Okay, I’m finally getting back on schedule. I have been traveling the past 4 days and it has been hard for me to watch Yao and the Rockets play “live” and provide timely analysis. As a patchwork solution, I have been using a Slingbox to watch the games from my DirecTV Tivo late at night from a hotel room, or from a free wi-fi hot spot.
Obviously, the Slingbox isn’t as good as watching on a TV because the picture is grainy, especially when the players are moving fast. Because it’s difficult to see what actually happened with the grainy picture, I have to constantly ‘rewind’ to see a play over again. And when you’re doing that on a Slingbox, it takes about three times as long to get it to the right place in the recording because of the delay involved. It’s even worse when you’re watching it over a Windows Mobile phone, which I had to do last night because I couldn’t find a wi-fi hotspot.
It takes awhile to watch an entire game, but I at least I got a pretty good gist of what happened during last night’s Rocket win against Milwaukee. But since I had to wake up extremely early to catch a flight back to Texas, I didn’t have time to post my report until now. So here you go…
It was a weird night for Yao Ming last night in Milwaukee. Once again, he got in foul trouble, a problem we thought he had finally conquered last season. He picked up his third foul late in the second quarter, and because he was playing limited action, he was held to only 6 points in the first half.
Luckily, Dikembe Mutombo did a great job subbing for him. Deke grabbed 8 rebounds and scored 8 points in ten minutes of work in the first half alone! The Rockets led 48-39 at halftime, thanks also to great team shooting (47%), three-point shooting (5-of-7), and 26 rebounds, which led to 10 second-chance points and 15 points from the bench.
Then Yao came out in the third quarter on fire, seemingly determined to put the Bucks away. In the first six minutes of the second half, he made 6 of his first 7 shots and scored 12 points. Meanwhile, Milwaukee struggled in their shooting and when the Rockets opened a 17-point lead, a chorus of boos rained from the rafters.
The Rockets continued to impress with a run-and-gun offense in the third quarter, opening up a 73-50 lead at one point and hitting 65% of their shots in the third. I was impressed — and surprised — the Rockets could play so well at the end of a long road trip, along with it being their fourth time in five nights.
But just when I started to think the Rockets were going to slide out of Milwaukee with an easy win, the wheels fell off. As solid as he was in the third quarter, Yao completely lost his shooting touch. The Rockets went to him early in the fourth quarter to try to put the Bucks away, but Yao hit a cold spell and missed 7 of his last 9 shots.
I don’t know if fatigue finally hit him or what, but often when Yao gets a hot shooting hand, he tends to cool off dramatically. I think it has a lot to do with confidence. Once he’s on a roll, he’s tough to stop. But once he starts missing jump shots, I think it can get into his head a little bit.
That dry spell let the Bucks back into the game. Fortunately, Rafer Alston came up with some big shots, hitting a jumper from the top of the key, and a three-pointer a few minutes later to stop some of the bleeding.
But the Bucks’ Michael Redd and Charlie Bell continued to pour in points, and the Rockets missed 7 of their last 8 shots in the game’s final four minutes. As a result, the Rockets’ once insurmountable lead was whittled down to 5 points with just a few minutes remaining.
T-Mac came to the rescue, though, making 4 free throws in the waning moments of the game to fend off the pesky Bucks, sealing a 97-93 win that almost slipped away – a typical game that the Rockets frequently lost last season.
Overall, it was probably McGrady’s best game this season when he has been struggling so much since the season began. T-Mac finished with 32 points on 11-of-19 shooting, hit 3-of-5 three-pointers, and had 6 boards, 5 assists, and 3 blocks. Fantasy Leaguers who have T-Mac on their team can finally breathe a sigh of relief that he’s back on track.
Now the Rockets have a respectable 3-2 record and come back for some home. Based on the only game they have played at Toyota Center this season when they destroyed Dallas, the Rockets may have a much better chance of creating a true home court advantage. The Rocket Rowdies with their constant screaming may have made a huge difference. We’ll find out soon enough starting Friday night against the Knicks.
Oh yeah, speaking of Dallas, have you noticed they are now 0-4? Wow, how fleeting can good times be? Enjoy them while you can, I guess.