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Rockets hot streak ends with frigid shooting in Minnesota

January 7th, 2007
by John

Just one day after I wrote that the Rockets definitely still need Yao, my point was driven home hard given the Rockets’ lousy game against Minnesota Sunday afternoon, losing 103-99 in OT.

It was painful to watch Houston launch ill-advised jumpers and bad shots (37% through 3 quarters). Minnesota didn’t shoot much better and only led 71-62 heading into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Rockets woke up, got the pathetically shooting Rafer Alston out of the game (0-for-10 in the 2nd and 3rd quarter), put John Lucas in, got T-Mac going, made Luther Head get more aggressive offensively, and got back into the game to tie the game late in the fourth and force OT.

It looked like the Rockets were going to pull off an improbable win when T-Mac started off OT by hitting a long two, and Juwan Howard hit two jump shots to give Houston a 94-93 lead with 2:24 remaining.

But the rest of the way, the game ended by the Rockets laying bricks…

Steve Novak missed a three
Mark Blount scored on Novak
T-Mac missed a 7-footer
Rafer (back in the game) missed a trey (no surprise there)
T-Mac missed a trey
Luther turned it over

Meanwhile, the T-wolves capitalized on the Rockets crumbling defense, and Minnesota took a game that — if Yao had been it –would have been a different story.

Here were other keys to the loss:

Alston hitting only 4-of-17 shots. Something has GOT to be done. After stinking up the joint, at least Van Gundy played John Lucas 22 minutes, the most number of minutes he has played all season by far. I did a quick calculation of Alston’s shooting percentage over the last 12 games, and it’s an unbelievably bad 31%.

I think I know the Rockets’ front office well enough that they are looking RIGHT NOW to clear the missing-in-action Bob Sura off the roster and bring in someone who can also play PG, as well as give Lucas a few more minutes. There’s probably not much out there, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Rox bring back Casey Jacobsen (I think he could be in Europe), who they reluctantly let go when Sura said he thought he could still play this season. I know it’s not the answer, but at least JVG liked him enough to publicly acknowledge that he had something to offer, which is saying alot for Van Gundy. Thanks, Sura. Were you hanging around Jeff Bagwell the past few months before claiming you thought you could come back?

T-Mac was really off the first three quarters, hitting only 6-of-19 shots (many of them bail-out jumpers) until he woke up and made 4-of-6 in the fourth quarter to bring the Rockets back and send the game to OT.

Kevin Garnett (11-of-24, 26 points, 13 boards), Blount (6-of-12, 21 points, 10 boards), Trenton Hassell (5-of-10, 14 points), and Ricky Davis (6-of-12, 16 points) just killed the Rockets. Without Yao clogging up the middle, the Wolves had their way with the Rockets only getting two blocks all game long. The only thing that made the game close was Mike James making only 3-of-12 shots, but he did have 10 assists – 7 more than Alston. So even on a bad night for James, he still was able to prove he was the wrong man the Rockets said bye-bye to last summer during the free agency period.

On the bright side, Shane Battier made 7-of-12 shots and hit 4-of-7 three-pointers for 20 points. Solid as always. So was Juwan, who was 7-of-14 with 19 points, and Dikembe grabbing 13 boards. And Lucas was 3-of-5 with only one turnover.

All I know is that all the praise the Rockets were getting having won four games in a row without Yao is going to be long forgotten if they lose to Chicago Monday night in a back-to-back.