You might think the Houston Rockets would write-off the Trail Blazers after the way they won Game One. Maybe they’d think they could cruise through the remainder of the series after blowing out the Blazers at home. Maybe they’d get complacent, overconfident.
But it doesn’t seem as though that’s going to be the case. Every member of the Rockets today at practice realized that this series isn’t anywhere close to being over. And what’s more, they’re not expecting Tuesday’s game to be nearly as easy.
“I think they’ll try to do some things differently,” said Rockets head coach Rick Adelman, “but I think the biggest thing is that they’re going to play better. They’re going to come at us.”
Those are the kind of things you expect to hear from a coach, especially a coach whose team has been thwarted so many times in the first round, but that message has filtered down to the players as well.
“I don’t think we made them uncomfortable,” said Ron Artest. “I think it was a shock to them. Like my first time in the playoffs, I didn’t play great at all. I was nervous… I didn’t know what I was doing. I was tired and gave into fatigue. For the most part it’s not easy to come up in your first playoff game.
“I just think it was the first game. At the end of the day, if you have a seven game series, don’t matter if it’s Game One or Game Three when you come up big. It’s like poker: as long as you got chips you’re still in it. It’s the same thing. There’s no difference.”
Artest, standing in front of a gaggle of reporters prior to Houston’s practice on Monday, didn’t prescribe to the notion that winning the first game in Portland necessarily means the Rockets now hold home court. And he certainly wasn’t talking like a guy who thought the series would be decided in the next three games.
Said Artest: “They still have home court advantage because it’s a seven game series and Game Seven is right in Portland. So they still have home court advantage. It’s not like we took it away; we just won the first game.”
Despite Portland’s inability to do much of anything to earn Houston’s respect in Game One, Artest seemed almost incapable of doing anything but complimenting the Trail Blazers when asked what he expected to see in Game Two.
“Nate’s a real good coach, so I know he’s got something up his sleeve,” said Artest. “What he did with that team is unbelievable and I know he’s going to be ready.
“They’ll play better. They’re a very well coached team and they’re a unique team being so young and making it this far, having home court advantage. That just don’t happen, not with a team that young… They’re a unique team, a special team.”
While everyone likes to be complimented, in this case, the Trail Blazers would probably prefer Artest coming into Tuesday’s game expecting another blowout. Instead, Adelman, Artest and all the other Rockets are expecting a battle. Hopefully the Trail Blazers can oblige.