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Preview: Trail Blazers Look To Even Series

04/21/09
  1. Written by: caseyholdahl

    The Portland Trail Blazers’ first foray into playoff basketball didn’t go as planned, but that doesn’t mean they’re ready to give up on the postseason. With a little more experience under their belts, the Trail Blazers expect a better outing in the second game of a best of seven series versus the Houston Rockets at the Rose Garden Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

    Tuesday’s game can’t come soon enough for the Trail Blazers. Eager to put Saturday’s 108-83 loss in the rearview mirror, Nate McMillan is trying to focus his team on what they need to do to even the series, rather than dwelling on what they should have done in the opener.

    “We know we can play better than we played,” said McMillan. “We know we’ve got to play better than we played. That’s where we are. We lost Game One, it was a bad performance by us. They pretty much did whatever they wanted and had control over that game. We know we’ve got to play a much better ballgame and we’re very capable of doing it.”

    Playing a better ballgame starts with doing a better job of defending Rockets center Yao Ming. Yao set the tone early on offense for Houston, finishing a perfect 9 for 9 from the field on the way to a 22 point, nine rebound performance in just 24 minutes of play.

    “He’s a huge challenge because you’re talking about a guy, a center, who can score, pass and he’s smart on the block,” said McMillan of Yao. “And then he’s 7-6, so it’s a huge challenge. They pretty much always have an outlet when things go wrong with their offense in the sense that because you have to play (Yao) -- whether you front him or play behind him -- he is an outlet because you’re committing possibly two players to him, so other guys will be open and it’s just a matter of them making their reads. He’s a huge challenge.

    “So how do you stop him? You don’t necessarily stop him. You hope that he misses or you take away the post ups by double teaming. I think you have to mix it up.”

    While slowing down Yao will certainly be a priority, getting the young Trail Blazers to find a comfort zone in the playoffs might be more important. Portland looked tentative and unsure at times during Saturday’s game, a problem the Trail Blazers’ players and coaches hope to conquer Tuesday night.

    “We’ve got to be able to come out and be ready to play the next game,” said Brandon Roy. “If they come out and kick our butt again and we play extremely hard, then we’ll feel much better about ourselves. But we didn’t play (in Saturday’s loss). Our guys, I felt, were a little nervous, a little star struck by the whole playoff thing. We kind of went into a shell. But hopefully we come out and we’re a lot more loose.”

    LaMarcus Aldridge, who suffered through arguably his worst performance of the season Saturday against the Rockets, echoed Roy’s sentiment.

    “We just need to go out and play basketball,” said Aldridge. “I think last game, that was our first playoff game. I don’t think we played like ourselves. We’re just going to go out and play like we normally can play. I don’t think we did that last game.”

    Aldridge, who averaged 18.1 points and 7.5 rebounds this season, realizes that if the Trail Blazers are to even the series, he has to provide more than he did on Saturday.

    “I do have to do more,” said Aldridge. “I’ve got to go out and make plays. I think if they try to take my post ups away then I need to do other things, crash the boards or do pick and rolls. I’ve got to try and find something to do out there.”

    Tuesday’s game can be seen locally on HD on KGW Channel 8 with Mike Barrett and Mike Rice starting at 7 p.m. Brian Wheeler and Antonio Harvey will have the radio call locally on 95.5 The Game and on all of the stations of the Trail Blazers Radio Network.

    To follow the game live - starting at 6:45pm w/live chat with Casey Holdahl (trailblazers.com), Gavin Dawson (Morning Sports Page, 95.5 The Game), Kevin Pelton (basketballprospectus.com), Wendell Maxey (hoopsworld.com) and Dan Harbison (trailblazers.com), click here.

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