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Game 7 dissected

May 7th, 2007
by John

After the devastating loss in Game 7 Saturday night, I felt compelled to watch the game on my DVR and dissect every possession to really find out why the Rockets lost other than the obvious reasons.

There are some overall themes that we already know about that are backed up by an analysis of all the possessions. Bad defense, great play by Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, and Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko surprising with some big, 4th quarter threes.

But there are some other themes I noticed by looking at each possession closely that you may not have realized:

* Chuck Hayes played terrible defense on about 7 possessions, which killed them. Hayes gets a lot of credit for hustle, but I didn’t see it in this game. Also, his lack of offensive production obviously means the Rockets are going to have to find a stud power forward. Can Rashard Lewis come back to Houston now? Hayes would make a worthy backup.

* Tracy McGrady disappearing in the game’s final minutes.

* Lucky bounces in the game’s final minute coming off of missed long jump shots by Utah. Defensive rebounding could have been better on those possessions, but doesn’t guarantee they would have grabbed those boards.

You may find other themes by looking at all the plays below. Feel free to comment on them at the end of the post.

One thing I should note before you read them. The first digits (like ‘11:45’) are the time remaining on the clock when the play occurred or sequence of plays took place. The second digits (‘2-0’) represent the score after the play or sequence was finished, with the Utah score being the first one before the dash (since they led most of the game).

Finally, I have marked most of the plays with either “GOOD” or “BAD” or other keywords so you can skim and pick out the good plays or bad ones much easier. I have also provided some comments for some of the entries to explain further what happened.

1st quarter

11:45 – BAD: McGrady started with a baseline jumper that missed. Great way to start…NOT.

11:05 – 2-0 – GOOD: Yao scores on a fadeaway near the elbow after reposting. McGrady dished it back to him.

10:45 – GOOD / BAD: Rafer Alston steals the ball and dribbles it to the Houston basket on a fast break, but he is blocked on the open floor.

10:33 – UNUSUAL: Shane air balls a three-point attempt.

10:25 – 2-2. BAD: Deron Williams drives it down the court for a shot off the glass. Williams was hardly contested as he took it down court to the hole.

10:11 – BAD: Yao doesn’t catch a high pass from Shane. Turnover.

10:03 – 4-2 – BAD: Derek Fisher drains a jumper after coming around a screen. Wide open.

9:37 – 4-2 – BAD: Alston missed a three.

9:36 – 4-2 – BAD: Yao fouls by slapping Boozer’s arm.

9:24 – 6-2 – BAD: Chuck Hayes blew it on the pick-and-roll. He left Okur open and went after Fisher to contest a shot, but Fisher at the last second threw it to Okur for the dunk. Good play by Fisher, but he shouldn’t have left Okur wide open. Shane was assigned to Fisher, and he was there (albeit late).

9:00 – 6-5 – GOOD: Shane drains a three. Wide open b/c Kirilenko doubled on McGrady, and McGrady did a good job with a bounce pass to Shane for the three.

8:47 – 8-5 – BAD: Rafer blew an assignment on D. Williams. He tried to go all the way around Okur who was setting a screen for Williams by gambling that Williams would come all the way around Okur. Instead, Williams stops and came back the other way, leaving Hayes to make up ground, and Williams fouled Hayes. Bad defense by Rafer.

7:58 – 9-9 – GOOD: Yao scores his third straight on a fadeaway in the lane after a re-post. Great assist by McGrady..

7:27 – BAD BREAK – Yao JUST misses on a shot in the lane. It went in and out.

6:54 – BAD: McGrady misses a fadeaway 18-footer. Stupid shot.

6:43 – BAD – Chuck Hayes played bad defense on Okur. Okur scores easily on a fadeaway.

6:11 – 13-12 – GOOD: Shane drains a three.

5:51 – 15-12. Boozer scores a jumper over Yao. High arcing shot. Give credit to Boozer.

5:25 – BAD: McGrady misses a jumper. He’s 0-for-3 from the field.

5:10 – Boozer drives around Yao along the baseline and scores from under the hoop. Give credit to Boozer for using his quickness.

4:49 – Yao is called for a 3-second foul when Kirilenko keeps Shane from passing into the post. Give credit to Utah for good defense.

