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Rockets fall apart in closing minutes of Game 6

May 4th, 2007
by John
Yao reacts to an offensive foul called against him in the fourth quarter Thursday night in a disappointing 94-82 loss in Utah.  With the loss in Game 6, the Rockets and Jazz will play Game 7 Saturday night in Toyota Center.Yao reacts to an offensive foul called against him in the fourth quarter Thursday night in a disappointing 94-82 loss in Utah. With the loss in Game 6, the Rockets and Jazz will play Game 7 Saturday night in Toyota Center. Click here for more photos from the game.

This is starting to get old and predictable. The Rockets were close to pulling off an improbable victory in Game 6 on Thursday night in Utah, but down the stretch they folded like a cheap suit.

Let’s forget about the first 3 quarters. The most important part of the game started after Shane Battier‘s three-pointer pulled the Rockets within one point, 75-74, with 8:15 remaining in the game.

From that point, the Rockets failed to close the deal, making just 2-of-9 shots and turning the ball over an incredible 5 times.

This is not your 1994 or 1995 Houston Rockets.

I was so disgusted, it took me forever to get motivated to write this entry. Instead, right after the game I had to watch the Golden State-Dallas game to get a dose of fun, exciting basketball from the Warriors.


The only thing worse than the Rockets play in the last 8 minutes Thursday night was the Mavericks’ play in the last 24 minutes at Golden State.

After watching Golden State destroy the Mavericks, I don’t think the Rockets can beat them if Houston were to beat the Jazz and advance to the next round.

There’s part of me that doesn’t even want to see Houston go through that embarrassment, and just retool (or rebuild?) for next season.

There is a lot of justified complaining from Rocket fans about the team’s predictable offense — either dump it into Yao where he has a handful of moves he can use, or run McGrady on a pick-and-roll — which makes it very easy for the Jazz to anticipate defensively what they are going to do.

They may have an argument since it’s becoming easier for players like Andrei Kirilenko to block his shot or make him travel, or for Mehmet Okur to hassle Yao and slap the ball away, when he makes his offensive moves.

In my entry before Game 6, that was one of the things I said would be they key to the win – for Yao to be very careful with the ball and not set himself up for getting his shot blocked by Okur. He didn’t pass the first part of that test with 8 turnovers and at least one blocked shot by Kirilenko (I didn’t count).

My other key to the game was for Yao and McGrady to shoot for a good percentage. Yao was good on 9-of-16 shooting for 25 points, but McGrady failed – 8-of-23 shooting for 26. He shot 1-of-8 in the second half and had 5 turnovers.

At least he’s not alone. He joined Dirk Nowitzki in the “disappearing act club” Thursday night.

The other thing I thought the Rockets had to do for a victory was to shoot for a good percentage from the 3-point line. They failed that test, too, making only 28.6% of their threes (6-of-21). McGrady was 1-of-6, and my man Shane Battier was 1-of-5.

There are other things I could write about what went wrong Thursday night, but since I’m getting tired of it, I just want to move on to Game 7 to see which Rockets team is going to show up.

I may not be alone, but for Saturday’s Game 7, I’m a little ambivalent about what’s going to happen. I feel it has been hard to get attached to this Rockets’ team during the playoffs because they have so many things to fix, they are too predictable, and their inability to win a game on the road is going to come back to bite them. So why get emotionally invested only to know you’re eventually going to get hurt? Golden State is a much more attractive team to root for these days.

How do you feel about getting behind the Rockets? Are you getting tired of the same old thing? Let me know by providing a comment below. I’ll try my best to post your comments at least once every hour on Friday.

  • ReD

    Man I don’t know Utah played hard and Rockets kinda gave up in the last seconds…Mac used a lot of questionable shots and Yao was hammered almost every time he got under the basket…Same thing…And JVG had to change strategy or rotation but he didn’t do it…hope’ll win in game 7 or else…

  • Mark G. C

    yeah, it was disgusting! I’m a big Yao fan, but some of the turnovers are just inexcusable… he has to throw it out when he’s being doubled. Everyone know that Kirilenko will focus his energy and attention on try to block Yao’s shot even when it first appear that Yao’s not doubled… Make him pay! pass out!! There’s no reason for Yao to average 1 or 2 assist this series. If the refs are not calling fouls, it means that he needs to adjust and pass! Especially when playing the Jazz where there’s not a true counterpart to Yao.

  • Lawrence W.K. Lee

    I feel the same way as you, John. This game was absolutely disgusting. I’m sure that many Yao fans here in Hong Kong, like me, are pretty upset with the outcome of this game. Tracy McGrady was so close to break the jinx of 2nd round playoff and he just let the chance go away. I really doubt whether this “league of gentlemen” (too gentle indeed) could close things out at Toyota Center on Sunday morning (HK time), sigh…

    Now the Warriors have accomplished the mission impossible, how about you, my dear Rockets?

