Full Court Press: Links To Get You Ready For Rockets/Blazers Game 2

Bob Levey

A round-up of coverage before Game 2 of a first-round playoff series between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

Enjoy this round-up of coverage as you get ready for Game 2 of a first-round playoff series between the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Blazers (West's No. 5) hold a 1-0 series lead over the Rockets (No. 4) after scoring a 122-120 overtime victory in Game 1 on Sunday.

Check out our Blazersedge coverage of Game 1 and its aftermath if you missed it...

Game 1Timmay's RecapDave's AnalysisAldridge's Big NightStotts & Lillard React

Game 1 AftermathRefs Blew CallDave's Match-ups BreakdownVideo: Lillard vs. BeverleyVideocastBeverley Cleared To PlayShaq Mocks Lopez

Onward to the links...

LaMarcus Aldridge was interviewed on The Dan Patrick Show...

Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com has a transcript if you're interested.

Coach Nick of Bball Breakdown has an extended look at Game 1...

Blazer Gang organized a flash mob of Blazers fans at Lloyd Center over the weekend.

Zach Lowe of Grantland with some love for LaMarcus Aldridge...

Aldridge played the game of the postseason so far, and the game of his life, in Portland's incredible Game 1 win in Houston. He is clearly healthy, and his game reflected that renewed vigor. He pushed for deep post-ups and jump hooks instead of settling for long jumpers, and when he saw Houston (kind of) giving him pick-and-pop jumpers, he mixed things up with drives to the rim and hard rolls.

That kind of diversity is crucial, especially when Dwight Howard is guarding him and jumping out far on pick-and-roll plays. Aldridge was solid on defense, though he'll have trouble managing Howard when Robin Lopez rests.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle with a thorough rundown of the Rockets' Game 1 shortcomings...

The Rockets didn't just lose in a particularly devastating way, coughing up an 11-point lead in the final 4 ½ minutes. They lost Game 1, the game they had waited so long to play, in a particularly devastating way with all the old issues - Howard's free throw shooting, ball movement, defensive rebounding - catching up to them at the worst time.

As much as the Rockets had pledged to play their way, to steadfastly stick to their regular-season style in the post-season, playing their way included their familiar shortcomings.

Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle reports that Jeremy Lin missed practice on Tuesday...

Rockets guard Jeremy Lin missed Tuesday afternoon's practice because of flu-like symptoms. He is listed as day-to-day in advance of Wednesday's Game 2 against the Blazers.

Dwight Jaynes of CSNNW.com on coach Terry Stotts...

Portland Coach Terry Stotts outcoached Houston's Kevin McHale Sunday night. And it wasn't even close.

The Blazers were ready for this task. They knew what they wanted to do defensively -- whether it was Hack-A-Howard or push James Harden off his sweet spots on the floor -- and offensively. Buried two or three times, Portland just kept coming back. Stotts never blinked even once through the craziness of this game, from physical altercations to referee madness to being six points behind early in the overtime period.

Jason Quick of The Oregonian on a very important Wesley Matthews speech delivered after a March loss to the Orlando Magic...

"Everybody has seen me mad on this team, but I think they saw me at another level where it was beyond a rage or an anger,'' Matthews said.

Things happen inside a locker room over the course of the season. Tempers flare. Moods swing. And sometimes team meetings sprout up. Thirteen days before the Orlando loss, the Blazers held a team meeting in San Antonio, prompted by Damian Lillard.

Lillard said the San Antonio meeting was rooted in encouragement, and in trying to find a spark. In Orlando, with Matthews spitting hot coals, Lillard said it was "desperation. It was more like life and death. That this is it.''

Said Matthews: "It was ‘This is a wake the (expletive) up!'''

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune talks to Thomas Robinson about his play in Game 1...

"Defensively, I was active," Robinson said. "I got to the glass. But I got a better performance in me. My stat line would have been if I hadn't missed those two little bunnies, but I won't do that again. I know that's there for me. I can keep getting that all series."