4:28 – 19-12. Boozer hits a rainbow after D. Williams kicks it out to him after penetrating into the lane. Give credit to Utah.

4:13 – 19-14 – GOOD: McGrady scores by going into the lane.

3:55 – 21-14. Okur hits a long jumper.

3:41 – BAD: McGrady misses a long jumper.

3:20 – BAD: Yao stripped by Boozer in front of the rim for a turnover. Yao should have protected the ball better.

2:02 – GOOD: McGrady blocks Giricek’s shot out of bounds.

1:50 – 22-20 – GOOD: McGrady comes back the other way and drills a jumper and is fouled. Makes penalty FT.

1:36 – 24-20 – BAD: McGrady tries to go after a steal, which leaves Giricek open for a layup. Bad mistake by McGrady.

49.6 – 26-20 – BAD: 5-second violation by Luther inbounding the ball.

4.3 – 29-22 – BAD: Giricek hits a three. He’s killing them. Utah 12-of-19 from the field.

END OF FIRST QUARTER – McGrady started off missing his first 3 shots and finished the quarter 2-of-6. Meanwhile, Yao started off well hitting 3-of-4 shots, but he had 3 turnovers.

The Rockets couldn’t stop the Jazz, who made 9 of their first 10 shots to take a 21-14 lead. The Jazz shot 63% from the floor. Where is the Rockets’ vaunted defense?

The Rockets shot 47%.

2nd quarter

11:42 – 31-22 – BAD – Deron Williams makes a strong move into the lane posting up Rafer. He just took him to school.

11:12 – 33-22. D Williams hits another jumper.

9:48 – 35-24 – BAD: Kirilenko scores over McGrady, who didn’t even try to jump to contest that shot.

7:29 – 40-24 – BAD: Luther Head gambled on trying to intercept a pass, leaving D. Williams open for a three.

7:07 – 40-26 – GOOD: McGrady went to the hole and got a goaltending call.

6:58 – GOOD: McGrady contested Kirilenko’s shot very well for the miss.

6:45 – BAD: Yao missed his second straight in the quarter.

6:34 – GOOD / BAD: McGrady went to the hole again and was fouled. He blew by AK. But he missed both FTs. The Rockets are now 4-of-9 from the line.

6:09 – BAD: Yao had a shot go in and out. He has now missed his last 5 shots.

5:34 – BAD: Alston missed a three.

5:27 – 41- 28. GOOD: Alley-oop from Alston to McGrady on the inbounds play.

4:57 – 41-28. BAD: Yao blocked by Kirilenko. Yao held on to the ball too long.

4:45 – 43-28. BAD – Chuck Hayes left Boozer alone after the inbounds pass, and D-Fish dished to him for an easy layup. Chuck Hayes’ defense is terrible tonight.

4:30 – 43-31. GOOD: McGrady does a good job of getting double-teamed, then throws a nice pass to Shane for a three.

4:12 – BAD: Chuck Hayes charged into D-Fish, who sold it well to the refs. That’s Hayes’ third foul.

4:01 – GOOD – Shane does a good job of deflecting a post-entry pass to Boozer, then bounces it off him for a turnover. Good D by Shane.

3:41 – 43-34. GOOD – Rafer hits a three from the corner. Rox went on a 10-3 run.

3:20 – 45-34. Boozer takes Hayes down low. Hayes has no chance.

3:03 – 45-37. GOOD – Shane hits a three thanks to a great pass from McGrady.

2:39 – GOOD: Shane and Yao double up on Boozer when he makes a strong move into the lane and blocks Boozer’s shot! Although he’s complaining he was fouled by Yao, the refs don’t buy it.

2:21 – 45-39. GOOD: McGrady hits a hang-in-midair shot over Fisher for a bucket after Fisher got a hand on the ball!

1:49 – 45-41. GOOD: McGrady drives to the hole and dishes off to Howard for a layup. Crowd is going wild.

1:17 – 47-41. BAD: Boozer grabs a rebound, and goes around Yao for the dunk. Amazing play.

:42 – Yao misses a baseline jumper. Just rimmed out.

:33.7 – 51-41. Williams throws a perfect bounce pass to Boozer for a dunk. That’s his 17th point.

:13 – 51-43. GOOD: McGrady throws nice pass to Yao for a layup.

