There is absolutely nothing I can complain about in Houston’s 50-point whipping of the Philadelphia 76ers. If anything, it brings more attention around the league – including in Dallas and Phoenix — that the Rockets will be a force to be reckoned with come playoff time.
Philadelphia has been no slouch lately. They had won 8 of their last 9 games at home, including victories over the Jazz, the Lakers, Sonics, Nets, and Suns. So you have to give Rockets to the credit for beating a respectable team of late. It was the Rockets’ largest road victory and their second-largest margin of victory, with a 52-point victory coming in 1978.
Check out these other unbelievable numbers: a 54-36 rebounding advantage, a 54-8 advantage of points in the paint, a 29-10 difference in assists, an 11-4 advantage in 3-pointers, and only 7 turnovers for the Rockets.
What’s interesting is that you would expect a player like Yao or T-Mac to have monster numbers, like 35 points or more. Not so. Yao had a respectable 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting, and 10 boards in just 26 minutes. T-Mac “only” had 21 points on 7-of-17 shooting in 28 minutes.
The key was that the Rockets role players chipped in with solid contributions across the board. Luther Head had 13 points, Rafer Alston had 9, Juwan Howard had 11 points and 10 boards, and Chuck Hayes had 12 points and 13 boards.
Because the game was a blowout early, Kirk Snyder played almost as many minutes (19) as Head (21), and had 8 points. John Lucas played 12 minutes and scored 5, and Jake Tsakalidas and Vassilis Spanoulis both played 7 minutes and scored 6 points each.
As much as the Rockets offense hummed by shooting 53.2% from the field and 94% from the line, their defense was just as impressive, holding the 76ers to a season low 34% from the field.
The game started like there might be a struggle. Yao got a great pass inside for an easy dunk, but he blew the jam. Yao also had a couple of shots blocked in the first quarter, but it was much easier to swallow since the Rockets went on a 19-2 run during that time to take a 21-6 lead. That’s eerily similar to Friday’s game in Toronto where the Rockets also went on a 19-2 run.
By the end of the first quarter, they had a 32-15 lead and had hit 4-of-5 three-pointers. In that Toronto game, they hit 5-of-5 three-pointers in the first quarter on their way to building a 35-18 lead at the end of the first (17-point difference once again). The East has been good to the Rockets lately (as it has been for almost the entire West).
That’s all the Rockets would need as they continued to build on their lead. By the time it was 91-54 with one minute remaining in the third quarter, Yao checked out of the game for good with his 24 points and 10 boards.
The Rockets now come back to Houston where they will play the Indiana Pacers, who just snapped an 11-game losing streak in a season that has gone terribly wrong. So that game should be the Rockets 8th victory in their last nine games. But I remember saying something similar a couple of weeks ago before the Rockets played Boston at Toyota Center, and looked what happened then. But that was before Yao had come back from the injured list.