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Full Court Press

Henry Abbott on playoff experience...

But the bigger reason I knew that was Fernandez was because it was a risky thing to do, and he's the one Blazer who has his risk-o-meter set to "playoffs."

Before the Blazers played their first playoff game, there was a group of voices out there betting against Portland simply because of their lack of playoff experience. I still don't know if I buy it -- their three losses have come to a very good Houston team, and two of them have been exceptionally close -- but that rationale is looking smarter than ever. (Also, history shows that while young teams that make the playoffs don't fare as well, young teams with good regular season records do fine.)

The Blazers have played big portions of this playoff series trying to be safe. Not going for the steal. Not throwing the lob. Not fouling.

The playoffs, however, are a bit like a frontier town when the sheriff is on vacation. Predator's delight.

Fernandez, to my eyes, is the Blazer who walks that walk most comfortably.

Casey Holdahl with a glimmer of hope...

And sure enough, Travis had a question.

"How many points did Artest score?" asked Outlaw.

I was pretty sure I knew what the answer was without looking at the box, but I decided to do a quick check anyway, just to be certain.

As I was scanning the sheet for the answer to Travis' question, Brandon Roy, whose locker is next to Outlaw's on the road, walked over to his stall fresh from the showers. Brandon had heard Travis' question, and he already knew the answer.

"Nine," said Roy. "Ron had nine."

As Roy told Outlaw the news, he put out his hand for a fist bump. The Trail Blazers had lost and Outlaw hadn't had a good night offensively, but Roy was there to offer his congratulations nonetheless.    

Casey Holdahl also had a mini-interview with KP.

Jason Quick with the mood of the team...

The loss left the Blazers stunned and disheartened, and nobody tried to hide the sting of a game that firmly established momentum, if not the outcome of the series.

"The guys are down," said Blazers guard Brandon Roy, who continued his standout series with 31 points. "This is tough. Tough. But we feel like our backs are against the wall now, so let's go out and play our hearts out. Not only for ourselves, but for Portland, our fans. We are going to need them more than ever on Tuesday."

Joe Freeman on Travis Outlaw...

With one shot Sunday night, Outlaw could have erased the demons of the disastrous performances he had endured over the first three playoff games of his young career. Instead, the errant shot was added to a pile of postseason disappointment for a player who was so critical to the Blazers' success this season.    

From Saturday (prior to Game 4), but Jason Quick delivers a nice story about LaMarcus Aldridge.

"I got into that passive mode of trying to figure out where the double-team was coming from," Aldridge said. "I was like, 'Are they coming? Are they not coming? Are they coming? Are they not coming?'

"When I get into that mode, it's not good," Aldridge said.

Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle on the Game 4 win... 

Anyway, the Rockets did what really good teams do at home. They dug deep within themselves, regained their resolve and defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 89-88 Sunday night to take a 3-1 lead in this best-of-seven first-round series.

Do you have a couple of hours? That's how long it would take to run down all the heroes.

Dwight Jaynes asks whether Nate works the officials hard enough...

Honestly, I don't know if this would do any good or not. But Rick Adelman doesn't leave the officials alone. Ever. Never has. Either does Gregg Popovich or Doc Rivers or Phil Jackson. I've covered coaches from both extremes - Adelman, Jack Ramsay and Mike Dunleavy never stopped yapping at them. Mike Schuler, P.J. Carlesimo and now Nate McMillan never said much to them. My thought is this: If it seems as if the other team is getting all the calls, yet they're on the refs all the time - you better go get your saddle and mount up. You better start riding them, too. It seems every time there's a cheap foul on Oden, the camera shifts to McMillan, who is just sitting there on the bench without a peep. At some point, I think he probably ought to take a technical foul.    

Dwight Jaynes also calls for a major rotation change...

Fernandez is simply too good to be kept on the bench in this situation. It's a luxury Portland can no longer afford. If there's one change the Blazers should make in Game 5, it's to put Rudy in the starting lineup and get him at least 36 minutes. Look at it this way, if Batum doesn't start, he doesn't play AT ALL. So why is he starting?

Kevin Arnovitz on the hot-shooting Houston role players.

After getting burned by Yao Ming for seven field goals in the first quarter of Game One, Portland has shifted its defensive course, devoting a lot more attention to Yao ever since. For most of the past three games, Portland has deployed what Doug Collins referred to Sunday night as a "sandwich" - one defender fronting Yao (usually Portland's center, Joel Przybilla or Greg Oden), and one playing behind him on the block (usually the power forward, LaMarcus Aldridge). Even when that sandwich has been open-faced, Aldridge hasn't veered too far away from Yao down low.

The strategy has allowed the Blazers to contain Yao reasonably well (14 FGMs in the past 15 quarters), but it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of Portland's defense. With Steve Blake picking up Aaron Brooks as the Rockets get into the offense, that leaves only two Portland defenders to essentially zone up on the remaining three Rockets -- one of which is Houston's power forward, Luis Scola (and his backup, Carl Landry).    

Wendell Maxey says Blazers are down... but not out...

It's not in Portland's DNA to lose three-straight games. It's just not.

You'd have to go all the way back to December to find the last time they lost back-to-back-to-back games versus Orlando, at Utah and against the Los Angeles Clippers. It was the only time they lost three in a row all season long.

All season long.

Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm has a number of thoughts on this series, including...

Blazers fans were pretty vocal about how they would have the point guard advantage in this series. But the Rockets total frontcourt has been better than the Blazers total frontcourt. Brooks in particular has played really well, and smart within the offense. Blakedoesn't force things, and his numbers were good in Games 2 and 3, but you always feel like Brooks, Wafer, and Lowry are making more plays. Probably need to see a usage breakdown on those guys and a PER look. But hey, it's okay. It's not like the Blazers have a super talented combo guard with devastating speed sitting on the bench who they've buried and who could provide them life. Not at all. FREE BAYLESS.    

Matt Moore also has a funny take on NBA blogger game recaps. Worth your time for a chuckle.

Fran Blinebury for Yahoo Sports on Chuck Hayes...

About 19 months ago, when Rick Adelman was preparing to walk into his first training camp as the new head coach of the Houston Rockets, there were a couple of guys on the roster he hoped would soon walk out.

Chuck Hayes was one of them.

After all, how could an offensive-minded coach even think of building a contender with a 6-foot-6 post man on his roster, whose shooting range is not as long as his own arms? How could anybody look at that undersized frame down among the tall trees under the basket and think it would take him anywhere?    

Matt Smith from KPTV 12 was in Houston and has a number of nice in-arena blog updates.

PDX Pipeline sends over a funny picture of Blazer Bruce.

John Canzano on Rudy...

Blazers fans chant, "Rudy... Rudy... Rudy..."

Didn't anyone in the Portland huddle think it during the final timeout?

Max Handelman from Beyond Bowie on Game 4 ... 

So, I have no pop culture references here. No smirky obsession with some absurd moment in the game. Just a reserved acknowledgement that THAT was a great game, a shame the Blazers couldn't win it, and now we head back to Portland for Game 5. 

Mike Barrett blames the refs...

Now then, let's get to the 2,000 pound elephant sitting in the room. The Blazers were on the short end of the calls by the referees, once again. If you read this blog often, you know that I don't usually ever discuss officiating. But, I'm sorry, it's too big a factor in this series to ignore, and I can't figure it out.

Austin Kent from has a mancrush on Brandon Roy.

-- Ben (