by Chia-Chi and John
THURSDAY, 3/24/05 – When Vin Baker plays it only means one thing: blowout. Coming off a close 2 point win over Miami, the Rockets strolled to a huge win over Lebron James and the struggling Cavaliers with a 99-80 victory.
In the first quarter, the Rockets fell behind early, but went on a 15-2 run to take a 19-11 lead, capped by a sweet bounce pass from Yao in the post to Clarence Weatherspoon who cut down the middle of the lane for a layup. I hadn’t seen a nifty pass like that from Yao in a long time!
T-Mac scored 8 points in the quarter, including three baskets on incredible slicing moves to the basket, and a 360 move under the basket where he amazingly got the ball off in mid-air for a layup off the glass. That bucket brought the sellout Houston house down! Yao scored 7 points on 2-of-2 shooting in the quarter. It was all knotted up at 28-28 after one quarter, with both teams shooting .500 or better.
In the second quarter, T-Mac blew quickly into the lane from the top of the key and threw down a right-handed dunk over Drew Gooden that no one believed he had the quickness to get off. He was so quick, he froze two defenders down low who had no idea how to defend it.
Also in the second, Yao had an incredible block from behind of Cleveland center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who had a sure dunk. It was all ball, and the Rockets gained possession after the block.
T-Mac capped off an 11-2 Houston run to make it 45-37 on another throw-down after blowing past three Cavs on his way to the rack. The Rockets kept a 9-point separation and led 48-39 at the half. One of the reasons Houston dominated and held Cleveland to 11 second quarter points was their defense, holding them to 5-of-20 shooting.
In the third quarter, the Cavaliers clawed their way back to within 3 points, 59-56, with 4:09 remaining in the third. But that’s when McGrady and the Rockets bench decided to play hard defense. McGrady and David Wesley did an excellent job defending against Lebron, limiting him to 7 points the rest of the way. Scott Padgett also crashed the boards in the fourth, finishing with 9 boards.
Most exciting for the crowd was Jon Barry, who in two consecutive play assisted McGrady for huge fast break buckets. On the first play, Barry grabbed a defensive rebound off a Lebron miss, pushed the ball upcourt, and then executed a behind-the-back pass across half the distance of the court to T-Mac for a two-handed dunk that left the Cavaliers breathless. You can bet that pass will be in the Top 10 plays of the week.
On the very next play Padgett stole the ball from Ilgauskas and passed it to Barry, who led the break and went up for a layup, but at the last second faked the shot to throw off a defender in front of the rim, and then passed to McGrady while under the basket in mid-air for another huge fast break assist.
Behind three-point shooting from Mike James (three in the fourth quarter alone) and Barry, the Rockets accumulated a 20-point lead and the Cavaliers were all but finished.
Yao came in for a few minutes and scored four quick points before the clean-up crew came in. Mike James had the ball in the final seconds but decided to be a classy player and not break 100 points for free Big Macs for the crowd.
On reason for the large win margin was the Rockets rediscovered confidence in their shooting touch, hitting nearly 40% from the three point line and 47% from the field. They also out-rebounded the Cavs 48-37.
T-Mac was incredible, scoring 31 points on 11-of-21 shooting, his best shooting percentage in quite some time. The other star of the game was Bob Sura, who scored 12 points, grabbed 10 boards, dished 6 times and had two blocks.
To read the Houston Chronicle’s post-game analysis, click here.