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Rockets lose in final seconds from Davis dagger

December 14th, 2006
by John
Yao rises up for a layup Friday night in Golden State.  The Rockets lost in the final seconds after a huge 3-pointer by Baron Davis.  Because of Tracy McGrady's absence because of back spasms, Yao played 41 minutes, scored 38 points and grabbed 18 boards.Yao rises up for a layup Friday night in Golden State. The Rockets lost in the final seconds on a huge 3-pointer by Baron Davis. Because of Tracy McGrady’s absence because of back spasms, Yao played 41 minutes, scored 38 points and grabbed 18 boards. Click here for more photos.

The Rockets lost a heartbreaker against Golden State Thursday night, with Baron Davis putting on an amazing performance (34 points, 8 assists) and hitting a 3-pointer with just 1.2 seconds remaining to not only break their heart, but rip it out and stomp on it.

I’m sure many of you saw the play where Davis rebounded Yao’s air-balled hook shot from the right baseline, did NOT call timeout, then dribbled it the length of the court and nailed the trey.

It was a smart move for Golden State to NOT call timeout since the best way to probably attack Houston’s vaunted defense is to do it when they don’t have a chance to prepare.

I replayed that play about 20 times to see if Yao should have stayed with Davis all the way down the court rather than switch off to cover Adonal Foyle as Davis approached the 3-point line with just a few seconds left. Yao actually played pretty good defense on Davis all the way down, keeping his hands up so there was no way Davis could get off a shot.

But when Yao made his switch off of Davis, as I’m sure he has been trained to do by Jeff Van Gundy when in a situation with a smaller guard who can blow past him, it gave Davis just enough daylight to launch the game winner.

You might be able to say that Davis wouldn’t have been able to get off a decent shot if Yao had stayed with him, or even pass it to a teammate for a better shot attempt. But that would have required Yao to be watching the game clock and know EXACTLY how much time was remaining on the clock while simultaneously running down the floor, which is really difficult to do in that situation. If he had switched off Davis with .2 seconds remaining rather than 4 seconds, Davis’ shot might have been a lower percentage attempt, but how is Yao supposed to know that running down the floor while concentrating on Davis?

You just have to give credit to Golden State for pulling this game out. They made plays down the stretch. It was an incredible fourth quarter for both teams. But Golden State was just a little bit better, and they had their star rise to the occasion in a clutch and frantic situation.

Yao also rose to the occasion, scoring 38 points (15-of-32 shots, 8-of-8 free throws) and grabbing 18 boards in a whopping 41 minutes, but in that final situation if you have a guard who can create his own shot, you’re a little better off. The Rockets’ Tracy McGrady has done that many times (remember the San Antonio game a couple of years ago where he scored 14 points in 30-something seconds?). But since T-Mac sat out this game with a bad back, they didn’t have that element in this game.

That’s what really sucks about this game – they were so close to pulling out a victory, and needed a win after losing against the Lakers on Tuesday night and just started a tough 5-game road trip out West. These past two games could have easily been won. Turning the ball over 20 times in each game doesn’t help.

The only bright side to this game is that Luther Head stepped up for the second straight game in T-Mac’s absence, scoring 26 points on 10-of-20 shooting, grabbing 9 boards and dishing 4 assists. He’s showing he’s the real deal, and it looks like Houston finally has made a smart draft pick (other than when it’s a no-brainer like Yao). I love watching a player rise from obscurity to becoming a star, and that’s what it looks like the Rockets have.

Rafer Alston also played well, hitting 5-of-10 three pointers on his way to 19 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds. He still shot only 6-of-15 from the floor, but we have come to expect that from Alston. As long as he doesn’t shoot lower than that, continues to hit big treys and racks up close to 10 assists, I’m relatively okay with it.

Shane Battier was solid with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 treys), 7 rebounds and 6 assists.

Bonzi Wells played 17 minutes and only made 2-of-7 shots for 4 points, but the Rockets need to invest that time in him to get him up-to-speed since T-Mac’s health is in question, and they need as much firepower as they can get against the Lakers on Friday night.