:2.6 – 53-43. NOT SO GOOD: Deron Williams takes it to the hole on Rafer and scores on a tear drop off the glass. Great play by Williams.

HALFTIME: Jazz lead 53-43. Utah is obviously more athletic and a better passing team than the Rockets. Carlos Boozer has 17 points (7-of-12). Deron Williams has 15 (5-of-7). Utah shot 58%. Houston shot 43.6%. Huoston is 4-of-9 on free throws

Yao was 1-for-7 in the quarter. If it wasn’t for a gimme at the end of the second quarter for a layup after a McGrady assist, then he would have been scoreless. McGrady is 5-for-11 with 13 points and 9 assists.

Rafer is 1-for-5 from three-point land with 3 points. Luther is 1-for-3 with two points. The only thing saving them is Shane’s 4-for-6 three-point shooting with 12 points.

3rd quarter

11:41 – GOOD. Kirilenko is stripped by either McGrady or Yao.

11:32 – BAD. Boozer strips Yao again for a steal.

11:19 – 55-43. BAD. Derek Fisher hits a wide-open three. Someone blew an assignment.

11:02 – 55-45. GOOD. McGrady passes to Yao for a layup. Great pass by McGrady.

10:42 – 57-45. Okur banks a high one off the glass. Great offensive play.

10:23 – 57-47. McGrady makes a great offensive move on Fisher for a layup.

10:09 – 58-47. Okur throws a pass to Kirilenko for a layup attempt, and was fouled. AK makes on FT.

9:49 – 58-49. GOOD. McGrady goes baseline and scores on a reverse layup.

YAO HURTS HIS KNEE. I said at the time that if Yao pulls this game out after hyperextending his knee, it will be career defining.

9:13 – 58-51. GOOD. McGrady takes it strong to the hole and misses a layup, but Yao is there for the put-back!

8:51 – GOOD: Rafer contests Deron Williams’ shot pretty well.

8:40 – 58-53. GOOD: Yao mishandles a pass from McGrady, but he saves it from going out of bounds. Shane then drives to the hole and is fouled. Shane makes both free throws.

8:31 – 58-53. GOOD: McGrady contests Kirilenko’s layup attempt at the rim, but perhaps Kirilenko shouldn’t have gotten such great position on McGrady.

8:17 – 58-54. GOOD / NOT SO GOOD: Great, quick ball movement from McGrady to Chuck Hayes to Yao for a layup attempt, and Yao is fouled. Where has that ball movement been? Yao missed one free throw, though.

8:02 – 60-54. Mehmet Okur makes a jump shot over Chuck Hayes. Hayes contested the shot fairly well. Okur just made a good play on it.

7:39 – 60-56 – GOOD: McGrady makes a strong move to the hole and scores over Giracek.

7:27 – GOOD: Yao blocks Boozer’s shot on the baseline! Great D by Yao.

7:21 – 61-56. BAD: Deron Williams takes Rafer to the hole and is fouled. Williams makes 1-of-2 free throws.

7:10 – 63-56. GOOD: Shane throws a great pass to McGrady in the low post, and is fouled by Giracek.

6:56 – 61-58. GOOD: McGrady passes to Chuck Hayes down low for a reverse layup.

6:36 – 63-58. BAD: Deron Williams whips a pass to Boozer for an open jumper over Yao.

5:45 – 65-58. Giracek scores on a teardrop in the lane.

5:32 – 65-60. GOOD: Rafer throws a great pass to McGrady for a layup.

5:16 – 67-60. BAD: Harpring gets good position on McGrady in the post for a score. McGrady should have played better defense.

4:47 – 69-60. Boozer scores a fadeaway over Yao. You have to give credit to Boozer.

4:26 – 69-60. BAD: Rafer misses a wide-open 3-pointer.

4:14 – 71-60. Boozer takes it strong to the hole and is fouled by Yao. Yao had a foot inside the semi-circle. Boozer makes both free throws.

3:49 – BAD: Rafer misses a wide-open three-pointer that misses badly.

3:16 – BAD: McGrady throws up a brick of a 3-pointer. Rockets get the rebound and McGrady drives it to the hole, but he throws up a terrible shot trying to draw a foul. Jazz get the rebound.

