Although the Rockets have been on a roll, having won 5 of their last 6 games, and were facing a Memphis team with the league’s worst record Tuesday night, you’ve still got to give them credit for winning 98-90.
After all, it was the second night of a back-to-back, Dikembe Mutombo ‘s knee was hurting, Juwan Howard was sick, Bonzi Wells was out, the Grizzlies are averaging 111 points a game since interim coach Tony Barone took over for the ousted Mike Fratello, and they kept coming at Houston.all game long But the Rockets fended them off to sweep the season series.
And for the second game in a row, Jeff Van Gundy praised his team:
“That was as hard as a team can play. That was a classic night that most teams let up and lose. I couldn’t be prouder of the group.”
“That’s what we’re talking about with leadership. McGrady puts it on the floor two times in a row. That’s leadership. Deke playing 37 minutes; that’s leadership. Juwan fighting through it; that’s leadership. (Shane) Battier being disciplined; that’s leadership. So I loved the way we played.”
Two post-game conferences in a row with compliments from JVG? I think hell is freezing over.
Tracy McGrady was awesome again, scoring 33 points on 12-of-26 shooting, and also throwing in 8 assists. To boot, he had two fantastic flying dunks, one on an alley-oop from Rafer Alston, and another after a baseline pump fake on Rudy Gay that left a clear lane to the hoop for an easy jam. I love T-Mac’s dunks more than most anyone’s. They just have a flair to them that makes you ask, “How did he do that?”
Houston’s offense was very efficient, shooting 49.4% and making 12-of-13 free throws. Three players shot better than 50% (Shane Battier – 6-of-9 for 14 points, Luther Head was 5-of-8 for 11, and Chuck Hayes was 4-of-6). With that kind of shooting, and only 10 team turnovers, you’re going to win a lot of games.
Of course, the Rockets’ defense was solid as always, holding Memphis to 43% shooting, and 2-of-18 from three-point territory for 11% shooting, a season-low.
Battier was awesome against his former teammate and scoring extraordinaire Mike Miller, holding him to 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting, 0-of-8 from three-point range, snapping Miller’s 27-game streak of making at least one trey.
Now the Rockets – who have played their share of cupcakes lately — face a big test on Friday and play the red-hot Dallas Mavericks. It will be interesting to see how well they measure up against arguably the best team in the league.