The Portland Trail Blazers pulled out a rarely used strategy to help slow Houston's Yao Ming, playing 7-footers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden in tandem at times.
PORTLAND — The Portland Trail Blazers pulled out a rarely used strategy to help slow Houston's Yao Ming, playing 7-footers Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden in tandem at times.
Portland had trouble against Yao in the first game of the playoff series against the Rockets. The 7-foot-6 center from China had 24 points, going a perfect 9-for-9 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, in a 108-81 victory.
But they handled him better in Game 2, and the Blazers went on to win 107-103 on Tuesday night at the Rose Garden. The series now moves to Houston on Friday night.
The Blazers' adjustments included fronting Yao rather than playing behind him, double-teaming him and going for a couple of stretches with both 7-foot-1 Przybilla and 7-foot Oden on the court.
Portland coach Nate McMillan had only employed the idea once before, during a game against the Boston Celtics in December.
"Coach thought it would be a good matchup with what they were doing, and guys really stepped up during that time," Oden said.
McMillan took the approach one further, trying a lineup on the floor at one point that he had never used before, with Przybilla, Oden, Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw.
Yao, who got into foul trouble, had 11 points and eight rebounds in just more than 31 minutes. He was 3-for-6 from the field.
"What can I say?" Yao said. "Those guys are quick learners."
Keeping Yao out of it also spurred the Blazers' offense. Brandon Roy exploded with 41 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Przybilla finished with two points, two blocks and seven rebounds in more than 38 minutes. Oden had four points and four rebounds in 11:38 before fouling out.
But Oden, a rookie this season after sitting out last year because of microfracture surgery, had one of the game's most authoritative moments with a put-back dunk that pulled the Blazers into an 89-all tie with 4:45 left.
Houston coach Rick Adelman said now the Rockets will have to adjust to the Blazers' adjustment for Yao.
"If they're going to sacrifice and do that, then other people have to step up," he said. "It's a fine line — we took a couple jumpers from the free throw line. If those are going down, we are in great shape. If they're not going down, he's not going to get the ball."
The Blazers' defense of Yao tragically became a bigger issue for the Rockets on Tuesday night when reserve center Dikembe Mutombo injured his left knee in the first quarter and was taken from the court on a stretcher.
Mutombo was expected to visit with doctors in Houston on Wednesday, but the 7-foot-2 veteran says the injury ends his 18-year career.
"I thank God a lot for all of his blessings, for putting such great people around me, all of my life and throughout my career in the NBA," he said. "I just have to go out with my head up and go out without regrets. I have so many things that I can be thankful for over my 18 years."
Although he played only sparingly after he was re-signed by Houston as a free agent in December, Mutombo was effective in the series opener against Portland, with nine rebounds and two blocks in 18 minutes.
The Przybilla-Oden combination has earned the nickname "Twin Towers" from Blazer fans, a nod to the Rockets' duo of 7-foot Hakeem Olajuwon and 7-foot-4 Ralph Sampson, who helped take Houston to the 1986 NBA finals.