THURSDAY, 10/27/05 – I went to the World Series game last night in downtown Houston, and once again witnessed a feeble offense that failed to win a game after having all the chances in the world to win it. Fortunately, I have been put out of my misery now that the World Series is over. Now it’s time for me to focus exclusively on the Rockets! I found it quite ironic as I walked to Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston to watch the World Series Game, I walked right past Toyota Center where the Rockets were about to play the Utah Jazz last night in their preseason game. While activity in one building was soon going to die (Minute Maid), new life was being generated in the new (Toyota).
Even though I wasn’t able to watch the Rockets game, I have a recap of the game from a loyal reader who emailed it to me. His take on last night’s Rockets-Jazz game is below:
The Houston Rockets continued their great preseason form and kept their home court winning record intact. They beat the Utah Jazz 88-80 in Toyota Center on Wednesday night, despite resting Tracy McGrady for the entire game. T-Mac was forced to sit out because of tendinitis in both knees, but is expected to return for the Rockets’ final preseason game against the New Orleans Hornets in Oklahoma City on Thursday night.
With T-Mac out, Jeff Van Gundy was forced to shuffle the starting lineup, and started Derek Anderson in lieu of David Wesley at the shooting guard position. He also swapped out Ryan Bowen for T-Mac at small forward, and Juwan Howard for Stromile Swift at power forward. As usual, Rafer Alston and Yao Ming started at point guard and center, respectively.
The match was not as close as the final score might suggest, as the Rockets led from start to finish. After the Jazz took an early lead, the Rockets just ran over the Jazz with crisp passing and scoring. Yao played most of the first quarter and displayed good form and conditioning. He was so dominant, Jazz center Greg Ostertag drew two early fouls on him in the first couple of minutes in the game. Ostertag became so disgruntled on the bench protesting the calls against him, that he drew a technical foul. Yao led the Rockets to a 19-11 lead in the first quarter, scoring 9 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and grabbed 3 rebounds.
Many of the starters, including Yao and Howard, were given a breather in the second quarter as David Wesley, Jon Barry, Dikembe Mutombo and Stromile Swift were given their playing time. The Rockets had the game in full control, and at one time were leading by as many as 15 points. If it weren’t for a short lapse of concentration at the end of first half that allowed Utah to go on a 5-0 run, the halftime score would have been larger than just 43-34. Yao only scored only two points (two free throws) in 4 minutes of play in the second quarter.
The third quarter was closely contested as the Jazz went on a 7-0 run to reduce the deficit to 45-41. After that, the Rockets lead hovered between six and eight points. The Jazz managed to get as close to 56-53, but Jon Barry showed his worth by scoring 5 points in the last few minutes (two free throws, and a three-pointer) to maintain an 8-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Stromile scored two quick baskets, both coming off Jon Barry assists, with one of the baskets coming from a dunk that drew roaring approval from Rocket fans. But the Jazz refused to throw in the towel, and they managed to get as close as 67-62.
That’s when Yao was sent back into the game at the 8:33 minute mark. Yao first had a great 3-point play, scoring on a layup and drawing a foul from Devin Brown. Yao then blocked his third shot of the game, with Brown being the victim. Yao then provided an assist to David Wesley for a 3-pointer, then combined with Swift for a great slam dunk while drawing a foul from Mehmet Okur, and sunk the free throw for another 3-point play. Yao then took a pass from Jon Barry and sunk a 13-foot jumper, stretching the Rockets’ lead to 82-70, putting the game away.
Even though Yao was off target, he still was the top scorer with 19 points (7-of-17 shooting, 5-of-6 free throws), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 3 blocked shots in 31 minutes of play.
David Wesley recovered from his recent shooting slump to share top scoring honors with Yao at 19 points (5-of-9 shooting, 2-of-4 three-pointers, 7-of-10 free throws) in 30 minutes of play.
Barry was reliable as usual, providing the necessary spark and energy from the bench. Alongside Yao and Wesley, he was one of five Rockets to score in double digits (13 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 2-of-3 treys, 3-of-3 free throws), and he dished out 5 assists to show he still has great ballhandling, passing and assist skills.
Derek Anderson and Stromile Swift were the other two Rockets in double-digit scoring: Anderson was efficient in 21 minutes of play with 14 points, while Swift was entertaining and exciting with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
The most comforting statistics came from point guard Rafer Alston. Even though his shooting was off-target (5 points on 1-of-6 shooting), he played his most minutes of the season (37) and showed he can play defense and rebound, finishing with a team-high 8 boards.
To see the complete boxscore of the game, click here.