Or more accurately, they psyched themselves out before the game even started. Before I go into this explanation, let me first say that the Rockets played extremely well and had much to do with the Blazer's loss.
That being said, this was definitely not the same the Blazer's team that we watched during the last month of the season. So, what happened? Like I said the Rockets had something to do with it. But let's be honest, the Blazers had a lot to do with it. It's not like the talent on the Blazers all of sudden got worse. And they won must win games all the way down the stretch of the season against playoff opponents who were also in the same boat.
One of the main culprits to the Blazer's poor play in game one is simply they psyched themselves out. They put the playoffs up on a pedestal. And it's not like it was hard to do. While all of us fans and the media were getting psyched up about the PLAYOFFS, and having rallies downtown where the players are giving speeches and playing musical instruments, the team was getting psyched out.
Brandon said it perfectly after the game, "We can't think about the playoffs or anything like that. We just need to play basketball for 48 minutes."
I think this is exacly right. It doesn't matter if you are playing a preseason, regular season or playoff game, you still need to put the ball in the hoop and stop the other team from putting the ball in the hoop. The game doesn't change. Maybe the refs let a little more contact go, but still the game doesn't change. THE PLAYOFFS ARE NOT A NEW SEASON. They are a CONTINUATION of the season...one in which you won 2 out of 3 over the course of 82 games. And just like any game, you take them one at a time, put the ball in the hoop and stop your opponent from the putting the ball in the hoop.
So, Blazers stop overthinking things. You are already good enough and you do belong here. You have shown that time and time again. The playoffs aren't Rocket science. Just go out and play basketball.
Your biggest nemesis isn't the Houston Rockets...it's your mentality. Get it back to where you were at the end of the regular season, and you will win this series.
UPDATE: Jason Quick just posted his Behind the Blazer's Locker Room Door, which cites examples of the Blazers psyching themselves out:
- Aldridge's suprise pregame meeting with McMillan
- The team wearing different shoes than they normally wear at home
- Players showing up to the game in suits rather than the casual clothes they usually wear when arriving to games
- Batum, ""We tried to play playoff basketball - we tried to change our game to be more physical. But we have to just play our game."
- Sergio, "I don't think we were nervous, but tense, yes,"