in the game of basketball. He is maybe a "Power Center," meaning that he has almost all of the tools of a great Power Forward, and almost all the tools of a great Center, poured into one of the biggest bodies in the world. Scary is a good word to describe him on the basketball court.
Yao Ming is this big by the way:
(Scale: Jeff Van Gundy is 5' 9". Wow.)
- 7 foot freaking 6.
- Excellent outside shot, and free throw shooting.
- Blocks a good number of shots.
- Forces opposing Center into foul trouble on his good nights.
- 7 foot freaking 6.
- Making Joel eat basketballs.
(Joel: "It's too big!" Yao: "It'll fit.")
- It takes a lot to move that frame around, he's not the quickest guy.
- He's not a really great defender, because of his speed. Often it doesn't matter (remember, Seven. Foot. Freaking. Six.)
- Goes into a shell on offense some nights.
- He's had one of his dunks blocked by this guy:
The NBA, where "two extra feet don't matter to me" happens.
How the Blazer Centers Win their battle:
They must make Yao play defense. It's not quite as simple as that though, because Joel is limited in his offense. It is very tempting to boil this series down to what Greg can do. Greg is, you may have heard kind of big himself. He's not going to stop Yao, not even close, but if he can take the fight to him, force Yao to react, then the Blazers have a serious chance.
- Early, agressive offensive moves by the Pivot men to make Yao play on defense. I stress that this must happen EARLY in the game, before Yao can pick up on the flow of the game and get into a rythm.
- Run multiple defensive looks at Yao. He cannot be contained for a whole game with just one scheme. Front him, double him, back him, deny the easy passing lanes to him, kidnap his dog before the game and hold it hostage. You do what you have to do.
- You're not going to stop him, so mitigate his production with your own. In other words, if Yao goes for 20 and 10, and the Blazer Centers go for 16 and 10, you've pretty much negated the Yao factor. Between the two of them, they should be able to grab more than 10 boards, of course, but you get the idea.
Well, we'll all know more by the end of this day, won't we?