HOUSTON — In the good news for the Houston Rockets, they just got out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in 12 years.
In the bad news, they now play, uh, a team to be named later since no one said a word about the Lakers afterward.
So there was no bad news, at least Thursday night.
"For so many years people said we couldn't get out of the first round," said Yao Ming after the Rockets ended their long One-And-Done Jinx, crushing the Portland Trail Blazers, 92-76, to take this first-round series, 4-2.
"For so many years, people said I couldn't get out of the first round. Now we need a new mind-set."
They had better make it a good one. Underdogs in this series, they'll be bigger underdogs in the next one that starts Monday at Staples Center.
It doesn't take a psychic to know the Lakers will be happy to see them, having gone 5-2 against them the last two seasons -- and 3-1 in the Toyota Center -- rather than the Trail Blazers, who are 8-0 against the Lakers in the Rose Garden since 2005.
On the other hand, if you haven't been out of the first round since 1997, the second round isn't a problem, it's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
After reaching the 1997 Western Conference finals in a last hurrah with Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler and Charles Barkley, the Rockets lost in the first round in 1998 and 1999.
After that, the problem grew even worse -- getting into the first round. It didn't happen again until 2004, Yao's second season, when they lost in the first round (to the Lakers), as they did in 2005, 2007 and 2008, even while averaging 51 wins those seasons.
This season, with newly acquired Ron Artest, they survived the loss of Tracy McGrady, won 53 games, and still found themselves seeded fifth, opening on the road.
However, with Portland celebrating its own return to the postseason since 2003, with everyone giddy about the prospect of playing the Lakers in the second round, the Rockets turned their first-round series around in Game 1, winning, 108-81, as Yao made all nine of his shots and scored 24 points.
It turned into a rock-ribbed defensive series with winning margins of four points, three, one and 11 in Games 2-5 and neither team even scoring 90 in Games 3-5 . . . until Thursday night.
The Trail Blazers, considered comers in the West, showed they have a long way to go, basically no-showing. After holding Houston to 86-89-77 in the last three games, they held themselves to 76 with their star, Brandon Roy, hobbled by a sore knee, getting a quiet 22.
Looking like someone's scout team, they watched the Rockets go on a 25-6 run that turned the game one-sided in the first half, most of it with reserves Von Wafer, Kyle Lowry and Carl Landry in.
"I wasn't prepared for this, but I love what our team did this season," said Portland Coach Nate McMillan. " . . . [But] we need to take another step."
It had better be a big step. Talented as the Trail Blazers are, they had persistent outbreaks of stage fright, as in their rout by the Lakers in the season opener, and the wipeouts in the opening and closing games of this series.
For the Trail Blazers, that's something to worry about next season.
For the Rockets, this season is still going, all the way into May.