    From one of your disgruntled fans in Hong Kong, more than 8,000 miles away

  • Soap

    I have a bad feeling about game 7. Yao and T-Mac can’t beat the Jazz without the help of their teammates. The Jazz is too deep a team, and Sloan used the rotation wisely to wear down Yao and T-Mac. Whenever the score is close in the fourth quarter, the Jazz can either trap T-Mac or double-team Yao, forcing TO or ball out of their hands. So far the Rox hasn’t demonstrated that they could consistently find a way to score when that happened. In order to win game 7, Yao and T-Mac need to get their teammates involved early, and JVG needs to find a way to let Shane, Howard, and Head get more touches.

    The hope is that the Houston crowd will carry the team. The Rox need their fans more than ever.

  • Steve

    Yao is 7’6, he does not have to shot fade-away, most of his shots are a little bit shot… Just stand straight, and shoot, that will be hard to block.

  • http://www.palhs.com lawrence barcelona

    let’s say the rockets will advance to the next round there’s no doubt in my mind that they will lose the series against the warriors their fast pace game will definetly tire out yao, also they can easily put defenders on tmac (they got jackson, pietrus etc) unless JVG adds some player in his rotation…they are very predictable in offense yao-tmac, tmac-yao if those two don’t perfrom well its down they go.

  • Jackson

    Forget about game 7. This game is a team work, Yao`s game or “it`s on me”?
    I don`t think so. A victory will not last long if without cooperation. Game 6 remind us something really funny, just as some sayings about Yao`s short energy in the fourth quarter, Yao`s big showtime without a team win…, guys, do you saw that? all those things are same in essence, teammates` cooperation.
    The lost of game 7 is just the reason and chance for rebuilding the Rocket in summer for a future champion ring…Rocket need a more capable coach and Yao needs good teammates.

  • Ning

    i live in Laos, a small country in between China and Thailand and more than 8,000 miles away from Houston, i’ve been a big fan of Yao since the first day he stepped his feet into the NBA floor but I always ended up being upset at the end of the season each year…. If Yao doesn’t dominate on G7 and the ROX end up losing….. i’ll root for Yi Jian Lian instead next season, hopefully you, John, will continue to do a super excellent great job by establishing the Yijianlianmania.com like what you do for Yao, I am sure there will be many many people log on your web everyday just like this one…. Thank you for all your hard works for the last 5 years

  • Ben

    I think that we need better coaching and definitely more help on both the offensive and defensive side.

    I think whatever happens this post-season, we should court a better coach and trade/draft a better supporting players. I think worst comes to worst, T-mac needs to go. He gets hurt too often and is not consistent enough to win titles.

    As for game 7, I think the Rockets will pull out a close one againt Utah. But like you said, they will be destroyed by the Warriors who are much faster and all five of their starters can jack up threes and drive inside.

    The offensive scheme for the rockets is pathetic. Someone pass Yao the ball inside and 4 guys just stand around and watch Yao as he makes his move. And when Yao do pass the ball back out, no one can make a three.

  • kaolin

    I felt the real difference was that Tmac was not as sharp as a play maker. I just went over and looked at the stats, Tmac had only 3 assists — comparing to his 16 in the previous win, you know how much this team missed his help. He also had 5 turnovers. About Yao’s turnovers, I didn’t count, but I felt that Yao is actually doing a better job at not getting the ball stolen. I felt he actually played pretty smart by taking advantage of the overly aggressive defender, creating a foul on Okur on one occasion and going by Boozer for a dunk on another. Again I didn’t count, but I felt many of his turnovers came from offensive fouls, travelling, 3 seconds etc., these are the grounds that he needs improvement on.

    On the coming game 7, I don’t feel worried too much about the rockets missing shots, however I do worry about the inconsistency of Tmac. The rocket offense relies too much on him. Maybe that’s what we should be searching for next season — another play maker.

    Thanks, if I get a chance I’ll try to break down all the occasions in which Yao turned the ball over in this game. I know he travelled, had a 3-second call, etc. Hearing “8 turnovers” sounds worse than perhaps how he really played, and I wanted to break it down myself to see just how bad it was.

  • http://www.yaomingmania.com/ Wes

    It seems that Yao not so tall after all. Even at 7’6 is seems to get blocked with some regularity. When I see him do his “jump” shot, he’s only elevating his feet a few inches off the ground. So a 6’6 guy who jumps 2′ can easily block Yao. Yao’ so-called jumpshot is becoming a liability, not only as a turnover, but also as a rallying call to the opposing team – “I just stuffed the biggest guy in basketball”. Things don’t look so good for the Rockets, even if they get by the Jazz. Can the Rockets possibly match the sheer energy of the Warriors?

