In Roy We Still Trust. But maybe not in Outlaw.

The Blazers loss last night at Houston’s Toyota Center was both a relief for Houston fans (who’ve been waiting 12 years to break the first-round curse) and a nightcap of frustration for Blazer fans here in Stumptown. While sports pundits never gave the Rip City Uprise much of a chance to roll deep into the playoffs, the young and energetic squad gave its hometown believers a taste of ’77. So yes, it hurts.

In the end, the inexperience of the wunderkind dream team proved to be its demise. Oden mostly looked terrified of Yao, Rudy was streaky at best, and Outlaw failed to show up for five of the six outings. As a whole, the squad looked hesitant and self-conscious as if they were participating in a game of hot-potato (here, you take it!) instead of a playoff battle. In the losses, Roy, Blake, and Aldridge each had some great moments, but couldn’t seem to string runs together or sustain any consistent offensive threat.

The biggest disappointment, as evidenced by both jeers from commentators and Blazer bloggers, was Mr. Fourth Quarter: Travis Outlaw. Instead of providing his usual spark to the hard–charging offensive second unit, he looked like the guy who crashed the party. He shot only 31 percent from the field by taking off–balance, hail–Mary shots, and his stats, while not completely reprehensible (9.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG), left Blazer fans wondering if he could, down the road, raise the bar on his own game when it matters: that is, in the playoffs.

With Martell Webster on the mend and an expiring contract in Outlaw’s near future, speculations are circling that Outlaw will be leaving Rip City in the offseason.

Despite the Blazer blues (and, like me, the hangover) you may be nursing, the big picture is still rosy: the NBA’s youngest playoff team is just getting their feet wet. And, if they continue to play together next year as well as a gaggle of well–behaved kindergartners, Rip City will be rising well beyond the first round of the playoffs in 2010.