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Portland puts away Rockets with Yao and T-Mac sidelined with back issues

April 6th, 2007
by John
Yao speaks with Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy in a session on Friday before their game against Portland later that night.  It was decided later that Yao should sit out the game because of some type of contact he received during Wednesday night's game against Golden State that hurt his back.   During Friday's game, Yao joins T-Mac in the training room while their teammates played without them against Portland.  The Blazers ended up beating Houston without Yao and T-Mac in the lineup, a significant blow to Houston's hopes to catch the Utah Jazz for home court advantage during their first round playoff series.


In the top photo, Yao speaks with Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy in a session on Friday before their game against Portland later that night. It was decided later that Yao should sit out the game because of some type of contact he received during Wednesday night’s game against Golden State that hurt his back.

During Friday’s game, Yao joins T-Mac in the training room while their teammates played without them against Portland. The Blazers ended up beating Houston without Yao and T-Mac in the lineup, a significant blow to Houston’s hopes to catch the Utah Jazz for home court advantage during their first round playoff series. Click here for more photos of Yao and Van Gundy in their gameday session. Click here for more photos taken during the game.

What a frustrating game Friday night against the Trailblazers. Houston had all kinds of chances to beat a young, sub-500 team like Portland, and to do it on a night when Utah left the door open for the Rockets to get closer to the Jazz for home court advantage. Utah had a 5-point lead against Sacramento Friday night with 3 minutes to play, but they still managed to lose.

In the Rockets game against Portland, Yao and T-Mac played it safe by sitting out the game because of back issues, and the rest of the Houston veterans couldn’t beat a relatively inexperienced Portland team, losing 85-78, which is the Rockets’ third home game in a row to lose!

You can just about kiss goodbye any chance of the Rockets getting home court advantage against the Jazz now. They have blown all kinds of chances this week, losing to Utah and Golden State. But I guess it’s no surprise since the Rockets are 1-11 when both Yao and T-Mac don’t play.

The Rockets started off terribly Friday night, getting down 17-4 after Portland went on a 15-0 run. The Rockets made something like two of their first 13 or 14 shots, and turned the ball over 5 times in the first few minutes of the first quarter.

Houston ended up shooting only 30% in that first quarter and trailed 23-14 heading into the second quarter, and was still behind 40-33 at halftime. The deficit could have been much less if Dikembe Mutombo hadn’t blown a layup right before the halftime buzzer, and 4 other layups had not been missed by his teammates earlier in the half.

You just can’t blow easy shots like that. That is the difference between the Rockets and other teams – Yao and T-Mac are superior to most of their counterparts, but after that, there is a big drop-off in talent level, except for maybe Shane Battier.


By halftime, the Rockets were shooting a pathetic 35% compared to Portland’s 43%.

The Rockets couldn’t really make a big move in the third quarter, falling behind as much as 11 points with 3:40 remaining in the third. But they managed to close the gap to 7 points entering the fourth quarter.

Rookie Brandon Roy was taking the Rockets to school with 18 points through three quarters. Just add him to the list of quick guards the Rockets can’t defend, like Steve Nash, Chris Paul, Baron Davis, Jason Terry, etc.

Of course you probably know by now that the Rockets coveted Roy in last year’s NBA draft, but he was taken by Portland before the Rockets ever had a chance to grab him. Dissatisfied with all other options, they decided to trade their pick to Memphis for Shane Battier.

Let’s not forget about Portland guard Jarrett Jack, who also inflicted some damage on the Rockets, scoring 14 points through 3 quarters.

The onslaught of Roy and Jack continued in the fourth, with Roy scoring 6 and Jack 9.

But the Rockets were able to make a run, thanks to Bonzi Wells being put back into the lineup after going 0-for-4 from the field the first 3 quarters. With the Rockets down 68-65 with about 6 minutes remaining, the Blazers double-teamed Bonzi, who made the best of it by passing a beautiful scoop pass to Chuck Hayes for a layup.

