The only good thing that happened Saturday for the Rockets was that Yao got in a great practice, as you can tell by the sweat in his t-shirt shown in the photo above and the link to more photos from his workout session. Yao also appears to like his new leg brace more than any of the other four he has tried out so far.
Later on Saturday night, San Antonio spanked the Rockets in a game that was played in front of the second-largest crowd in Toyota Center history. What a way to make an impression. The Spurs jumped out to an 18-5 lead in the first quarter, and led 40-20 by 8:23 remaining in the second. T-Mac cut the deficit to 12 right before halftime with a three-pointer, but once the second half got underway, it was clear the Spurs were the better team, especially when they built their biggest lead to 29 points.
Houston only shot 38.5% from the field and turned the ball over 18 times compared to San Antonio’s 52.2% shooting and 13 turnovers. That was the difference, as well as Tim Duncan’s dominance early.
The Rockets looked so good on Friday night in Denver against the Nuggets where they shot 46.7% from behind the arc, but they only shot 30.4% Saturday night. I’m actually surprised that Van Gundy has allowed his team to rely on shooting so many three-pointers because as they say, “live by the three, die by the three.” On Saturday night, they definitely died.
I’m also surprised a veteran team like Houston’s does not do well in the second game of back-to-backs back at home, where they have now lost 4-of-5 of those at Toyota Center. And you can’t say the Spurs were more fresh because they had just played the night before as well, albeit their game was at home in San Antonio.
Even worse, there was dissension on the Rockets’ bench after Van Gundy benched Rafer Alston . The Chronicle does a good job describing it in this article. I can’t remember when I’ve seen a Rockets’ team crack like that, but I’m the kind of guy where I like to see that kind of fire when players are underachieving. It can shake things up and teams can come out of those episodes stronger and more united.
Clearly, though, it’s going to be Yao’s insertion back into the lineup that will give Houston hope that they can keep this season from spiraling out of control.