Game 2 Preview — The View from Houston...

I was discussing a few initial observations about the difference between Laker fans and Trail Blazer fans after the Mavs game last night with pookeyguru, a really smart Seattle-dwelling fan of another team altogether. "Laker fans," I remarked, "have a certain assurance (some might call it arrogance) that things will work out for the best for them. Blazer fans have a gnawing insecurity..."

The case was made that this probably relates to the long championship-winning tradition of the former franchise versus the perennial close-but-no-cigar also-ran status of the latter.

I speculate that sometimes it takes a little time for the aura of invincibility to ease up a little as the reality of a changed situation slowly sinks in.

When the Houston Rockets came into Staples Center and handily beat the Lakers on their home floor in Game 1, an enormous and fundamental strategic shift occurred in that series. Tens of thousands of gnawingly insecure Blazer fans around the country can attest to this fact through painful recent experience. Tens of thousands of assured Laker fans no doubt do not yet agree. The Lakers are now in a "must win" position in Game 2 and absolutely must "break serve" in Houston in either Game 3, 4, or 6. 

Let's have a look at what the fans of those pesky Houston Rockets are reading and writing about Lakers-Must-Win Game 2, shall we?

(More after the jump...)

click on each headline to read the full story...

(1)

There Will Be Blood: As they pursue a major upset in the Western semifinals, the Rockets are quite willing to give the Lakers a physical education

by Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle

PLAYA VISTA, CA. - Blood streamed down Shane Battier's face, gushing from the gash opened above his left eye and flowing down his neck like lava.

Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic cut him with a swing toward a long rebound, sending Battier off the court for four more stitches in his oft-repaired noggin. There also would be a Kobe Bryant elbow to Battier's head, followed by a well-placed knee.

"That wasn't fun," Battier said. Then, with a finger to the swelling above his eye, he added, "And neither was this."

Battier was smiling when he said it. He wore the marks of a rough and painful night, but the Rockets had gotten just the sort of game they wanted. He came back from his cut. Yao Ming returned from a bruised knee. And the Rockets rallied past their regular-season struggles against the Lakers to take Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals with the sort of blood-and-guts performance they will need to win the series.

"That's our style," Battier said. "We made it a little nasty. We made it a little mucky. These guys are too long and too good in the open court to get in a racehorse game with them. We have to play to our strength, which is half-court defense."

The Rockets did that so well that they not only held the Lakers 15 points shy of their regular-season average in the 100-92 victory, they brought rapid (if perhaps premature) reminders of last season's NBA Finals, in which the Celtics pushed around the Lakers with the same sort of defense-first, physical style. * * *

 

(2)

Game 1 Not Surprising to the Winners

by Richard Justice, Houston Chronicle

LOS ANGELES - Chuck Hayes kept trying half-court shots as his teammates cheered him on Tuesday afternoon, and if you thought the Rockets were going to change, guess again.

"We're the same goofballs we've been all year," Shane Battier said.

As for Battier, he showed off those four stitches above his swollen left eye. Yes, the Los Angeles Lakers drew first blood, but that was about all they got in Game 1 of a best-of-seven series Monday night.

Battier guesses he has had close to 100 stitches in his basketball career, this latest one courtesy of a Sasha Vujacic elbow.

"My wife tells me I'm still handsome," Battier said. "She's a good liar."

More interesting will be what the NBA does about the hard knee Battier received from Kobe Bryant. Suspend the star? Perish the thought.

Nevertheless, the Rockets were back at work after winning Game 1 100-92. If the series shifted in any significant way, neither team was prepared to say so.

About the only people surprised were those that thought the Lakers would roll through the Rockets. Anyone that thought such a thing hadn't been paying attention to the tenacity and resolve this team has played with the last 35 games. * * *

 

(3)

A Morning Q&A with the LA Times.com (Lakers Blog) before Game 2

by grungedave, The Dream Shake

I'm still a little frazzled after reading today's referee assignments for the Rockets/Lakers Game 2. Yes, you read that right. Tonight's lead official is Joey freakin' Crawford. It's like David Stern isn't even trying to be subtle anymore. * * *

 

(4)

No Layups: Game 2 Preview

 

VIDEO featuring Raheel Ramzanali and David Nuno of Houston's 1560 The Game.

 

(5)

Game 2 Preview & Links

by Brody, Rockets Buzz

Conventional wisdom would have the Rockets losing Game 2 tonight in Los Angeles, however, this Rockets team has done anything but fit the norm since losing Tracy McGrady 2.5 months ago.

I suspect that the Lakers, just like the Blazers did in Game 2, will devote more energy to stopping the Rockets inside attack. Game 1 enlightened both sides to the fact that this series will be won by the team attempting the highest number of shots in the paint. It seems obvious, but it fooled Nate McMillan in the first round.

With both teams running plays in the half court, jump shooting won't be the guarantor of victory - it will be the pick-n-drive and the post-n-shoot.

Kobe Bryant, soon to see "he can't win without Shaq" criticism start flying his way if he continues his present pace, will take a step back and delegate the workload to his frontline. * * *

 

(6)

People We'd Like to Sue

by The Random Guy, Fourth-and-fifty.com

Since the concept of legal action as a means to channel pent up sexual frustration general annoyance has been on the top of FaF mind as of late, it seemed prudent to come up with an exhaustive list of everyone we'd like to sue. On a related note, we're looking for new legal counsel since our old one (Shane Shamwow) didn't immediately pick up the phone during our most current time of need. Shane, it's a Sunday, where were you? It's not like you go to church or believe in Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior. Dear Reader: if you're a lawyer, or just an aggressive asshole who has watched too much Law & Order, email us — you might just be the next Fourth and Fifty General Counsel. On to the list.


People We Would Like to Sue

Tracy McGrady. We'll sue you for nonperformance on your contract. To start, we want our $21 million dollars back. Next, quit selling your team down the river. Last, quit showing up to training camp with a potbelly and a beard to hide your double chin. *  *  *

 

The bottom line:

1. Yo, Lakers, even if you win tonight, like everyone on the planet outside of Houston thinks you will, you are still behind in this series...

2. Both teams need to be ready for full-pads, full-contact tonight. It's gonna get rough.

3. Rockets are super loose. Gambling is really fun using house money.

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