Robinson was disappointed the five Portland reserves who saw duty Sunday combined for only seven points on 2-for-14 shooting.

"We were terrible, just terrible," he said. "We stuck together mentally, but on the stat line we weren't there. I guess when we can't affect the game offensively, we have to find other ways to help the starters out."

Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports the Blazers bench's reaction to a weak Game 1.

"We played like sh**," reserve Thomas Robinson said to CSNNW.com after he went one-for-four on Sunday. "It's cool, though. We'll be back next game."

...

"I'm not caught up in the Jeremy Lin matchup," Williams tells CSNNW.com. "It's just about what I bring to the team. We bring two different things. I'm not caught up in the matchup, looking at the statsheet and seeing who outplayed whom. As long as we win, I'm cool."

Erik Gundersen of The Columbian on Houston's defensive approach to LaMarcus Aldridge...

LaMarcus Aldridge had plenty of "fixins" in the words of Kenny Powers to go with the lunchmeat defense played by the Rockets.

They left Aldridge single-covered for much of the night and he mixed in shots at the rim and good kick outs in with a few three-pointers. Another key to Aldridge's dominance was his play on the boards, being the best rebounder on the floor in Game 1. He got a lot of second chances to go in but his postgame in single coverage, and the quality shots he got kept Portland in it when Houston was outplaying them.

McHale either didn't know or reveal what he's going to do following the game. The photo below was the first and only possession where the Rockets sent an early double team.

The Associated Press reports Aldridge's day-after thoughts on Game 1...

Aldridge's big night got off to a slow start and he said Monday that he felt bad before the game and was worried he might have a fever.

''When the game started I still kind of felt junky my first few shots and I was kind of like: `Oh man,''' he said. ''And the second half I just kind of found it.''

...


''We've got to slow him down,'' McHale said. ''He was just a runaway train last night.''

Dwight Howard said the Rockets will try to throw some different matchups at Aldridge in Game 2 on Wednesday night to try and keep him in check. But, he said the key to containing him might come on the other end of the court.

''We've got to go right back at him,'' Howard said. ''He got a rest on defense. We've got to make him play defense - make him use his energy on the defensive end instead of just trying to get rebounds. We need to attack.''

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian caught up with Stotts and Rockets coach Kevin McHale about the successful deployment of Hack-a-Howard...

"Like I said before the game, it's situational," Stotts said. "If I think it's in our best interest to do it, we will. I had no qualms about using it going into the game, and I feel the same way now."

...

"That changed (the game) somewhat," McHale said of the Hack-a-Howard tactic. "We missed some free throws. They came just pushing it down and we didn't defend ... then we were kind of back on our heels. They pushed it up on us."

John Canzano of The Oregonian with more from McHale about his team's mentality...

McHale shook his head at the notion that the Blazers had 17 offensive rebounds against a team featuring Howard and 7-foot teammate Omer Asik. McHale also watched as Robin Lopez played nearly toe-to-toe with Howard for the first half of Game 1. But what appeared to bother Houston's coach most was the look in the eyes of his players before the game.

"I looked at their faces and our guys looked like they were hyperventilating," he said.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that Dwight Howard wants the rock...

After making just 9 of 21 shots with a 1 of 6 start on Sunday, he said he needs to demand more touches inside.

"We have to play inside out, play their bigs and make it a long night for those guys," Howard said. "I have to demand the ball, get it and go to work."

Howard said his offense could even be a factor to defend LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 46 points, spending most of the night matched up with Terrence Jones, other than some possessions against Howard.

"We have to go right back at him," Howard said. "You have to make him play defense and make him use his energy on defense. Make him have to run around and guard."

Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune on Damian Lillard's big Game 1...

"I was more anxious than anything else to get it started, to play in a playoff game," he said. "Once the game got going, I felt fine. I thought I'd be a little bit more nervous than I was, actually. As soon as the ball went up in the air and I ran up and down a couple of times, I was fine."