  • Soap

    There is no flow in the Rox offense, which has become stagnant and predictable. With their size the athleticism, the Jazz have done a good job of disrupting the Rox’s offense. All the games in Houston were close games, whereas all the games in Utah were not. I am not sanguine about game 7 in which the home team will emerge victorious.

  • Arlovski

    Yao Ming and TMAC need to get spanked if they lose game 7.

  • Jim

    To me, the Rox sucks. They can’t do anything. Yao being 7’6, he should be dominating the game. If I am 7’6, I will be averaging at least 30 pt per game and 13 rebounds a game. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Rox but it frustrates me to the point that I just wish they would just loose. Another thing, Rafer suck so bad. This guy’s FG percentage is in the lower 30s. I have a higher FG percentage than he does. They need to get rid of Rafer and trade T-mac. T-mac is so damn inconsistent. I am not even going to watch game 7.

  • AR

    Yao looked mechanical in moves. The only reason he was drafted as first pick is his size. The way he played, including fouline fallaway jumpers, wasted his size advantage. When his teammates shoot, he was so often away from the basket.

    One of my professors joked about him when he was first drafted: He is so tall that he can grab the ball and throw it down just like pick apples. That’s not been happening to him.

    The simple solution is when the team on offense, stay under the basket and good things will happen.

    He was clumsy in defending pick-and-roll and so easily get tired after a few runs. His performance is overrated. Let second-best center to pair with Tmac and probably will get better results.

    I think JVG has to be blamed for Yao’s development.

    I agree with you that Rox won’t have good chance to beat Warriors even Rox advances to the second round.

    A.R.

  • Jimmy

    It’s easy to criticize Yao due to his height, and we all expect him to him everyone of his shots and have a 80% FG percentage. Fact of the matter is, he’s the best big man in NBA history. Comparing him to Manut Bol or Shawn Bradley both being 7’5″ or taller. Yao is the best center in the NBA right now.. hands down. Just look at his stats for average points, rebounds, and free three percentage. I’m a big fan of Yao, not only because he’s the only Chinese player in the NBA and he represents us. Also , because he’s a great player. He needs a better supporting cast of role players. Shaq didn’t win any championships without Kobe or Dwayne Wade. Yao needs a better wingman. Unfortunately, the rockets is still considered Tmac’s team and not Yao’s team. I agree that JVG needs to set up better plays that are not as predictable and Coach Sloan is the better coach right now. If we make it to round 2, the GSW will be a handful for the rockets to handle. I’m still rooting for Yao.

  • yaofanstill

    I think the biggest problem with this rockets team is the coach JVG. Why is it all the players, when playing under him, become so one-dimensional ? Even Yao, who had a great outside game when first came in the league, seemed to have lost his outside touch. JVG’s offensive strategy is so pathetic. He seems to put tremendous emphasize on attitude, discipline etc. wherease basetball should be fun and free flowing. Once you have the fun and free flowing, playing hard and attitude comes much easier for players. Who wants to play under a coach who is so full of himself ? I think we definitely need to change the coach.

  • Michael Jordon

    jvg, jvg, jvg, if anyone has’t heard the key to all rox losses, hear it again, jvg, jvg, jvg.

    these 8 men he picked? half of the team points are coming off yao and tamc, the rest are like audience, not able to score, not able to run a play, just stand wand watch …

    if rox can pass tomorrow, they still wont pass warriors.

  • junrocket

    One thing must happen in order for the Rockets to win game 7. That is, they must made their three-point shots.

  • yuchen

    Yao needs to remember one thing tonight – “You Can’t F*#$%@! Stop Me”

  • yuchen

    Once Yao get the ball, DON’T BE HURRY. Being Patient. Use Hesitation to Make Shot or to Get Contact Foul, “Because Nobody can really stop you”. Make them pay every time to get the ball!!!

  • Arlovski

    Lack of Yao’s aggressiveness is making him a turnover machine. Inability to jump more than 2 inches off the ground is making him guardable (blockable). These two issues are killing Yao. He needs to train with Jackie Chan in the offseason in this regard.

    As for TMAC, if he keeps throwing up those ill-advised jumpers, his commitment is questionable and should be traded in the offseason. This will officially become Yao’s team and he will perform just like how he did last season after coming off surgery with TMAC out.

    The best option is replace JVG with Phil Jackson. The triangle system benefits a low post player and will kill teams that love to double or triple Yao. It will generate a lot of open looks and open lanes. Yao could then take over Sabonis and Divac as the best passing center possibly a triple double center.