Wesley: Can't continue to give Rockets life
This is not a must-win for the Portland Trail Blazers tonight in the Moda Center. I know people are saying that and it's tempting to think that if a team can't close out a playoff series in Game 6 at home, it can't win it in a Game 7 on the road. But I don't necessarily agree with that. These teams are so evenly matched that you can't take anything for granted in any of the games.
But make no mistake, this is Portland's BEST chance. And here are a few things that need to be addressed by the Trail Blazers in tonight's game:
- The Trail Blazer perimeter defenders have to do a better job of denying penetration. That means, mostly, Damian Lillard and Mo Williams at the point. When penetration comes, it means the bigs have to help, leaving the Houston front court open for dunks and layups. Giving up easy shots at the basket is a sure way to doom yourself in a playoff game.
- Portland's post defenders -- mainly Robin Lopez and whoever else gets stuck defending Dwight Howard and Omer Asik, have to do a better job of pushing them further from the basket area. If Howard is allowed to set up near the basket, he's unstoppable. And as far as Asik is concerned, if he ever starts making his layups, the Trail Blazers are in serious trouble. He's missed a boatload of them.
- Portland must scheme better looks for LaMarcus Aldridge. Instead of all those pick-and-pops, he's going to need to roll to the basket once in a while. He seldom does it, but getting him moving toward the basket when he receives the ball is a way to get him into the paint for easier shots. Aldridge has not shown he can get quality shots inside just by tossing the ball to him at the low block with his back to the basket. He'll do it against small players, but Howard and Asik have taken that away.
- Without better inside shot attempts, Aldridge needs to have one of those nights when the ball goes in no matter how difficult the shot. And make no mistake, he has those nights.
- Rebound the ball better at both ends. The Trail Blazers have not looked like a team that led the league in rebounding. But the Rockets are hurting them there and a lot of it stems from penetration issues forcing Lopez out of position. But he needs help on the boards from others, too -- and he better get it tonight.
- Get a little something more from the bench. As a rule, guys off the bench play better at home. They need to do that tonight.
- Make shots -- particularly from distance. It's been the cure all for Portland woes all season. Make enough three-point field goals and a whole lot of other problems just magically disappear.
I would hope for an electric atmosphere, even if the home teams gets down at the beginning of the game -- which has become normal in this series. Fans in Portland have been awaiting a game like this for years and this is their time to maximize their impact.
I would expect a crazy night.