Yao had his worst shooting game of the season Wednesday night in Minnesota, shooting only 26% (5-of-19) and scoring only 14 points in 41 minutes in a 90-84 loss to the Timberwolves. It looks like the rest he was able to enjoy the previous night by taking the fourth quarter off didn’t help.
Kevin Garnett, Mark Blount and Craig Smith showed they can play defense, too. There’s a reason the T-Wolves are third in the league in opponents’ scoring average (92.9 points per game). They did a good job pushing him further away from the basket than he likes to be, which happened to him earlier this season and resulted in a poor shooting night.
You would think if teams knew that’s what it took to contain Yao, they would do it all the time. But give credit to Yao for being strong enough and fighting hard to get great position against most of his opponents and average 26 points per game.
The fourth quarter was especially disastrous for Yao. He was called for a very questionable tech – his first of the season — after posterizing Eddie Griffin on a dunk and belting out a yell.
Later on he was called for goaltending against Troy Hudson, which gave the T-Wolves an 85-77 lead with a little over 5 minutes remaining.
Shortly afterwards, Yao was blocked at the rim by Garnett, but grabbed the rebound and blew a layup. I had just written a few days ago how impressed I was that Yao wasn’t blowing chip shots this season like he had done so often in previous seasons. After the game, Yao vowed, “I will make those next time.”
Throw in 7 turnovers on the night for Yao, and you have his worst overall night of the season.
Yao didn’t get much help from his partner Tracy McGrady, who also finished with 14 points and shot worse than Yao (didn’t think that could be possible), making only 5-of-21 shots, missing all 3-point attempts, and turning it over 5 times himself.
So although the Rockets have a decent 12-6 record, it’s clear they aren’t as good against tougher competition. Even with such a bad night for Yao and T-Mac, at least they didn’t get blown out. They had a chance to tie it very late in the game with a three-pointer, but like all night, they couldn’t get off a decent shot and lost.