Games 1 and 2 certainly set the tone, 2 losses at home to a team they were supposed to win the series against is an awful way to start and probably has them shaken up. But they aren't finished yet, they're against the wall in a way I don't think anyone really expected, they will come out strong and aggressive like they did in game 2. They're almost certain to start doubling LMA more seriously on defense and offensively they're probably going to go back to what they had done in game 1, lots of shots for Harden and Parsons.
So what are the keys to a Blazer win?
1.) At the minimum maintain parity in free throw makes, turnovers, and rebounds. That limits their extra possessions and slows the game down in our favor. It's no accident that the Rockets had a +7 offensive rebound advantage in game 1 but only a +3 advantage in game 2 where they lost by a bigger margin.
2.) Wes and Nic MUST continue to shut down Harden and Parsons. No matter what else Nic and Wes does, Harden and Parsons must continue to be forced to shoot around 30% FG. Besides Howard those two are the main scoring options for Houston, so it's important to keep them marginalized because Howard is going to get his. The media might not recognize Harden's 14-47 shooting is because of our defense, but I sure hope we do. Any extra offense we get from Nic and Wes is a bonus, they missed a lot of open 3's in game 2 that I think are going to start falling in games 3 and 4.
3.) Defend the 3 point line. Kind of an extension of point 2, last game Houston went 3-16 and game 1 they went 8-35, needless to say that's a lot of dry possessions, we have to keep up the pressure.
4.) The bench needs to show up. In game 2 Freeland struggled a lot and picked up a lot of fouls that he didn't really need to, but everyone else really stepped up. TRob kept doing his thing, we had Good Mo and Wright made some big plays on both ends. We need that for game 3.
5.) Lillard needs to have a big night. Like Nic and Wes, he too missed a lot of open 3's, most of which were the most open I think I've ever seen in a playoff game. He also made some real questionable shot selections too. I think he'll do better in game 3, which is especially important because of all the attention LMA is probably going to get this time. I don't expect LMA to have another 40+ point night (though it would be nice if he did), so this is going to be Lillard time.
6.) We need to execute better down the stretch. In game 1 it was terrible, game 2 it was better but still bad. I'm hoping game 3 will be good enough to put the game away before the last minute. In game 2 we had several chances to extend the late 4th quarter lead to double digits but those ended up in turnovers and missed shots. We can do better.
If we win game 3 we'll blow open the series, to be down 0-3 to a team more than a few were expecting to lose in 5 would be beyond embarrassing and very likely cause the Rockets to crack apart. We've got them where we want them, they're here in Portland for the next 2 games, this is their last stand. I don't want to see the Toyoda Center again this season, let's finish the job here!