The Houston Rockets think they have two of the NBA's top 1-on-1 defenders in Shane Battier and Ron Artest.
HOUSTON — The Houston Rockets think they have two of the NBA's top 1-on-1 defenders in Shane Battier and Ron Artest. They know they'll have to do a better job after neither could handle Brandon Roy in Game 2.
Portland's star guard scored 42 points to lead the Trail Blazers to a 107-103 victory Tuesday night that evened their first-round playoff series at 1-1. The Rockets had a 90-minute film session followed by a two-hour practice on Thursday, undoubtedly working on better ways to control Roy, the NBA's 10th leading scorer.
Game 3 is tonight in Houston.
Artest, in his 10th season, said Roy was the first player to score more than 40 points on him. He made 15 of 27 shots, many of them layups, and went 10-for-12 from the free-throw line.
"I've just got to man up and keep him from getting to the basket," Artest said. "It's not about being physical, it's about just playing hard, just adjusting."
Roy scored 21 on 10-for-23 shooting in Game 1, but was no factor as the Rockets jumped out to a big early lead and never trailed in a 108-81 victory. In Game 2, Battier said Roy not only beat the players who guarded him, but found cracks in Houston's overall team defense.
"It's not just on one guy," Battier said. "A really good player like Brandon Roy, you really have to have a full team committal and it seemed like we lost track of him a little bit."
Houston also struggled with Portland forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored 27 points with 12 rebounds in Game 2. Roy said he felt like he carried the scoring load alone in the series opener, but got plenty of support in the second game.
"Everybody came aggressive," Roy said. "We had our guards taking shots that they normally take and LaMarcus did a great job of dominating the paint, not only scoring, but rebounding the basketball. It's what we needed."
At Thursday's practice, Houston also worked on delivering the ball to leading scorer Yao Ming, who scored 24 in Game 1, then took only six shots and scored 11 in Game 2.
Opponents had success late in the season putting a defender in front of Yao and sending a second defender in from behind to keep the ball away from him. The Blazers worked that strategy well with Aldridge, Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden on Tuesday, holding Yao to one shot in the fourth quarter.
The Rockets say the necessary adjustment is simple.
"When the first pass to Yao is not there, we can't panic," said reserve guard Von Wafer, who scored 21 points in Game 2. "We've just got to move the ball and keep moving it. I don't feel like they're that good defensively. We have to exploit them."
Houston coach Rick Adelman wasn't saying how he'd make up for the loss of 7-foot-2 center Dikembe Mutombo, who ruptured a quadriceps tendon in his left knee after getting tangled with Oden in Game 2. Mutombo, who will have surgery on Monday, played 18 valuable minutes backing up Yao in Game 1, grabbing nine rebounds and blocking two shots.
The Rockets have no other 7-footers on the roster and the next tallest reserves are 6-9 Carl Landry and 6-9 Brian Cook. Chuck Hayes is a capable backup forward, but he's only 6-6.
"I'm not going to tell you how we're going to do it," Adelman said. "In some ways, I don't even know. Dikembe, against this team, we felt he was going to be a real key guy for us, not only on Oden, but he was also a very key guy at the rim. When you lose him, we suddenly go from 7-1 to 6-7. It's a totally different scenario."
The Blazers arrived in Houston on Thursday afternoon and had a short practice at the Toyota Center in the evening. Aldridge, a Dallas native, missed the workout to attend to a family matter, the team said. Coach Nate McMillan said Aldridge would rejoin the team later Thursday night.
The Rockets won both meetings in Houston during the regular season, including a 102-88 victory on April 5 — Portland's only loss in its last 11 games before the playoffs.
The Blazers have lost 10 of their last 11 games in Houston, but nearly rallied from 17 points down to win here on Feb. 24. The Rockets went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line in the final 21 seconds of that one to win 98-94.
But the young Blazers, in the playoffs for the first time since 2003, have restored confidence after their Game 2 performance.
"Everything's going to carry over to the games in Houston," Aldridge said. "Now we know what we have to do."