I might need a little leeway here, because I'm a little buzzed in my attempt to drown my sorrows away from this last Blazer loss. I've been thinking this ever since about the second quarter of the game, though, so bear with me, and hopefully the spelling will be tolerable.
Throughout my years of watching the NBA playoffs, what seems to be self-evident is that success is all about exploiting matchups. The most successful teams tend to be the ones who are most effective at utilizing their biggest matchup advantages throughout the game. Witness tonight; Houston had two major matchup advantages, at PG and starting C, and utilized these to enormous effect. Brooks and Yao flat out embarrassed Joel and Blake. Obviously Brooks isn't going to shoot 60% from downtown all series, and Yao isn't going to be perfect from the field all series, but their domination of our guys seemed to be the main places that we got taken to the wood shed tonight.
The key for us to come back then being, where do we have a huge advantage over Houston. It'd be tempting to say PF, but anyone who watched the game tonight would say that Scola was seriously undervalued as a force by Blazer fans. For me, the one place that jumped out at me as a matchup overwhelmingly in our favor was the Oden-Deke matchup. Simply put, every time Oden got the ball on the block against Mutombo, he was able to get FTs, at the very least, with a couple and 1's resulting there, as I recall. We had exactly one efficient offensive player last night (no offense to Roy, who was a lion), and that was Greg. I was absolutely flabbergasted we didn't feed him more (I know, sinus infection, yada yada).
My point being, Greg gave us an overwhelming advantage on the block against his counterpart, and we barely went to him. This is going to be something that we need to exploit in order to win this series. After that game, I have a hard time believing that will win this series without Greg putting up something like an 18/10 this series. Obviously going to him a lot will cause Houston to put Yao on him, but I have a hard time believing that Yao could consistently guard a guy as strong as Greg without picking up one or two cheap fouls, which would have been enough to get Yao off the court early in this game, and allowed us to maybe put together a run before the end of the first half. As good as Yao was, Greg nearly matched him at 6-7 and 3-4 on FTs.
The sky certainly isn't falling yet, but that was definitely a gut check loss, and when Nate goes back to re-evaluate, I hope a lot more Greg is in the prescription for game 2.
EDIT: Now that I look at this, I never meant to imply that we'd be able to beat Houston with similar output from all our players but with a greater Oden contribution. We'll need much more from LaMarcus, Trout and the usual suspects, but based on his previous history with Houston, I just don't see LaMarcus dominating Scola like we'll need him to do if we're going to win through our normal offensive sets.
Simply put, I think Houston had us perfectly scouted down on offense. doubling LaMarcus in the post right as he got deep enough to where he likes to make his move, and staying at home on Rudy and Blake all night. Yao's early domination and foul took us a little out of our offense as we desperately probed him to try and get foul 2 on him with about 400 P&R's on every straight possession (which actually worked okay while Yao refused to really contest Roy in the first). The one thing that seems to be somewhat immune to scheming right now is Greg's strength down low. Either it forces Yao to play him and tires him out/leads to Yao fouls, or they have to start aggressively doubling him which'll open up things for Rudy and Trout outside.
And while Greg did get most of his numbers after the game was decided, I thought he looked just as good when we went to him in the second, we just barely ever fed him down there.