Lillard scored 16 of his points in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime.

"He stepped up big for us late," backcourt mate Matthews said. "I don't know if he was feeling it out early, but he wasn't shooting it well. Something seemed to click when he got kneed in the thigh (in the fourth quarter). Something woke up in him, and he started attacking and being aggressive. That's what we need."

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com wonders whether Patrick Beverley should be playing through his knee injuries...

Beverley is being paid $800,000 this season, which makes him somewhere around the 365th highest-paid player in the league. Beverley is perhaps the most underpaid player in the NBA, delivering 7.8 WAR for one of the cheapest contracts in the league. (By comparison, Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams registered 6.4 WAR and made $18.5 million this season.) Beverley's ratio of WAR per million in salary is an NBA-high 9.9, just ahead of Rockets teammate Chandler Parsons and Sacramento's Isaiah Thomas.

Any way you slice it, Beverley gives the Rockets far more than they bargained for. And now he intends to push himself even further by playing through a tattered knee. Most will praise Beverley for gutting it out, putting team above self. Every coach and general manager would do crazy things for a player like that.

But the bigger picture reveals a dilemma for the second-year guard.

A panel of ESPN.com writers give props to Aldridge...

Who was the most valuable player of the playoffs' opening weekend?

Curtis Harris: It's not always smart to just rely on counting stats, but LaMarcus Aldridge did record the opening weekend's high in points (46) and rebounds (18). The All-Star forward was magnificent as he once again ate the Rockets alive and helped deliver a thrilling OT victory for Portland.

Marc Stein: I suppose you're not going to let me split the vote between LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard despite the fact that they're the first duo with at least 45 points and 30 points, respectively, in a playoff game since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen in 1992. So let's not overthink this and go with Aldridge, whose beastly 46 and 18 included 22 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. Bonzi Wells Alert: Aldridge's 46 points established a new single-game playoff high for any Blazers player, eclipsing a 45-point game from Wells in 2003.

Ethan Sherwood Strauss: LaMarcus Aldridge, who suddenly discovered that the shots count for more if he takes a few steps back. Aldridge showed off the range in his 46-point, 18-rebound performance, but he also flaunted his brutal post game. LMA kept flattening poor Terrence Jones on the block.

Rob Mahoney of SI.com on the possible undoings of the Rockets and Blazers...

Houston Rockets

Why they won't win the title: Even Howard has his defensive limits. He does his damnedest to clean up every drive or cut that makes it through Houston's perimeter defense, but in many cases it only takes a series of two moves to break down the Rockets: The initial penetration to draw Dwight and the subsequent pass to his man for a wide-open finish. This can be a formidable defensive team in the right moments and matchups, though Houston has a pretty clear vulnerability in its secondary rotations.

Additionally: Harden's tendency to grind possessions to a halt isn't just aesthetically uninteresting but legitimately worrisome. That's bad news for a team that will likely have to carry itself for spells through scoring alone.

Portland Trail Blazers

Why they won't win the title: The Blazers have too few players they can rely on outside of those core five. Mo Williams is the most dependable piece on Portland's bench, and even he is more of a wild card playmaker than stabilizing influence. The performance of Thomas Robinson could charitably be characterized as an adventure. Dorell Wright hasn't shot as well or as consistently as expected. Joel Freeland has had decent stretches but missed significant time with injury and is currently out of Terry Stotts' rotation.

Portland can't get by with its starting five alone, and at some point will suffer losing runs and quarters for all that Williams, Robinson and Wright cannot do. Defense is a primary problem for two of the three, as Williams and Robinson have contributed to slips on that end for a team that's already far from elite on D. Empirically, pushing through to the title generally demands a top-10 defense. Portland hasn't yet met that standard, nor should it be expected to.

I noted a few weeks back that the Blazers wouldn't be doing free t-shirts for the home playoff games. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com reports that the Blazers will hand out thundersticks instead.

This video of James Harden's defensive lapses is mesmerizing, via YouTube user How U...

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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