The Keys to the Houston Rockets' Win Over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game One

Sean StancillSenior Writer IApril 19, 2009

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 18:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets drives against Joel Przybilla #10 of the Portland Trail Blazers during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2009 NBA Playoffs on April 18, 2009 at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 108-81 in the Rose Garden to kick off their postseason series on Saturday Night. 
Here is a dissection of just how effective and the key players in the Rockets' win over the youthful Trail Blazers:

Yao and Brooks:

The Rockets ensured their victory from the start by feeding Yao down low in the post and getting the NBA's tallest player into a rhythm. 
Portland had a agenda of their own; to establish Lamarcus Aldridge—the less aggressive of their talented third-year duo, the other being Brandon Roy—either from the perimeter or to cohort the efforts of Ming.
However Aldridge only received one touch in the painted area in Portland's five opening possessions that shot was sent away by Yao. 

The next time he attempted a shot, Yao was once again there to contest the shot and Aldridge wound up misfiring on a turn-around 16-footer from the right-side of the floor. 
The former Texas standout didn't score until 5:26 left in the opening period.
Yao however received three opening touches down in the paint and the offense circulated through his movements and his decisions.  
Yao made all nine of his field goal attempts, grabbed nine rebounds, blocked two shots and provided a steady logjam in the middle for the Rockets all while stalling the drives of Brandon Roy in only 24 minutes of action.

Ming also went 6-6 from the foul-line in a utterly flawless performance though he only logged the equivalent of a half of the game (minutes-wise).
All nine of Yao's boards cam on the defensive side, the significance of that accomplishment is the Rockets were 37-10 in the regular season when he hoarded at least seven defensive rebounds, a true barometer of just how important Yao's presence on the defensive side of the ball (not just the offensive) is to the Houston Rockets.
On a separate note, no team in the postseason is complete without exceptional point guard play. While Aaron Brooks may still be adjusting to the starting role he failed to show any effects on his play as he berated and confused Steve Blake and the Blazers with his dazzling quickness.
The Rockets were also 12-4 when Aaron Brooks when the second-year guard scored 19 points or more during the regular season and Brooks managed to drop 27 points including 10-of-17 from the field and a searing 5-of-8 from the three-point land midway through the third.

Team Defense on Brandon Roy:

The trio of Artest, Battier, and Yao in the paint effectively held Roy to a cooling point with Artest starting the game by almost hog-tying Roy in the opening minutes and the others closing around him and simply not allowing a clear path to the basket every time the Washington-bred Roy touched the ball.

The Rockets forced him to miss his first two shots (both jumpers) before Roy connected on his next four baskets—two were slashing lay-ups, a nine-foot runner, and a near floater from just inside the foul-line—before once again converging on him and forcing him to take contested jump shots.
Roy's next five field-goal attempts were jump shots and he went 1-of-4 in that span and after having little success from the outside the dynamic shooting guard tried to go inside. However scrappy forward Carl Landry was there and Roy picked up an offensive foul with 5:37 remaining in the first half.
From that mark until the halftime the Trail Blazers combined to miss seven of their last 11 shots while allowing Houston to go 6-for-8 and outscore them 18-9 to close out the 2nd quarter.

Starters For Houston Provide Rocket Power: 

Houston's starters of Brooks, Artest, Battier, Scola, and Yao were the only starters during the NBA's Opening Weekend of the Playoffs to each have a plus/minus of at least +20. 
To further put this in perspective only one other player this weekend had a similar plus/minus mark  and that was Lebron James(+22) of the Cleveland Cavaliers in their win over the Detroit Pistons at home.
The series between the Rockets and the Trail Blazers resumes on Friday once again in Portland. Houston leads 1-0.


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