2:53 – GOOD: Shane Battier defends well against Harpring to force him to shoot an air ball.

2:43 – BAD: Rafer Alston drives to the hole and misses a runner. Surprise, surprise.

2:25 – 71-62. GOOD: Shane Battier deflects a pass, creating a fast break for Rafer the other way and Rafer is fouled. Rafer makes both free throws.

1:47 – 71-64. GOOD: With the Rockets unable to get a shot, Battier drives to the hole and is fouled. Battier makes both free throws.

1:33 – 73-64. BAD: Boozer pivots around Juwan Howard for a jam. It’s not just Yao having trouble with Boozer.

1:23 – BAD: Battier called for a moving screen. Offensive foul. Turnover.

:49 – 73-65. GOOD – NOT SO GOOD: Yao fouled in the post by Collins. He goes to the line and misses 1-of-2 free throws.

:34 – 75-65. BAD: Deron Williams shoots a jumper over Rafer and misses, but because Rafer went past him trying to contest the shot, Williams grabs the rebound and lays it in.

:14.4 – 75-67. GOOD: Rafer makes a runner. Before that shot he was 1-for-9 from the field.

Utah is shooting 53% from the field. Boozer has 25 points.

4th quarter

11:37 – 75-69. GOOD: Yao makes a baseline jumper.

11:22 – 75-69. GOOD: McGrady blocks Paul Milsap’s shot.

11:03 – 75-71. GOOD: McGrady passes to Yao on a fast break and Yao is fouled. Yao makes both FTs.

10:49 – 75-72. GOOD: Rafer steals a pass and takes it the length of the floor and is fouled. He makes the first free throw but misses the second. However, the rebound goes out of bounds off the Jazz and the Rockets retain possession.

10:36 – 75-74. GOOD: McGrady takes it to the hole and easily scores.

10:19 – 77-74. Harpring scores over McGrady in the post.

9:59 – BAD: Yao misses a baseline jumper that’s an air ball. Yao thought he was fouled by Okur, but it looked like a legit no-call from the ref.

9:48 – 79-74. BAD: McGrady falls asleep on defense and lets Harpring score an uncontested layup.

9:29 – 79-77. GOOD: Luther Head drills a three, his first of the game!

9:10 – GOOD: Boozer misses a fallaway jumper. Good defense by Chuck Hayes.

8:51 – 80-77. BAD: McGrady misses a fallaway jumper. Fisher grabs the rebound and attacks the basket and is fouled. Bad defense by Luther and Rafer to let him get to the bucket so easy. Fisher makes 1-of-2 free throws.

8:37 – 80-80. GOOD: Rafer banks a three-pointer off the glass. Give him credit for taking a shot like that, but he was a bit lucky.

8:21 – NOT SO GOOD: Deron Williams drives to the hole unimpeded and tries to bank one off the glass, but he just misses. Rockets were lucky. Poor defense on Williams.

8:06 – 80-82. GOOD: Juwan Howard bricks a baseline jumper, but Yao goes up high for the rebound in front of the rim in the act of shooting and is fouled. Yao makes both free throws.

7:55 – 80-84. GOOD: Alston steals the ball from Boozer and dribbles it up the court. On the other end, Yao is fouled by Collins as he makes his move in the post. Yao makes both free throws.

7:15 – GOOD DEFENSE. BAD REF CALL – This was a huge play. Yao played great defense on Boozer, who contested his jumper. The rebound came down to Kirilenko who threw the ball out of bounds. BUT THE STUPID REF SAID IT WAS OFF A ROCKET. THE REPLAY CLEARLY SHOWED NO ONE TIPPED IT. KIRILENKO THREW IT OUT OF BOUNDS. IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ROCKETS’ BALL. THEY COULD HAVE WIDENED THE LEAD.


6:40 – 83-86. GOOD: McGrady is fouled by Kirilenko on some pump fakes. McGrady goes to the line and hits both free throws.

6:19 – 83-88. GOOD: Alston steals the ball, brings it up court, gives it to McGrady who scores on Harpring, and he’s fouled! Big time step-up by McGrady. He goes to the line and misses the free throw, but Shane and McGrady keep the rebound alive.

