WEDNESDAY, 2/2/05 – Although they were on the East Coast in Philadelphia, the Rockets got a little bit of ‘Sacramento’ in them on Wednesday night. Like the Kings who have shown the Rockets the past few years what good things can happen if you share the basketball and shoot with accuracy, the Rockets had 35 assists on 41 field goals and nailed 14-of-25 three-pointers (56%) to defeat the 76ers 118-95.
The first quarter was a shootout. Allen Iverson torched the Rockets with 15 points and the 76ers scored on at least four alley-oop plays. The good news is that after the Rockets hit only 2-of-6 to start the game, the Rockets kept up by hitting six shots in a row. Yao scored 3 buckets in that run helped by great dishes from his teammates, and capped the scoring run with a bib throw-down over a mismatched Kyle Korver on a defensive switch. Incredibly, the Rockets had 9 assists to go with their first 8 buckets.
The Rockets cooled off the rest of the quarter, hitting 3-of-9 the rest of the way. They still managed to shoot 11-of-21 for a 52%, and T-Mac led the Rockets in scoring with 13 points on 4-of-8 shooting. But Philadelphia was a bit better, hitting 61% of their shots and holding a 33-31 lead at the end of the first quarter.
At the beginning of the second quarter, T-Mac hit two consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the arc, along with a long two-pointer near the top of the key. So just 3 minutes into the second quarter after his barrage of long jumpers, he had 21 points to open up a 44-35 lead for the Rockets.
That’s when the fireworks really started for the Rockets, with David Wesley, Jon Barry and Scott Padgett hitting three-pointers. Bob Sura then scored on a fastbreak layup, was fouled, and converted the free throw. He then made another shot, and Wesley came back with another three-pointer, and the Rockets held a 62-49 lead.
If you can’t tell, I was ecstatic to see so much scoring come so quickly for the Rockets, thanks to hitting 6-of-10 three-pointer in the second quarter to outscore the Sixers 32-22 and hold an 8-point lead at halftime, 63-55. Houston shot a scorching 56%, out-rebounded Philly 23-15, and had an amazing 17 assists. If Philadelphia hadn’t outscored Houston 32-16 in the paint and stole the ball 8 times to Houston’s one steal, it would have been over.
At the start of the second half, the Rockets kept pouring it on by going on a 19-6 run thanks to the Sacramento Kings-like passing and long bombs, taking an 82-61 lead. Meanwhile, Iverson only scored three points since his first quarter 15-point outburst. The Sixers only hit 4-of-16 shots in the quarter while the Rockets outscored them 25-16 to hold a 17-point lead after the third quarter, 88-71. It helped that Yao and Dikembe Mutombo were altering shots down low.
The Rockets coasted in the fourth quarter, never threatened to lose the lead. To show just how things were going their way, Scott Padgett from underneath the basket threw a long pass out to Jon Barry behind the three-point line. Barry then faked a hard pass like he was going to pass the ball, which got Iverson to bite on the fake embarrassingly so that he was over 6 feet out of position. Standing all by himself with Iverson out of the picture, Barry launched a trey and buried it! That put the Rockets ahead 99-80.
With the big lead, Jeff Van Gundy rested many of his starters like Yao, Wesley and Juwan Howard. In the fourth, super subs like Barry scored 6, Padgett scored 10, and Dikembe scored 8 to seal a 118-105 victory.
When the dust cleared, T-Mac scored 34 points on 10-of-21, and made 5-of-10 three-pointers. Howard scored 14 points and had a surprising 13 rebounds. With the easy victory, Yao got some rest playing only 27 minutes and scoring 12 points, grabbing 5 rebounds and blocking two shots.
Most staggering: the Rockets’ 35 assists on 41 field goals. What got into them all of a sudden? Whatever it was, I hope they keep it rolling. The Rockets are now 26-21 and 12-11 on the road and face the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves (24-21) on Friday night.
To read the Houston Chronicle’s post-game analysis, click here.