Okay, so the Rockets lost another big lead last night to the Bulls. I’m not too concerned. They still won. Before they lost their 21-point third quarter lead, the Rockets were probably playing a little above their heads. For example, the Rockets came out shooting extremely hot in the third quarter, hitting 9 of their first 10 shots. For them to keep up that kind of shooting percentage is not realistic.
Furthermore, the Bulls are no slouch of a team, and they were probably playing below their capability when they fell behind so much. In the long run, the hot and cold streaks tend to even out for both teams, and the better team will usually win, which I believe the Rockets were. And the final score of 101-100 made the game look closer than what it really was, with Andres Nocioni hitting a three-pointer with no time left.
Sure, the Rockets made some mistakes, but they will learn from them, even if the same mistakes and turnovers have been a common occurrence lately. But I would rather have those mistakes happen now than later in the season or the playoffs. They need something to work on over the next 73 games, right? If they didn’t, the games would be kind of boring to watch, don’t you think?
And I kind of like it when the Rocket players are mad and want to fix problems, as evidenced by Tracy McGrady‘s quote after the game:
“I’m not happy at all. You’ve got to be happy about the win, but the overall picture is not good. We can’t throw away games like this.”
Surprisingly, even Jeff Van Gundy is not being as doom-and-gloom as he normally is, even after wins.
“We’re doing some good things to get ahead. If you had looked at our schedule coming into the year knowing we were down a couple of guys and had played our last three games against Miami, San Antonio and Chicago and won two of the three, regardless of how the game ended, you would say (our team) is doing some good things. (But) I’m not happy at all with not playing up to our capabilities.”
One of those good things was the Rockets hitting their free throws down the stretch, hitting 9 of 10 free throws to finish the game. That was pretty clutch and is something the Rockets are not known to do well as a team.
Yao had a rough first half, hitting only 3-of-10 shots, but still had scored 10 points and grabbed 9 boards at the half. Ben Wallace got props from Bulls coach Scott Skiles for playing the best defense he had seen played against Yao. Yao made 4-of-9 shots in the second half and finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds. He also finished with only two turnovers.
After the game, Yao described what he thinks the Rockets need to close out games better:
“Intelligence. More intelligence, I think. Know the time, know the score, know the penalties, know the number of timeouts. We need every player to know that and to know those situations.”
The Rockets showed some resilience in the first half, turning an 8-point deficit in the first quarter into an 11-point halftime lead, thanks to Scott Padgett scoring 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting. I had mentioned the other day the Rockets were smart in signing Padgett again since he was their best 3-point shooter two seasons ago before letting him go. The Rockets extended the lead to 21 points in the third quarter before Ben Gordon got hot and got the Bulls back into the game.
I like the intelligence Padgett showed after the game in analyzing the Rockets second half collapses.
“When you miss 2 or 3 (baskets) in a row, then the next time, you need to get the ball into Yao (Ming)or get the ball into the paint to get a higher-quality shot. Sometimes, I think, when you get hot, like when we were hot for awhile, sometimes you fall in love with it (perimeter game). Sometimes when you’re wide open, it’s better to force-feed the big guy than to shoot up another 3.”
T-Mac had a sensational boxscore and showed signs that he may be breaking out of his slump, hitting 8-of-17 shots, scoring 21 points, grabbing 11 boards and doling out 7 assists.
Before closing, I had to mention one note about the TNT coverage. Analyst Doug Collins was surprised the Rockets were pushing the ball on fast breaks, saying the Rockets are not a running team. Well, if he did his homework, he’ll see that Van Gundy has emphasized running when the opportunity is there since he has the horses, like McGrady and Luther Head. They also have added Kirk Snyder (who was running on one of those breaks Thursday night), who is much quicker than the recently departed David Wesley and Jon Barry. Do your homework, Doug.