FanPost

That was depressing, but it was just Game 1

True, that was a bummer.  But in some ways a blowout loss is better than a one-point heartbreaker.  Realistically, the youngsters had to get initiated into playoff basketball, and now they have been.  Contrary to what the ESPN announcers were saying, tonight's result was not a shock.  Or at least it shouldn't have been.  "The physical, playoff-tested veteran team kicks the youngsters' butts in Game 1."  Nothing new about that story.   

And here's how the next chapter generally goes.  First, the national media all jump off the flavor-of-the-week team's bandwagon.  Even locally, many fans bail.  But the veteran team relaxes slightly in Game 2, feeling that now, having "taken home court advantage," they're in the drivers' seat.  Meanwhile, the youngsters regroup, their coach makes adjustments (e.g., shortening the rotation and fronting Yao), and the team comes out with a focused, determined effort in Game 2.  No more "deer in the headlights"; they probably win going away.  

After that, though, the story of this series is hard to predict.  The Blazers have serious problems matching up with the Rockets, and now they have to win a game in Houston--as well as the rest of their home games.  Still, if the Rockets do relax enough to lose Game 2, they may be in trouble.  That's because what "home court advantage" in the playoffs is truly about is the right to play a Game 7 at home.  Losing an early game at home isn't that big a deal if you're talented enough to win one on the other team's floor, and I think the Blazers are.  Conversely, it's almost impossible to win a Game 7 on the road.  (Mainly because of home cooking, in my opinion.)  

So this idea that the Blazers have now "lost home court advantage" is really a misconception.  If the Blazers win Game 2, their whole psychology will change, and they'll likely go into Houston and win one.  They won't be playoff newbies anymore; the nerves and shock at the physicality of playoff basketball will have worn off.  And they'll still have the huge advantage that home court in a Game 7 brings.   

Still, there's those pesky matchup problems.  The Blazers couldn't deal with the Rockets' physicality during the regular season.  So how are they going to do so in the playoffs, when officials allow more aggressiveness?  While I still think the Blazers will defy the new overnight media consensus by making this a series, they probably will need another year of maturation--and the addition of a "Maxsap" or two--before they can make a serious playoff run. No worries; this team (unlike the suddenly over-the-hill Celtics) is built for the long haul.

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