Yao and T-Mac put on a clinic Tuesday night against Golden State. Yao’s 12-of-17 shooting and 27 points and 8 rebounds atoned for the 8-for-23 shooting abomination and 5 boards Saturday night against Cleveland. Give alot of credit to his teammates, who got him the ball down low many times against man-to-man defense.
After suffering a concussion in that Cleveland game, T-Mac inexplicably was as good as new, scoring 31 points on 13-of-25 shooting and doling out 7 assists.
I thought it would have been distasteful after his last injury to joke about it, but now that we know McGrady suffered no ill effects after getting bopped in the head accidentally by Dikembe Mutombo’s elbow, I can tell you what I was thinking as T-Mac struggled with his balance. I thought the injury might help clear T-Mac’s head of all the negative vibes he has been having this season and make him shoot better….kind of like those stories you hear about where people with diseases or blindness get struck by lightning and are suddenly cured.
Who knows. Maybe that’s what happened. Yao evidently thought the same thing after the game when he joked, “It knocked him awake.”
The Rockets were definitely awake in the first quarter. Not only that, they were on fire, moving the ball around for high percentage shots and layups and opening up a 19-point lead, 26-7. Yao scored the first 11 points for the Rockets, with the last 3 baskets easy layups.
By the end of the first quarter, the Rockets had scored their highest number of points in the first quarter this season, making 64% of their shots and leading 35-20. Yao had 17 points, and T-Mac had 11. Incredible!
In the second quarter, the Rockets kept pouring it on, building a 56-28 lead a little more than halfway through it. Their shooting from the field cooled off somewhat, making only 7-of-19 shots. But they went to the free throw line 15 times, and made all 15!
Juwan Howard made all 5 of this free throws on his way to a 9-point quarter. Yao added six more points to his total, including a powerful one-handed slam that raised his teammates off the bench in exaltation, and he went into halftime with 23 points and a 65-44 lead.
T-Mac lit it up in the third quarter, going to the hole aggressively like the T-Mac of old, making 6-of-11 shots and scoring 13 points to build an even bigger lead after 3 quarters, 93-68.
In the fourth, Yao didn’t play and T-Mac played for just a few minutes since they play a back-to-back against Minnesota Wednesday night. That gave the Rockets’ bench some much needed playing time, and Vassilis Spanoulis took advantage of it, scoring 13 points and hitting 4-of-9 from the floor, 3-of-5 in the fourth quarter.
John Lucas also played fantastic in his 6 minutes, hitting all 3 of his shots and finishing with 7 points. The Rockets finished the game with their highest point total this season, winning 118-90.
I really felt sorry for Golden State, who was playing a back-to-back after losing to San Antonio by 40 points Monday night.
Poor Don Nelson. I bet he wish he hadn’t come out of retirement for this kind of abuse. Not to say the Warriors haven’t done some good things this season. After all, they lead the NBA in shooting percentage. But against the Rockets’ defensive buzzsaw, they were held way below their average — 39%.
Nelson was very complimentary of the Rockets afterwards. “The Rockets are for real,” Nelson said. “We had no answer for anything they did. I was going to attack Houston in the open court and spread their defense, and it blew up in my face.”
Apparently Nelson was also playing a ‘spread defense,’ as described by Yao after the game. “I thought after the first two baskets I made they might come to double-team or something,” Yao said. “But I kept looking around and still there was only one man. I think they were hoping we’d get bored throwing the ball into the paint and start to play some perimeter, playing their game. We know their game. They were weak on the inside.”
Click here for the game story.