Remember this scene?
It was taken during the 1997 playoffs. Utah-Houston. Game 6 in Houston. It was right after John Stockton hit a shot — with the help of a Karl Malone bearhug on Clyde Drexler that the refs missed — to eliminate the Rockets in Houston.
Ten years later, we’re in the same situation, but this time the Rockets are in Utah and can eliminate the Jazz in 6 games. It’s never too late for payback time. I would love to see Yao and Tracy McGrady celebrating at mid-court in Utah tonight. They say these things tend to even out in the long run, don’t they?
I’m optimistic about the Rockets’ chances because…
…they finally put together a performance in Game 5 that represented the good things they did in the regular season. They hit well from the 3-point line (12-of-24). McGrady went to the hole more, created open shots for other players (16 assists), and Juwan Howard and Luther Head “came off the milk carton.”
So I wouldn’t be surprised if the Rockets won Game 6 in Utah tonight. I’m not predicting it, but I wouldn’t be surprised. You just never know how Utah is going to shoot under the pressure of facing elimination. Andrei Kirikenko finally got it going, Mehmet Okur hit some shots, and Boozer is still Boozer. But Deron Williams only made 4-of-16 shots Monday night.
I think in order for the Rockets to win, they will have to hit their three-pointers, Yao and McGrady will have to shoot for good percentage, and they will have to limit their turnovers. That means Yao should be very careful with the ball by not dribbling it, not be too aggressive on offense against Okur (as tempting as it may be) since the refs will be more inclined to call charging fouls tonight since the game is being played in Utah, and avoid setting himself up for getting his shot blocked by Okur and Kirilenko.
Those blocks against Yao are back-breakers because it seems the Jazz always score right afterwards on the other end, it gives the Jazz players confidence that they “own” Yao, and it whips their crowd into a frenzy.
Similarly, when the Rockets get loose balls, they should slow it down and not do anything crazy. Run the offense and get a good shot. Getting a turnover is great, but don’t get greedy and blow it. That gets the crowd into it. Keep the crowd out of the game.