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Yao scores 24 in defensive battle with Lebron and Cavs

December 4th, 2006
by John
Yao tries to keep Lebron James from scoring Saturday night, but with no success as James prepares to throw one down.  However, it was one of only 7 shots that James made in 22 attempts.  Meanwhile, Yao finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds in leading the Rockets to an 81-63 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers.Yao tries to keep Lebron James from scoring Saturday night, but with no success as James prepares to throw one down. However, it was one of only 7 shots that James made in 22 attempts. Meanwhile, Yao finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds in leading the Rockets to an 81-63 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. Click here for the game story. Click here for more photos.

This is probably the latest commentary I have had after a game, more than 24 hours after the fact. I spent the past day at my folks’ house helping out with a very ill relative, and didn’t have access to TV during the game, but was able to watch it on Tivo late Sunday night. I’ll probably have a similar schedule during most weekends in the foreseeable future.

With that said, it was a thing of beauty to see team defense play such a big part early in the day when one of my favorite teams – the UCLA Bruins football team – shock the world and the 14-point favored USC Trojans by knocking them out of the BCS National Championship Game by holding them to the least number of points this decade.

Later that evening, defense was the overwhelming factor that led to the Rockets dismantling of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ offensive attack, holding them to 28% shooting for the game. It probably would have been worse if the Cavs hadn’t cut a 26-point deficit in half late in the fourth quarter.

After Houston had gone scoreless during a Cleveland 13-0 run, though, the Rockets righted the ship and scored 3 baskets in a row to put the game out of reach, winning 81-63.

I’m sure you know by now that T-Mac suffered a concussion after running into Dikembe Mutombo‘s elbow accidentally. It looked scary at first, with McGrady totally out of it. But then later on it was reported that he doing much better after the game, joking and smiling in the clubhouse. It’s uncertain if he will play in Tuesday’s game against Golden State.

T-Mac actually had a great start before getting hurt late in the first quarter, scoring 7 points on 3-of-5 shooting and doling out 3 assists in just 10 minutes of play.

The Rockets went on a 14-1 run without T-Mac at the end of the first half, holding the Cavs to no field goals for 8 ½ minutes. Yao had scored 20 points by halftime, and the Rockets were comfortably ahead 43-29 at the half.

Shane Battier did an amazing defensive job on Lebron James, who was only 4-for-16 at one point in the third quarter. King James finished 7-of-22 for the game.

With the ‘playmaker’ McGrady not able to dish some assists to Yao for dunks or layups because of his concussion, Yao did not get easy looks (finished only 8-of-23 from the field) and only scored 4 points in the second half. But the Rockets didn’t really need him much in building a 26-point lead.

When the Cavs cut it close, Rafer Alston and Luther Head came up with some clutch shots as they have done most of the season and put the game away. Head was especially outstanding, hitting 3-of-6 three-pointers (13 points), grabbing 7 rebounds, and passing 5 assists. And he only had 1 turnover in 31 minutes.

Overall, it was an ugly game since the Rockets only shot 39% from the field, but on a day when defense made headlines on the West Coast, the Rockets applied their own smothering defense on the Gulf Coast.