“It’s not rocket science.” Rick Adelman, Rockets coach. Pun not intended, presumably.

The Houston Rockets may finally have found the matchup they wanted, to get out of the first round of the playoffs. In the Yao Ming-Tracy McGrady era, winning a postseason series is something that the Rockets have yet to achieve. Perhaps in facing a young, inexperienced team in the Portland Trail Blazers — a team that many did not expect to even make the playoffs — Rick Adelman’s team has found a team more likely to crumble in the postseason pressure than themselves.

Game one of the series saw the Rockets crush the Blazers, on Portland’s home-court — an almost inpenetrable fortress during the 2008-09 regular season. The Rockets’ 108-81 victory was punctuated by 27 points and 7 assists from the Houston point guard who used to call Oregon home, Aaron Brooks. The big man with so much to prove, Yao Ming, was a picture of perfection, shooting 100% from both the field (9/9) and the line (6/6).

The Blazers did work out ways to slow down Yao towards the end of game one, when it was all too late, cutting back his scoring punch. Game two will likely see more of the same, as Nate McMillan’s troops learn from their mistakes:

“It’s not rocket science,” Adelman said. “They’re going to try to do things differently. The biggest thing is they’re going to play better. They’re in their home. They’re going to come out and attack us, and we have to be ready for that.”

While Yao made all nine of his shots Saturday, in was not until late in the first half that McMillan switched to the fronting defense he used in the Blazers’ last regular-season meeting with the Rockets.

Yao scored off three offensive rebounds the last regular-season meeting, possibly explaining McMillan’s hesitance to go to that defense again, and had two more putbacks Saturday. He did not, however, take a shot in his six second-half minutes.

In other games, the Blazers came at Yao with a variety of double teams, using everything from a center to help forward LaMarcus Aldridge to having the defender of a cutter peel off to help against Yao. The Rockets anticipate a return to the fronting defense but said they have to prepare for a variety of possibilities.

“Everybody’s done different things with Yao,” Adelman said. “You’re going to see them front him, double him, just mix it up, give him different looks. They may start (Greg) Oden on him. We talked about pretty much everything you can anticipate. Then once they start it, we covered that; now let’s adjust to it.

As Wendell Maxey of Beyond the Beat observed after game one, the Blazers were mentally demoralised by the huge loss to the Rockets. A team as young as the Blazers, that had been looking forward to the first playoff games of their short careers and who had been used to winning on their home court all season, understandably were shattered. Will this loss be enough to get them back on track with some guidance from experienced playoff campaigner (as a player) McMillan, or will the Blazers collapse from here and have to settle for learning lessons for next season?

I’m inclined to think that the Blazers will learn from this loss and at least pick up game two in Portland, before struggling in Houston for Games three and four. However, as Maxey points out, this may well be the Blazers’ last home game of 2008-09.

More recommended reading:

Bustabucket: Game 2 Preview :: Blazer Karma for Game 2 :: New Comic Series…Roy’s Garden

OregonLive.com: Blazers Tuesday links

Blazersedge: Press clippings :: Game 2 Preview 

The Dream Shake: Expectations for Game 2 :: Game 2 Preview