The Portland Trailblazers have finally made it into the postseason again after their streak of 21 straight appearances ended in 2001. The Rockets have once again made the playoffs, but will they be able to get out of the first round for the first time since the '96-'97 season?
This should be a very exciting matchup between the No. 4 and 5 seeds, respectively. It's been said that the Blazers won't go far because they are lacking the experience to advance deep into the playoffs. Most people counted the Rockets out as soon as Tracy McGrady went down.
One thing for sure is that one team will finally get into the second round of the playoffs, ending at least one of the respective droughts.
The thing that Houston has that Portland doesn't is a proper offensive three solid centers. Houston does in Yao Ming, Carl Landry, and shot blocking master Dikembe Mutombo. Portland is going to have to fight off Yao Ming, and I have a feeling Greg Oden isn't going to get stardom treatment in the playoffs either (by that I mean calls).
Yao is averaging 16.3 PPG in the three games that he played against the Blazers. Though Joel Przybilla could give Yao some trouble, if Nate McMillan decides to switch Aldridge onto Yao, Houston could have some problems, no pun intended.
LaMarcus Aldridge is going to have to fight tooth and bone with Luis Scola. Both are great power forwards offensively and defensively. Scola is averaging 15 PPG and 7 RPG on a galloping 69 percent from the field.
LaMarcus is having it easy for him by averaging 23 PPG and 9 RPG shooting 48 [ercent from the field. Louis and the whole Rockets squad are going to have to hold down LaMarcus, as he is very long and skinny.
Ron Artest has been struggling against Portland this season. He is shooting below 40 percent from the field and has been limited to 15 PPG. Artest is going to have to start taking control offensively and defensively. He has been limited to 3.3 DRPG despite playing 41 MPG. If he can't produce, get all over Roy and murder him, Houston won't have a chance.
Brandon Roy is here to prove everybody wrong. He will be trying to take his inexperienced team to the next round. Roy lifted his Blazers to an amazing win in Portland when he hit a buzzer beater at the end of regulation.
Now, Roy is shooting 39 percent in the three games against the Rockets. During the season at home, Roy shot 50 percent and averaged 23 PPG. Having home court advantage, this will surely help out Roy, and his team.
Now, in my opinion, the Rockets took themselves out of contention when they traded away Rafer Alston. He was a knockdown shooter, and had a lot of experience, something Arron Brooks does not.
This series will come down to how the point guard make his decisions. Arron, at a young age, lacks this. Steve Blake, on the other hand, is very experienced, and can knock down the threes. If you remember, he has 14 assists in one quarter.
Shane Battier is going to have to take over for Artest by harassing Roy. Battier can also knock down the three and if Artest struggles offensively, Battier is going to need to step up.
Brent Barry. Most people have forgotten about this guy since he left the Spurs. He is a knock down three-point shooter just like Battier, and can give a spark off the bench when needed.
Travis Outlaw's defense is going to be huge. Not only can he block shots, but he is a well rounded player who can score and put up big numbers.
Rudy Fernandez looks like the next Ginobli. His amazing sweet stroke will lift this Blazers team over the Rockets. Houston is going to have to defend those back door alley oops.
Rose Garden. Yes, the stadium itself is a Wildcard. The fans there are crazy; they have the fourth best home record at 34-7. It will test if the Rockets are true championship contenders.
My thought: Blazers in six