Coming into this series, there were so many questions to be answered by the Rockets about whether or not they could win in Portland.
Saturday night, the Rockets made the questions look positively silly.
Yao Ming played the entire first half as if his fingertips were on fire, hitting 9-9 shots for 24 points, and the Rockets never turned to look back even once, torching the Blazers 108-81 to take a 1-0 series lead in their first round best-of-seven.
Not close. Lopsided. Total destruction for Portland.
And as crazy as it sounds now, not many people gave the Rockets much of a chance to win in Portland. Analysts from ESPN, TNT, Sports Illustrated... very few thought the Rockets would or could do something like this.
In fact, the lack of confidence in the Rockets was so bad that the Rockets themselves, on their own PR website, picked against the Rockets.
Now that's bad.
It was Yao that restored the faith. His blistering first half performance silenced the crowd and gave Houston a commanding 62-44 lead going into the break. He had not missed... anything.
ESPN's Ric Bucher asked Yao at halftime what more he could have done. Well Ric, outside of hitting 10 shots in 9 attempts, I don't think much else.
"That's the beauty of Yao," said Shane Battier. "He's incredibly efficient. Not many guys in the league are capable of having this kind of night where he makes every shot he puts up."
While Yao was a huge problem for the Blazers, it made matters worse when Aaron Brooks pulled a Darth Vader on Steve Blake, confessing to him that he was his Daddy.
Brooks hit 10-17 shots, scored 27 points, handed out 7 assists and 4 boards. He nailed 5-8 from beyond the arc. He held Blake to 5 points on 2-6 shooting. Keep in mind, Brooks averaged 4 points on 32% shooting in last year's series against Utah, so flat out this was beyond any best case scenario for how the young Brooks would respond as a playoff starter. He just killed here.
Luis Scola vs. LaMarcus Aldridge was supposed to be all Blazers, but Scola way outplayed Portland's budding superstar forward, holding him to 7 points on 3-12 shooting while running off to 19 points and 8 boards of his own.
Ron Artest was efficient -- yes, efficient -- and relatively under control -- yes, under control. Artest hit 7-12 shots for 17 points and turned it over just once.
This was the very best of Houston and the very worst of Portland, so you can bet that Nate McMillan will make adjustments and no doubt start fronting Yao.
"We'll make adjustments for the next game," said Joel Przybilla. "He hit every shot he took so we got to do something."
It's not time to celebrate -- the Rockets have been here before, winning both games in Dallas in 2005 before letting it slip away.
But this Rockets team has become borderline elite at home, hitting 48% of their shots there since the trade deadline and holding opponents to a minuscule 41.4% shooting.
It's going to be a tall order for Portland, and after dealing with Yao in Game 1, the last word they want to hear is "tall".