It was a breath of fresh air to see the Rockets get an easy layup when it had been struggling on almost every possession to get decent shots.

On the ensuing Portland possession, Bonzi played great defense by getting Travis Outlaw to dribble the ball off his leg for a turnover. The wily Wells was finally making his presence felt.

That left the door open for Luther Head to drive down the lane for a layup to make it 68-67, Blazers.

A few possessions later, the Rockets tied the game at 70-70 when Battier hit a three-pointer, thanks to Portland double-teaming Bonzi that left Battier wide open.

Battier was the man over the next couple of minutes, grabbing a missed shot and laying it in to give the Rockets a 72-71 lead, then hitting a shot down in the low post to make it 74-73, Rockets.

But Jack would take down the Rockets’ hopes by scoring 8 of the Blazers’ final 12 points of the game. The Rockets just couldn’t get stops. Granted, not having Yao down low to guard the rim, and T-Mac on the perimeter to hassle the Portland guards, really hurt. But it’s still no excuse for losing such a big game with home court advantage still at stake.

The only upside to this game is that maybe Van Gundy finally realized that Bonzi can make an impact on the court, even if he doesn’t score that much. Bonzi is a pretty smart player and can make his presence felt, even just as a decoy to open shots for his teammates. We’ll see if he JVG decides to play him against his former team on Sunday, the aforementioned Kings in Sacramento.

4 Responses to “Portland puts away Rockets with Yao and T-Mac sidelined with back issues”

  1. John Says:

    Hi everyone,

    I have decided to turn on the “comments” feature and see how it goes. I used to have it turned on, but I would get lots of spam, so I turned it off. But now that I can put a little more time into the site and perhaps can review every comment before it’s posted, I am going to try it out again.

    So let me know what you think about the Rockets’ performance and Van Gundy’s coaching lately.

    John

  2. Kari Says:

    John:

    Nice post! While I agree that JVG should be more flexibile, don’t you think it is a bit too late to try new combinations? Basically, Rockets need some consistent offensive production, and a reliable 3 point shooter. I hope Novak has been practicing hard.. I have a feeling that his number may be called if the current three point shooting malaise continues…

    Kari

  3. John Says:

    Kari,

    Knowing JVG, I think it’s too late according to HIS schedule to try new combinations because he’s so conservative. But my feeling is that if T-Mac or Yao are going to miss a few games before the playoffs start, he might as well try geting Bonzi and Novak in the mix and getting some kind of synergy going with those new combinations. That way, if things start going south with “Plan A” during the playoffs (Yao & T-Mac the focal points with Shane/Rafer/Luther hitting outside shots), then they probably aren’t going to win unless they do something desperate, like play a prepped Bonzi and hopefully-prepped Novak/Vasillis/Lucas by then.

    John

  4. Jeffrey Says:

    John:

    I read something online on the Chronicle’s blog that there was some exchange of words between Kirk Snyder, Jeff Van Gundy, and Tracy McGrady during the Golden State game – and they said that might have been the reason T-Mac called it a night. They even said something about T-Mac not being happy about being the second option since Yao’s return. Can you give me your opinion about the whole thing. As far as i see, that picture with T-Mac and Yao says it all. It could be my vision, but they seem to be getting along just fine.

    Thanks

    Jeffrey,

    I read something where JVG got on Kirk Snyder for something during the game, and T-Mac came over to Snyder afterwards to give him some words of encouragement. I didn’t read anything about T-Mac not being happy, and I read most of the Chronicle (but post a link to it if you can find it). I don’t think there is any tiff between JVG, Snyder, and/or T-Mac. Everyone on the team knows JVG’s style is very abrupt, but they still respect him. As a side note, it has always amazed me how a small, 5’8″ unathletic looking guy like JVG can command the respect of multimillion dollar athletes. I have to give credit to JVG for having the chutzpah to yell at guys who are much bigger than him.

    So I don’t think there is a problem. I think JVG played Snyder on Friday night like he did Wednesday night. It’s business as usual.

    John

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