MONDAY, 1/1/06 – I am on the road this week, so I am not able to provide a full analysis for last night’s New Years’ Eve game against Golden State, nor will I be able to provide full reports for the next three road games. What I’ll mainly do is link to the Houston Chronicle’s write-up of these games. Last night’s Chronicle story about Houston’s 94-89 loss can be found by clicking here.
It’s also tough to write much about this game because it was the Rockets’ fifth loss in a row. They had plenty of chances to tie it and put it into overtime, but the game boiled down to T-Mac having three 3-point attempts in the last 20 seconds that looked like they were going to go in, but just missed.
The other big theme about this game was that it was a game of runs. Golden State would take big leads, and Houston would chip away and get back into the game, thanks to their defense. The final set of runs included Houston being down 70-55, but then they went on a 16-4 run to cut it to 74-71. However, Houston’s offense went about 6 possessions without scoring, blowing lots of chances to pull ahead.
Golden State then retaliated with a 13-3 run of their own, and with 1:30 remaining in the game, it looked like the game was over with the Warriors holding a 90-80 lead.
Then a strange thing happened that I’ve never seen before.
Warriors’ assistant coach Keith Smart was called for a technical because he had one foot on the court as he was yelling instructions to one of his players. The refs saw it and blew the whistle for the tech. Everyone thought it was no big deal because the game was essentially over because the Warriors had a 10-point lead. That’s what David Wesley must have thought because he missed the technical free throw.
That missed free throw would come back to haunt the Rockets.
Wouldn’t you know it, Houston went on to score 9 points in a row. T-Mac hit a three-pointer with 1:22 to make it 90-83, Rafer Alston hit a three with 50 seconds left, and then T-Mac ALMOST made a miraculous 4-point play when he was fouled on a three-point attempt, but was still able to get off a 3-point shot that just missed.
T-Mac proceeded to hit the 3 free throws to make it 90-89 with 18.4 seconds remaining. If Wesley had made that technical, the game would have been tied 90-90 and the worst shape the Rockets would have been in would be to foul Golden State, put them on the line, and be down 92-90.
On the ensuing Warrior possession, the Rockets did just that. They fouled Derek Fisher as he made a strong move to the basket, put him on the line, and Fisher made both free throws.
Now down 92-89 (instead of 92-90), the Rockets were forced to put up three-pointers to tie it. T-Mac’s first attempt just missed, but new Rocket addition John Lucas III got the rebound and dished to T-Mac for another attempt, which just rimmed out. Amazingly, Lucas grabbed the second rebound on the other side of the court, but unfortunately he had one foot out-of-bounds, and the game was basically over. The Rockets fouled Troy Murphy on the inbounds play, and he made both free throws to seal the victory, 94-89.
When you look at the boxscore, you see the Rockets had plenty of chances. Wesley was awful, hitting only 1-of-8 shots, missing all five of his 3-point attempts. Alston, who returned from his leg injury, was 1-of-5 from three-point land. T-Mac was only 10-of-15 from the free throw line.
On the bright side, the Rockets played very well in the paint, often scoring at will. They kept going to the hole, and Juwan Howard ended up scoring 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting. Stromile Swift had several spectacular dunks, thanks to feeds from guys like T-Mac. Swift had his second great game in a row, scoring 17 points (7-of-12 shooting) and grabbed 13 rebounds. I am so encouraged by Swift’s play recently, I went ahead and picked him up on my fantasy team.
With Yao on the injured list, it looks like the Rockets big men are adjusting and finding ways to score now that there is more room in the paint with Yao out of the mix. But the problem of going several minutes without scoring still continues to plague the Rockets. It’s encouraging that Stromile is able to help out T-Mac, but they still need to have 3 guys who can consistently score to win close games like these.
Maybe the start of a new year will purge all the bad memories from 2005 from the Rockets’ brains and give them a feeling of a new, fresh start.
To see the boxscore from the game, click here.