HOUSTON — The Trail Blazers and Rockets was the last playoff series to get underway. And after watching so many road teams go on to win their respective Game 1s, some of the Trail Blazers noted that it made the possibility of stealing home court advantage seem that much more possible. Damian Lillard said it the upsets made it seem like “it can happen for us” while LaMarcus Aldridge said that maybe it “helps your mental psyche.”
Of course, the Trail Blazers went on to win Game 1 in Houston, though it’s impossible to tell if seeing other underdogs do the same thing played even a small role in their overtime victory.
Nevertheless, they’re still paying attention, though this time, it’s for the opposite reason. As in, after the Warriors beat the Clippers in Los Angeles in Game 1, the Clippers came back in Game 2 to blow out the Warriors by 40. Same goes for the Hawks/Pacers series in which Atlanta stole the first game, only to lose by 16 in Game 2.
“Those are great examples of how the previous game really sets the tone for the next game,” said Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts Tuesday on the Jim Rome Show, “particularly for the team that lost.”
Portland’s coaching staff has used those games as a teachable moment, telling their team that any feeling of satisfaction or accomplishment from winning their first game on the road can disappear in an instant if you end up getting run out of the gym in Game 2.
“It’s to keeps you grounded and keeps you in the moment,” said Aldridge of what can be learned from other playoff teams in similar situations going into Game 2. “Golden State went into L.A. and won (Game 1) and they lost by 30 (in Game 2). It’s just to keep you locked in on how much work it took and how hard it’s going to be.”
Rockets Dwight Howard and James Harden have already declared Game 2 a “must-win” for Houston, so it’s not exactly as though the Trail Blazers needed other teams to remind them that their opponent will come out with a different level of intensity Wednesday night.
“Every guy here understands that you can win the first one and get too comfortable and not win again,” said Aldridge. “So we understand that we won the first one but it’s definitely not over with and we’ve got a lot more work to do.”
But then again, it never hurts to see the scenario play out in real life.
“I think everybody saw the games where a team goes on the road to win Game 1 and Game 2, the home team is locked in and they understand what’s at stake,” said Lillard. “They don’t want to lose that second game and they come out with fire and the other team just kind of hasn’t been ready for it.”
But there has been one team that was ready: the Washington Wizards. After beating the Bulls soundly as the road team in Game 1, Washington was able to follow up with another victory, albeit much closer this time, in Game 2 in Chicago. That series also provided a lesson for the Trail Blazers.
“You see that Washington comes out and they get it done again,” said Lillard. “It’s because of how steady they were. They were consistent defensively. It wasn’t a perfect game but they found a way to stick around and make timely plays, get timely stops. They brought that energy, most importantly. They stayed together and they was able to get it done two times on the road.
“We got a chance to see what not to do, what could get us blown out. And we saw what could give us a chance to come out and steal another game.”
But in the end, the Trail Blazers know their fate in Game 2 will not be defined by what other teams did on Monday or Tuesday but what they do Wednesday night in Houston.
“You can kind of look at it, but take it with a grain of salt,” said Wesley Matthews. “They’re not us. It’s not the same team, it’s not the same situation, it’s not the same battle. I know, being in the playoffs, that every game gets harder. Ever game is going to test something else. That’s how we’ve got to go on from the beginning.”