SATURDAY, 3/18/06 – The Rockets surprised no one by losing 92-77 to the Spurs on Saturday night. In fact, they have surprised no one over the past four games against tough opponents, losing all four. They have also lost all 12 of their divisional games this season, and are 2-17 without T-Mac.
There is really no point to go into the details for this game, other than…
* The Rockets got to within 5 points of the Spurs (60-55), but then Robert Horry stole a ball and hit a three-pointer to create a bigger cushion, and that was the beginning of the end for the Rockets. Houston climbed within 7 points at the end
* Focusing on playing more defense (holding Tim Duncan to 14 points), Yao scored 20 points and grabbed 10 boards, but was only able to take one shot in the game’s last 7 minutes.
* The Rockets couldn’t stop Tony Parker, who burned them for 23 points. Overall, the Spurs shot 48.7%.
* While Juwan Howard improved his play from recent games with 18 points on 8-of-12 shots, Rafer Alston was awful, hitting 2-of-14 for 8 points. At least Alston had some insightful comments after the game when he talked of another Houston failure to win a game down the stretch: “You’re supposed to get better. When other teams turn it up a notch or two levels, we turn it down a notch or two. Teams make it hard for us to get it to our best player (Yao Ming). We don’t make it hard to get it to some of their best players.”
* I am really getting tired of the Rockets losing to the Spurs. Surprise me for me once, won’t you?
The Rockets are now 4.5 games behind the Lakers with 16 games to play. The season is over. So let’s start thinking about next year and getting a high lottery pick. Can the Rockets get lucky again like they did in 2002 and get the #1 pick? Adam Morrison or J.J. Redick could really help the Rockets. Fat chance they’ll get one of them.
You go, JVG
As much as I have been underwhelmed by Jeff Van Gundy‘s coaching this season, I have to give him props for a comment he made Saturday. Discussing how players around the league celebrate when one of their teammates dunks on Yao, like in last Sunday’s game against the Spurs when Michael Finley supposedly dunked on Yao (although Yao just came over to help at the last second because Finley had driven past Rick Brunson):
“I think some of those same people that like to mock Yao’s negative plays are the same people who predicted that he wasn’t good and would never really (make an impact). So instead of just saying, ‘I’m wrong, I’m an idiot, I have no idea what I’m talking about,’ they try to pick out a couple plays where it may not have gone as well for Yao. Saying you’re wrong is difficult.
“A lot of players, if you remember, tried to say he was not that special. I think a lot of it, player-wise, is just talk. A lot of players never appreciated Yao’s slow and steady improvement. There’s something beyond it, but I’m sure natural size has something to do with it.”
Update from Ric
On a different note, I had a chance yesterday to speak to Ric Bucher, the co-author of Yao’s book. Like myself, even Ric is amazed at how well Yao is playing this early in his career. That’s saying something considering how much time Ric had spent with Yao in writing that book.
Ric also is impressed with how great Yao’s English has improved and how he can now understand the nuances and subtleties of the language. We both agreed that Yao is one smart dude.
To see the boxscore from the game, click here.
To read the Houston Chronicle’s article about the game, click here.