The Houston Rockets walked into Portland as a slight underdog, but left the overwhelming favorite to win the series. After a 108-81 victory Saturday night, Houston is now in great position to move on to the next round. Yes, it is only one game, but this was quite a dominant game.
They shot 58.5% from the field and out-rebounded the Trail Blazers 44-30. In every facet of the game, Houston outplayed Portland. No one on Houston played too many minutes (Shane Battier played the most at 37) and so no one was over exerted.
The offense was precise and destructive, but the defense was the star of the game. The Blazers shot just 41.7% from the field and were 1 of 11 from 3-point- range. This wasn’t just a bad shooting performance by Portland. This was a great defensive performance from Houston. Every shot was contested.
- LaMarcus Aldridge, who averaged over 18 points a game during the regular season, mad just 3 of his 12 shots and scored only 7 points.
- Brandon Roy, the only bright spot for the Blazers, shot 10 of 23 from the field for 21 points, but even that was still below his 22.6 season average.
- Rudy Fernandez? 1 of 3 from the field for only 3 points. He averaged more than 10 points a game during the regular season. Fernandez was guarded so well that during his 21 minutes of playing time, he attempted just three shots.
- Travis Outlaw made just four of his ten shots, scoring just 9 points, below his season average as well.
You can continue down the list of players. This game was over when Battier and Ron Artest entered the building. Those are two of the best defensive players in the league. Add in the large body of Yao Ming, the tenaciousness of Luis Scola, and the quickness of Aaron Brooks and that is an extremely good defense.
The Blazers averaged over 99 points a game during the regular season so the Rockets holding them to 81 is no small feat. The question that remains is can Houston sustain this defensive intensity throughout this series and the entire postseason?
Battier and Artest never take a possession off and that leads me to believe that they can. If so, they can challenge for the West Title. Portland doesn’t have the offensive power of the Lakers or Nuggets, but that doesn’t mean that the Rockets’ superb defense will suddenly disappear. This team can compete with the best in the West, because of their defense. The Celtics proved last year that championships are won and lost with defense. Houston plays strong, aggressive defense. If they can sustain it, than come June, there could be a surprise entrant in the NBA Finals.