5:52 – 85-88. BAD: After gaining possession of the rebound, McGrady gives the ball up to Alston, but McGrady doesn’t demand the ball back. Alston takes the ball to the baseline, but slips on a wet spot and turns the ball over. On the other end, Boozer goes strong to the hole and scores as Battier isn’t able to draw a charge from the ref.

5:24 – 85-88. BAD: Although he’s wide open, for some reason Juwan Howard shoots a jumper with 14 seconds remaining on the shot clock, and bricks it, rather than give it up to McGrady to work the offense. That’s two possessions in a row where McGrady doesn’t shoot or create something on offense.

5:08 – 88-88. Kirilenko makes a 3-pointer to tie it. Who would have thought to defend him way out there?

4:46 – BAD, BAD: McGrady shoots a 3-pointer, but misses. The Rockets get the rebound, though, and McGrady shoots a jumper over Kirlenko and misses. WHY IS McGRADY SHOOTING JUMPERS?

4:15 – 91-88. BAD, BAD, BAD: For some reason Chuck Hayes double-teams Williams and leaves Boozer wide open for a pass, Boozer scores on a layup, and he’s fouled. TERRIBLE DEFENSE BY HAYES. Boozer hits the penalty free throw. Utah has gone on an 8-0 run.

4:04 – 91-91. GOOD: Yao scores on a beautiful drop-step in the lane, and he’s fouled! Yao makes the free throw to tie it!

3:51 – GOOD: Yao covers Boozer well and forces him to throw a pass over Deron Williams’ head for a backcourt violation. Turnover Jazz.

3:37 – BAD. McGrady passes the ball to Yao, who shoots a fadeway air ball over Boozer. He should have been closer to the paint, or McGrady should have “imposed his will” on this possession.

3:23 – 94-91. BAD, BAD: Chuck Hayes is slow in rotating over to Okur, who gets the pass and has plenty of time to shoot a wide-open three-pointer! Lazy defense by Hayes during a pivotal part of the game.

3:01 – 94-93. GOOD: McGrady passes the ball to Yao in front of the rim who throws it down over Okur. Yao did a great job getting good position in the lane.

2:37 – 96-93. BAD: Rafer plays bad defense on Williams, who comes around a screen and scores on a LAYUP!

2:15 – 96-93. BAD: UNIMAGINATIVE OFFENSE AT ITS WORST. Yao gets the ball on the right side of the lane, takes too long with it, then takes a couple of dribbles into the lane and is stripped of the ball on his way up for a shot. Turnover. Meanwhile, McGrady is out beyond the 3-point line with his hands on his knees offering no outlet or option for Yao to pass toward.

1:57 – Harpring misses a baseline jumper, and Yao gets the rebound.

1:46 – 96-95. GOOD, LUCKY: McGrady throws a pass to Chuck Hayes who is cutting toward the basket. Hayes puts in a reverse layup although he traveled and got away with it.

1:30 – BAD. Okur misses a shot, but Boozer goes up high and gets the rebound just beyond Yao’s outstretched hands. I bet Yao was surprised that anyone could go higher than him for that one.

1:16 – 99-95. BAD: After Boozer’s rebound, Williams drives it to the hole and the entire Houston defense collapses around him. Williams kicks it out to Okur who is wide open for a 3-pointer, and he drains it! The Houston defense choked, especially Chuck Hayes. When times got nerve-wracking, they forgot how to play defense and went after the ball rather than stay with their assignments.

:57.8 – 99-97. GOOD: Yao gets the ball in the paint, takes it up strong, and is fouled by Okur. Yao comes down hard on his elbow, but he’s okay. Yao makes both free throws.

:42 – Okur misses a three-pointer, but the shot is too strong and it bounces off the other side of the rim and Harpring does a good job of running the ball down and saving it from going out of bounds. It was an unlucky break the ball bounced that way. I can’t really blame it on bad defensive rebounding.

19.9 – 101-97. BAD: Okur shoots a 3-pointer that misses, but it takes a long bounce off the rim and Boozer runs it down and is fouled. Again, it’s hard to fault the Rockets too much because when you miss a three-pointer, the ball can go anywhere. It’s hard to predict. Even if Yao had been quicker, it would have been hard to believe he could have beaten Boozer to the ball. The problem is that Rafer fouled him when he probably didn’t need to do it. That sent Boozer to the line and he made both free throws.

