All year, I have been content just to get the opportunity to watch Greg Oden play. So much has gone wrong in his young career, that just seeing him on the floor for 30 seconds was satisfying (and plenty of time for him to pick up two fouls). On my drive home from work today, something changed.
I realized that we likely can't win this series without Greg winning at least one game for us. That probably sounds absurd, but hear me out.
I think it's a foregone conclusion that if we don't get solid play from Brandon, we're done. I go a step farther and would say that the single biggest barometer of our success in any game will be the contributions of LMA. I expect us to be competitive in any game against the Rockets if both of those guys are scoring,
As much as I love what I've seen from LMA in the past few months, he is still not on Brandon's level in terms of night in/night out performance. That is why I have a hard time picturing the Blazers getting too many more games in this series where that duo combines for 69 points. We need a third scorer.
It would be ideal to have Steve Blake knocking down the triples, but their defense never doubles off of him enough to expect him to get the open looks he is used to. Travis Outlaw has played well against the Rockets in the regular season, but has regressed quite a bit the past few weeks from his stellar play in March. Rudy is struggling with the same things as Blake in terms of getting a few open looks. Considering the Rockets are daring the Blazer big men to hit jumpers, Channing Frye could be a factor, but he's unlikely to get off the bench.
Then I think about Oden. He's going to get significant minutes against guys standing no taller than 6'9" and weighing no more than 245 lbs. We saw glimpses of *deep* post position in game two. What we haven't seen is Greg hitting those two-foot hook shots or getting many put backs. He scored 15 pts in game one during mostly garbage time. There are at least that many points to be had each and every game for Greg in this series. If he can even do it once during a competitive game, I think it will turn the series. More than once? Say hello to the Lakers.
Everyone has been telling Greg for so long that we just need him to defend and rebound. I am saying that right here, right now, we need Greg to put pressure on Houston's defense.
It makes me daydream about what this series would be like next year when I expect Oden will have at least one dependable move that should have him scoring at least 12 pts/game.
But that is next year. We need Greg *this year* to win this series. Step up big guy, and it will signal the next chapter in the Blazers evolution into champions.