SUNDAY, 3/12/06 – On a pure coincidence, I was in San Antonio today during the Rockets-Spurs game. But I wasn’t at the game. Instead, I was stuck in the worst traffic jam I’ve ever been stuck in that backed up cars for 10 miles, on the verge of missing a flight out of San Antonio’s airport.
I couldn’t believe how bad the congestion was, and it didn’t even look like there was an accident! Instead, it looked it was all because of construction. Good going, San Antonio. Do construction on one of the most heavily-trafficked arteries on the one of the busiest afternoons of the week.
Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with the city of San Antonio today, and I have even a bigger disdain for the city when the Rockets play the city’s team that has beaten them 16 games in a row at home.
Luckily when I got to the airport late, my flight was delayed. So I thought maybe my good luck would rub off on the Rockets and they could pull off an upset of the Spurs. I even had enough time to check out an airport TV and see that the Rockets held a 42-38 lead at halftime, and Yao had scored 17 points at the half.
But then I heard David Wesley was not going to be coming back into the game because of a rib injury. And that’s on top of T-Mac’s absence with a bad back.
Then I saw the Rockets fall apart in the third, with Yao getting only 3 shots in the quarter while the offense showed poor shot selection, scoring 11 points, their worst third quarter of the season.
Meanwhile, San Antonio had their way with Houston offensively in that third quarter, scoring 26 points. By the time the third was over, the Rockets were down by eleven, 64-53.
I had to cease watching the game and go catch my flight with the sinking feeling the Rockets were going to lose yet another game to the Spurs. However, after my plane landed, I heard the Rockets had made a run and almost pulled off a major upset, but they couldn’t close the deal and lost 88-81.
I had recorded the game on my Tivo and really wanted to see how the Rockets played in the fourth quarter. So I decided to watch what happened. I was pleasantly surprised to see a valiant comeback attempt.
Luther Head hit a big three-pointer to cut the San Antonio lead to 77-75 with 3:20 remaining. The Rockets’ prospects were still looking good with Houston trailing only 79-77 with about 2:30 remaining. But the game turned on the next 3 possessions.
Rick Brunson was guarding Michael Finley fairly well in the corner, but then he made a mistake in positioning and got caught in a pick, giving Finley a clear path to the basket for a slam dunk to make it 81-77.
On the ensuing possession, the Rockets turned it over, and the Spurs came down and Manu Ginobili threw a tough left-handed fallaway floater in the lane for a bucket, and that was about it, 83-77 with two minutes remaining.
For good measure with 1:08 remaining, Ginobili took Luther Head to school by getting him caught in a Tim Duncan pick, broke into the lane, shifted direction to fake Yao out, and threw it down with a left-handed dunk, giving them an 85-79 lead.
Finley rubbed some salt in Houston’s wound with 40 seconds remaining, hitting a wide-open three-pointer, and that was the ballgame.
In that fourth quarter, give credit to Luther for making 2-of-4 shots for four points, and Rafer Alston going strong to the hole and scoring 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Even the newest Rocket, Brunson, hit two treys in the fourth quarter to score 6 points.
Yao finished with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting, made all 7 of this free throw attempts, and had 3 blocks. But he was smothered in the second half by San Antonio’s double and triple-teams, and Yao’s teammates couldn’t make the Spurs pay, especially in that third quarter.
One small concession is that Alston had his best shooting game in a long time, hitting half of his shots (7-of-14 for 15 points) and dishing five assists.
Keith Bogans (5-of-10 shooting for 11 points) played very well in place of T-Mac, out with a bad back for the next 5 weeks.
What’s sad is that the Rockets either beat or tied the World Champion Spurs in almost every statistical category, like:
Field Goal %: 46.4 (Rockets) vs. 45.6
FT%: 72.7 vs. 69.2
Rebounds: 39 vs. 40
Assists: 19 vs. 17
Steals: 8 vs. 8
Blocks: 4 vs. 3
3-pointers: 7-of-16 vs. 5-of-17
But they couldn’t make the plays down the stretch, which is that clutch performance championship teams like the Spurs are known for doing. Take T-Mac out of the Houston lineup, and the chances of Yao doing it all by himself against a team like the Spurs is extremely low.
To see the boxscore from the game, click here.
To read the Houston Chronicle’s article about the game, click here.