It looks like the wheels are starting to finally fall off in Houston without Yao in the lineup. The Rockets lost their 3rd game out of their last four, this time to the Toronto Raptors at home Wednesday night 106-90. Sure the Raptors are much improved, leading the Atlantic division with a 31-26 record and having won 9 of their last 12 games. But we’re talkin’ about the EAST!
The Rockets other two losses in their last four games were to Eastern Conference cellar-dwellers Atlanta and Boston. May day, May day! Now all they have to do is lose to Milwaukee on March 26th in Houston, and they will have pulled the trifecta of losing to the teams at the bottom of the three divisions in the East.
The Raptors jumped out to a 27-21 lead in the first quarter on 13-of-22 shooting. Then in the second quarter they shot even better — 80% to score 40 points! Yes, I said 80%. 16-of-20. The “80-40” rule must have been in effect: shoot 80%, score 40.
In that slaughterhouse of a second quarter, rookie Andrea Bargnani hit 5-of-5 (including 3-of-3 from three-point territory), Jose Calderon made 3-of-3, Juan Dixon made 4-of-7 and Chris Bosh made both of his field goal attempts.
Meanwhile, Houston didn’t shoot too badly. They scored 26 in the second quarter on 11-of-19 shooting. It’s just that their defense sucked. You know that if Yao had been in the middle, a lot of those shots would have been a little more difficult for the Raptors to hit.
The Rockets made up some ground in the third quarter, outscoring Toronto 21-12 and cutting the deficit to 9 points. They could have made up more ground, but Chuck Hayes plain-and-simple blew two consecutive layup attempts at the rim. It was indicative of the frustration the Rockets have had lately with their shot.
Then in the fourth, the Raptors went on a 10-0 run to extend the lead to 19, and that was the ballgame. Of course, just like the previous game against the Celtics when they were trying to get something consistent going, Luther Head jacked up an ill-advised three-pointer without ever having moved the ball around.
Then on the next possession, John Lucas jacked up a trey and missed. By the end of the fourth, the Rockets missed 6-of-7 three-pointers in the quarter (sound familiar?). For the game, they missed 14-of-21 treys. Better than against Boston, but still not good enough.
Meanwhile, for the game Toronto shot 8-of-17 from behind the arc, and hit 57% of their shots for the game.
The only thing that was more insane than Toronto’s shooting was this remark by the indelible Clyde Drexler, who topped his previous winning remark a couple of weeks ago when he said that Rafer Alston is a “great finisher” at the rim when Van Gundy has publicly stated that’s Alston’s biggest weakness, and everyone knew that already. With about 4:50 remaining in this game and the Rockets down by 21 points, Clyde “the Cliché” Drexler said, “There is plenty of time” for the Rockets to make a comeback.
Did this guy play the game? Hard to believe it. Just as hard to see the Rockets go down in flames at home against teams they should beat. Sorry, I have to vent toward someone, and Clyde just happened to pass through my crosshairs tonight. Yao can’t return soon enough.