- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 21, 2009

PORTLAND, ORE. (AP) - The warm applause that greeted former Oregon star Aaron Brooks at the Rose Garden in the first game of the playoff series between the Houston Rockets and the Portland Trail Blazers won’t likely be repeated.

The second-year guard had 27 points, seven assists and four rebounds in Houston’s 108-81 series-opening victory on Saturday night.

“I hope I didn’t lose any friends out there,” Brooks said.

While Yao Ming and Ron Artest were loudly booed during player introductions for Game 1, Brooks _ who grew up in the Seattle area _ got a welcome.

The speedy 6-footer earned a starting role when Houston sent Rafer Alston to the Magic in a three-team deal on Feb. 19, which also brought Kyle Lowry to the Rockets from Memphis and Brian Cook from Orlando.

Brooks averaged 13 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 35 starts during the regular season for the Rockets. Overall, he averaged 11.2 points, two rebounds and three assists.

He is remembered by Oregon fans for leading the Ducks to the regional final of the 2007 NCAA tournament, where he had 27 points in a loss to Florida. In his senior season, he was the Pac-10’s leading scorer with an average of 17.7 points. Houston took him with the 26th overall pick in the 2007 draft.

Now he’s known for outwitting the Blazers in their first playoff game since 2003.

Brooks and Lowry were key to the Rockets’ game plan to spread out the court against Portland.

“We get stagnant sometimes offensively _ the more we can flatten the defense out, the more we can get those guys the ball in their hands, the better off we are,” Houston coach Rick Adelman said. “When Aaron shoots it like he did, they are in trouble. They’ll make adjustments, but we want to continue to keep attacking.”

Brooks wasn’t the only trouble for the Blazers in the opener. Yao scored 24 points, all in the first half, and had nine rebounds for Houston. The 7-foot-6 Chinese center was a perfect 9-for-9 from the floor and 6-for-6 at the foul line.

The Blazers tried single coverage on Yao, with Joel Przybilla playing behind the seven-time All-Star. Obviously that didn’t work.

Coach Nate McMillan said the Blazers were going to make adjustments, and suggested at practice that he may even try using both Przybilla and Greg Oden, both 7-footers, at the same time against the Rockets.

“They are going to come out, if possible, even more aggressive to get Game 2, to try to finish this thing up going back to Houston,” McMillan said. “It’s an important game that we need to get on Tuesday.”

Houston fell to the fifth seed in the Western Conference after losing the regular-season finale to Dallas. The Rockets have not made it out of the first round of the playoffs in six tries since 1997.

Portland, the youngest team in the postseason, clinched the West’s fourth seed and home-court advantage for this round with a victory over Denver in the season’s final game.

The Blazers went 34-7 at the Rose Garden during the regular season. The loss Saturday snapped a six-game winning streak at home.

Roy led Portland with 21 points. The only other Blazers player in double figures was Oden, who had 15 as a reserve in the Blazers’ worst loss this season.

Brooks hit five of eight 3-point attempts against the Blazers, tying his career best. His total points were three off his career-high. He doesn’t expect the Blazers will give him as many chances in Game 2.

“You hear about stealing a game on their court, so that’s good, but honestly, they still have Game 7 here if it goes there, so they will have the advantage,” he said. “We have a big game on Tuesday. I think the pressure is on them now because we just have to go out there and play free and play smart.”

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