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News » Now Rockets' turn to make their move JUSTICE: Series will be like Game 2

Now Rockets' turn to make their move JUSTICE: Series will be like Game 2

Now Rockets' turn to make their move JUSTICE: Series will be like Game 2
Portland, Ore. - One defender in front, another behind and a third coming from the side.

Yao Ming was buried in there someplace, smothered by the pressure, frustrated by waves of bodies.

No more asking one man to defend the NBA's best low-post player.

The Portland Trail Blazers decided to remove Yao from the game. If they were going to lose, it was going to be because Ron Artest or Luis Scola or someone else did the heavy lifting.

Take a bow, Nate McMillan.

The Blazers cranked up the defensive pressure, played smarter on the offensive end and got huge performances from Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge.

In the end, though, they made the first big adjustment of this series by essentially removing Yao from the game and defeating the Rockets 107-103 on Tuesday night in Game 2.

Yao took just six shots. He took exactly zero in the third quarter. He finished the evening with three field goals and 11 points.

That's a far cry from his 9-for-9 performance in Game 1. The Blazers paid a price, though. Greg Oden fouled out, and Joel Przybilla and Aldridge had five apiece. Details, details.

The Blazers did exactly what they'd hoped to do. They dramatically changed their strategy on Yao and hoped against hope that their stars would perform like stars.

The Rockets will see this one as a missed opportunity, and in a best-of-seven series, missed opportunities can be critical.

There were 12 lead changes and 16 ties, and the two teams were never separated by more than eight points.

Artest had another wild, erratic night, making just eight of 20 shots, including one of eight 3-pointers.

The Rockets stayed in it because Von Wafer (21 points in 27 minutes) kept making plays and because Aaron Brooks threw in four 3s and scored 23 points.

But the defense that led the Rockets in Game 1 failed them in Game 2. Roy went off against Artest and Shane Battier, scoring 42 points, while Aldridge finished with 27.

The Rockets will be back home for the next two games, and the next round of adjustments will be theirs.

The Blazers can remove Yao from the game at times. But others were left open. Battier took just two shots and was removed from the game at time in favor of Wafer.

Game 1 had been a mind-numbing, rim-rattling 27-point blowout for the Rockets, but just as Rick Adelman had warned his players, there was no carryover.

"They put a lot of doubt in our mind," Roy said. "We needed some time to recover and get our attitude back."

At the time, we asked the usual questions. How would the Blazers defend Yao differently? Would Scola manhandle Aldridge again? Would Battier and Artest continue to have their way with Roy?

In the end, it came down to a basic question. Could the Rockets play another perfect game? Not this time.

The Rockets have seen how dramatically things can change.

This series is going to be a lot like Game 2. It's going to be a long series, a grind-it-out test of both teams. Your turn, Rick Adelman.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: April 23, 2009


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