Although they lost against the team they will be facing in the playoffs, Jeff Van Gundy did the right thing by not playing Yao, T-Mac and Dikembe Mutombo in the final game of the regular season. The risk was too great if an injury had occurred to one of these guys. Yao suited up but didn’t play, Deke wore street clothes, and T-Mac stayed in the locker room.
Even without those three players, I couldn’t believe it when the Rockets jumped out to a 19-5 lead in the first quarter. That made the Jazz fans restless, and they started booing before the Jazz got it together and pulled away in the fourth quarter while resting their own starters.
This is so strange to have the Rockets lose and for me not to be mad about it. I kind of like this. It’s like that last exam you take in school when you know you’re going to graduate and no matter how bad you do on the test, you’ll still get a passing grade in the class and get your diploma. I loved those rare days.
Even with Utah out-rebounding Houston 45-25, I’m not upset.
I’m even happier that several bench players got some good stats, like Juwan Howard with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting and 4-of-4 from the line. Looks like Juwan may be getting his shooting touch back just in time.
Luther Head was 6-of-12, made 3-of-5 three-pointers, and scored 18. And Kirk Snyder scored 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting.
This is the first time I can remember the Rockets’ top 3 scorers in a game all shooting exactly 50% individually. Let’s hope it carries over to the Saturday when the playoffs start.
Meanwhile, starters like Rafer Alston (11 minutes) and Shane Battier (9 minutes) played very little. Alston had a few things to work on since he had struggled against the Jazz to a certain degree this season. Battier was motivated to play in this game because he had played in all of this season’s games, so why break the streak? Alston scored 3 points, and Shane scored two.
Chuck Hayes was the only regular starter who logged high minutes (25), and scored six. I guess he’s not only a ‘Rodney Dangerfield’ of the league, but also on his own team
John Lucas III ran the point for 30 minutes and scored 10 points on 4-of-13 shooting. Even rookies Steve Novak (19 minutes) and Vassilis Spanoulis (27 minutes) got decent playing time.
Unfortunately, Novak was 1-for-4 from the floor and ‘Billy’ was 1-of-7, but he did make 11 of 12 free throws to score 13 points. However, he also had four turnovers, which has been one of Van Gundy’s beefs with V-Span, and fouled out. Oh well, at least Billy knows before he is mothballed for the rest of the season how much work he needs in the summer league.
If you care any further about this game, here’s a link to the Chronicle’s write-up about it.
Now let’s get ready to rumble. The first game of the Rockets-Jazz playoff series is Saturday night at 8:30pm, Houston time. Then they play Game #2 Monday in Houston at 8:30pm, and Game #3 in Utah on Thursday, Game #4 on Saturday.