9.8 – 101-99. BAD, BAD, BAD. The Rockets inbound the ball and McGrady takes too much time taking the ball to the hole, wasting valuable seconds. He finally scores a layup with 9.8 seconds. Then when the Jazz inbound the ball, Shane and McGrady don’t foul Williams, and the Jazz are able to run the clock down to 1.7 seconds before being fouled.

:1.7 – 103-99. Kirilenko drains 2 foul shots. That seals it.

6 Responses to “Game 7 dissected”

  1. Allen Says:

    Rashard Lewis is a small forward hoss.

    He’s 6’10” (PF size) and averaged 6.6 rebounds per game this season, just .1 rebound less than Hayes. The Rockets, including Van Gundy, have always craved a power forward who can hit the three, which Rashard does. And they want a PF who is “more athletic,” which he is. Regardless, I don’t think Lewis will give a hometown discount and come back to H-town. But if he did, they would put him in the 4-slot right away.

  2. Soap Says:

    The Rox need a good point guard who can defend. Is it coincident that all the teams that are remaining in the playoff have good PG? I don’t think so. In the West, the Suns have Nash; the Spurs have Parker; the GS have Davis; the Jazz have Williams. In the East, the Pistons have Billups; the Bulls have Hinrich; the Nets have Kidd; and the Cavs have Huges. The Cavs didn’t play well until they inserted Huges into the lineup as PG. Huges is not a great PG but he is great at defending opposing PG, which solidifies the Cavs’ parameter and interior defense.

    In the Rox-Jazz series, Williams was able to break down the defense almost at will. With his deliveries, all these big guys were getting the ball in the good position to make shot.

    Another need is, as others have stated, a big and quick bruising power forward who can handle big guys like Broozer and Duncan.

  3. Rob Says:


    Thanks for taking the time to write this up; it’s very interesting. One thing that I haven’t seen hardly any of the media discuss during the playoffs is the effect of Yao’s injury this year on his effectiveness. I happen to have re-watched Yao’s dominant game against the Warriors early this season (just fantasizing about a round 2 matchup) and while that Warriors team obviously wasn’t the same as the current one with Jackson and Harrington, you can see a clear difference in Yao’s quickness and decisiveness with the ball compared to how he played in the playoffs. I know Yao, JVG, and the rockets don’t like to make excuses, but I have to wonder how things might have turned out if Yao was playing with the kind of dominance he displayed pre-injury.


  4. Allen Says:

    Won’t argue anymore than this, but Lewis weighs around 210. That won’t do for post defense with our system. In an up and down system, maybe, but he can’t guard Duncan or Garnett or any of those guys. Plus he isn’t as tough as Hayes. It would take a system shift for him to work, but at the end of the day, he s a marquee free agent anyway, and will command a max salary = no Rox.

    Yao is the post-up guy, so it’s not too necessary to have another one.

    Not very many people can guard Duncan or Garnett, so they will take what they can get.

    Yes, he will be too expensive for Rox, even with a hometown discount. But we can always hope.

  5. Wendy Says:

    you really have guts. You dissetcted game 7 on DVR?

    Even thinking about that game turns my stomach, maybe in 2 years I´ll be able to watch it again.

    Anyway… about Deke… he has tremendous defense and rebounding abilities, but more minutes for him means less minutes for Yaos offense.

    I just wonder : why was Yao schooled that bad by Boozer (the revealing of the playoffs, anyway, MVP candidate)?
    I think also, Yao relies to much on fade aways when double teamed, he should have muscle it to the rim and draw more fouls. But hey, maybe there were other reasons.

    Can´t wait for the new season to start. Let´s see what the offseason brings.

  6. Reggie Says:


    I think you failed to point out the mis-match between Boozer & Yao Ming. Boozer ran circles around Yao. At times it was embarrassing to see how slow Yao appeared. In game seven speed and aggressiveness killed the Rockets.

    Sorry, but the truth hurts!

    That was a given. Rather than point out all the deficiencies (there were too many to list — I could have written a dissertation on all the problems the Rox had), I just wanted to point out some of the subtle ones. The rest of the play-by-play I wrote up was to let my readers come to their other conclusions. BTW: The reason Yao couldn’t keep up was because JVG failed to adjust and give him help.

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