Over the last three days I've read a lot of people's thoughts on how the Blazers need to adjust for Game 2 of this series after the Game 1 blowout. People have written asking what we can do, what we can change, how we can tinker with things to get a better outcome. Now, called upon to do a preview for the second game, one question comes to mind in response to these ideas, suggestions, and queries:
What exactly did we do in Game 1?
I'm a sensitive, fairly thoughtful guy and I understand the problems with comparing sports and military actions, but I'm going to use this metaphor even so because it encapsulates neatly what I'm trying to say. The first game of this series was like a bunch of guys going to war with a battle plan, but the other guys have automatic weapons and our guys guns all jammed at once. When that happens the plan is pretty much out the window. It never got executed. You just duck down behind the best cover you can find and try to figure out how to make it through.
You can debate that we should try a flanking motion or maybe come in with a different weapons loadout but the reality is that none of it would have mattered Saturday night. That means the first, and maybe the only, thing you really want changed for this evening is to have enough firepower to put up the fight you need to. If everything jams again no plan will make a difference. If everything goes smoothly then your original plan probably wasn't a bad one. You go in with that and adjust from there.
There's no magic substitution, no savior off the bench, no fancy wrinkle to the pick and roll that's going to make up 30 points. You either execute the game that brought you here, adjusted for this particular opponent, to the best of your ability or you concede that you just can't match up with these guys.
You want to know what the approach is? Re-read the series preview here.
- Push the tempo for precious easy buckets
- Move and reverse the ball on the Rockets' defense if you're stuck in the halfcourt
- Don't be afraid to take an open shot
- Somebody besides Roy has to score
- Mix up your coverage on Yao, including going with LaMarcus on him, fronting him and then trying to outrun him to the other end
- In case we didn't mention it, rebound...especially when you go small
- Involve Yao in the pick and roll
- Don't be afraid of any Rocket besides Yao going one-on-one. That's to your advantage. Eventually they're going to miss.
There's more, but those are the basics. And as you see, nothing but involving Yao in the pick and roll even got off of the launching pad on Saturday. The game plan hasn't changed because the game plan wasn't executed. The Rockets had a freaky night where that last point didn't hold true and that messed things up. If they can do it again tonight, more power to them. I'll still take my chances.
The only thing I'd add is this: If you don't burn for this game--if you're not willing to give out everything you are as a basketball player for every rebound, possession, defensive stop, and drive--then the Rockets are going to take this game and with it probably the series. They know what time it is. They've learned from a half-decade of futility. They're not going to give it up to you. You have to take it. And if you have any designs on taking it, it has to start tonight.
I will also say this: The series is not over. And anybody who has read me for more than five minutes knows that I'd be saying the exact same thing in reverse had the Blazers won by 30 the other night. We said from the outset that Games 1 and 2 would be the most important games of the series, Game 1 for the percentages, Game 2 for how the Blazers reacted.
Also not that the comeback stories for Portland this season have not been confined to the 18 or so games we won gaining ground from behind. Every single thing the Blazers have tried to do for the first time this year they have failed at. Every single time afterwards they found redemption in those exact same circumstances against those exact same teams. They are quick studies and deceptively resilient.
I do not know whether that will happen again here. The level of competition is higher, the time frame for adjustment shorter. As I just said, Houston knows what's what and will be watching for any sign of an uprising. Their Death Star might not be fully operational, but it's damn close and coming back on them will be damn tricky. But that doesn't mean it's impossible.
The focus is narrow. One game. Not even that really...one quarter to start with. Play a strong opening period and go from there. It's perfectly possible to imagine the Blazers losing again tonight and taking a long march down to Houston with heavy hearts. It's also possible to imagine some announcer saying, "Everything that went right for the Rockets in Game 1 has turned around on them in Game 2. This series is just starting!"
We'll have to see.