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Yao and McGrady get Rockets off to hot start vs. Blazers to go 3-0

November 3rd, 2007
by John

With all the excitement of Houston’s home opener Saturday night against Portland, the Rockets lived up to expectations that a revamped bench and a 2-0 record have created by taking command early and not being threatened too much by a young Blazer team.

The Rockets started off the first quarter on an 18-4 run, led by Yao Ming scoring 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting. In that first quarter, he hit a fallaway jumper, a jump hook, a wicked spin move on the baseline for a layup, and a dunk! Yao would finish the night with 21 points on 8-of-17 shooting, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Not a bad night for a guy who says he still feels uncomfortable spending 50% of his time in the high post.

Yao Ming makes a spin move for a layup in the first quarter of the Rockets-Blazers game on Saturday, November 3rd in an 89-80 win.
Click here for more photos from the game. Click here for video from the game.

Yao missed several easy jump shots in the second half that makes me a little concerned about his shooting accuracy. That’s the second game in a row where he has hit a dry spell within a game. But hopefully it’s only temporary and he’ll get those fallaways and jump hooks on target soon.

Tracy McGrady was also phenomenal in that first quarter run, taking the ball strong to the hole for his first two buckets (thanks to more open lanes in the paint), then hitting a long jumper, then capping off the first quarter with a long 3-pointer. That gave him 9 points for the quarter on 4-of-8 shooting.

To finish the first quarter, McGrady started some phenomenal ball movement on the Rockets’ last possession of the quarter by passing to Luis Scola at the top of the key, who quickly passed it to Bonzi Wells to the side of the basket, who quickly drew defenders on a pump fake and dished it to Yao for a dunk. All of this happened in 4 seconds and showed Adelman’s new offense is really encouraging the sharing of the rock. With that, the Rockets held a 25-12 lead heading into the second quarter and things were looking rosy.

Meanwhile, the Blazers continued to struggle offensively, shooting only 30% in the first half and falling behind by 22 points at one point.

By halftime, the Rockets led 46-31 and held a 13-4 advantage in assists. The inverse was true in the turnover column where Portland had 13 turnovers to only four for Houston.

In the second half, Portland would close it to within 8 points as the Rockets’ offense started to bog down. But once things got a little close, the Rockets’ deep bench really made a difference where last season’s group probably would have caved in. Luis Scola (8 points, 8 boards), Mike James (17 points), and Bonzi Wells (6 points, 4 boards) were there to help Yao and McGrady hold off the pesky Blazers.

I love Scola’s game, by the way. There was one play where he had to stretch out his body awkwardly to grab an offensive rebound off the glass, and put it back in off the glass all while in mid-air! It’s one thing to do that when you jump straight up, but to have your body jack-knifed while moving away from the basket AND to lay it in while in mid-air? That’s something you don’t see too often.

Scola’s stats aren’t that great right now (although I’ll take 8 boards from him any day), but the season is young, and his hustle and intensity make it clearly evident he will give lots of opposing power forwards problems this season! FINALLY WE HAVE A TRUE POWER FORWARD!

As much as Yao has expressed his concern that he’s having trouble playing in the high-post in this young season, he didn’t show he was uncomfortable during one stretch in the second half. At the 8:17 mark of the 3rd quarter, Yao was near the right elbow of the lane and threw a perfect pass to Chuck Hayes cutting to the basket for a layup. Yao had a similar play in the first game of the season against the Lakers when he found McGrady for a slam dunk.

Then on the next possession, Yao was in the high post again, dropped the ball off to a cutting Rafer Alston who penetrated into the lane and hit a teardrop for a bucket, giving the Rockets a 54-42 lead. By clearing out the lane occasionally for other players like McGrady, Alston, Bonzi, Scola, James, and Shane Battier to drive into the lane, Yao is really giving the offense another dimension that will keep opposing defenses guessing. And if any of those players miss, Yao is most likely moving toward the basket to scoop up some offensive rebounds and get some tip-ins.

You just didn’t see that much during the Jeff Van Gundy era, and it shows Yao is getting the new Rick Adelman offense. After so many early exits in the playoffs, I believe the Rockets must become more multi-faceted so defenses can’t just pound away on Yao inside. Yao has the skills to play outside and inside. He just has to dust off those old high-post skills that have basically been dormant the past 4 years.

The rest of the game was uneventful for the most part as the Rockets’ offense got sloppy, their defensive intensity waned, and the Blazers pulled a little closer. But it seemed every time they threatened, the Rockets would turn it on, thanks to the new power generation of Luis Scola, Mike James, and Wells.

That’s the second time this young season I’ve used that phrase “new power generation.” I kind of like it as a nickname for Houston’s bench. It’s a take-off of Prince’s band awhile back, but it seems to fit well with the Rockets’ theme of “power” (like the Rockets’ Power Dancers). So what do you think of it? If you like it, help spread the word (and give me credit, of course). 🙂

The only other things that stood out for me during the second half was Houston announcer Clyde Drexler saying that “Daryl Morley” (sic) had done a great job in building the Rockets’ roster this off-season, and the Houston crowd chanting “We Want Steve (Francis)!” when the Rockets held a 15-point lead in the middle of the third quarter.

I was hoping the Rockets could blow the game open so we could see a little of Francis, but unfortunately Houston never was able to put Portland completely away and needed to keep the big guns in the game.

The Rockets now head to Dallas on Monday night 3-0 feeling good about themselves (their best start in 11 years) with the expectation they will shock a few of the “elite” teams this year. It can all start Monday night in Big D.

5 Responses to “Yao and McGrady get Rockets off to hot start vs. Blazers to go 3-0”

  1. jeff Says:

    Remember what JVG did to Bonzi last season. If you do not play a guy, that is fine. Because you are the coach. But please talk to the guy and explain the situation to him and be sure your reasons are fair to the guy and the team as a whole. Please do not shut out a guy like an abandoned baby.

  2. Jeffrey Says:

    Scola doesn’t need to put up big numbers (though 8/8 in 19 minutes is pretty good by my standards); he was a +15 for the night, the best among all players.

    The offense didn’t look all that great to me, to be honest. They started off strong, but there were long lulls (especially in the second half) where the offense was just stagnant, and everyone seemed to settle for long jumpers. Our shooting percentage actually dipped from 54% in the first quarter to 39.6% to end the game. Other than a couple of nice passes to cutters, Yao still doesn’t look all that comfortable in Adelman’s offense.

  3. poohesco Says:

    3-0 start!…rockets 08′ champs!…

    did you see Nowitzk-yi’s game last night?!…yi’s showing promise early…i think he’ll be a better dirk (yi’s more athletic than dirk)…can’t wait till this friday’s game, yi vs yao!!!!

    I didn’t see Yi’s game except for a couple of buckets on the highlights, but I’m sure it’s going to be a very interesting matchup. Even FSN-Houston is already promoting the matchup! — John

  4. Michael Says:

    Speaking of Yi, I actually think he is progressing well these days in adapting to the NBA style. In fact, he’s doing this at a faster pace than Yao. He put up solid numbers, offensively and defensively, during his first and last game against Orlando and Chicago respectively. The guy is showing he is relevant only by the third game of his rookie season!

    Like a lot of international players, he’s still a little foul prone. But a lot of his fouls are good, solid fouls that took place while going up for blocks.

    Whereas it took Yao two whole seasons to become a force in his position, at this rate, Yi will likely reach notoriety by the end of the season. If Milwaukee sneaks into the playoffs (doubt it), it will even further his progress.

    I can’t wait for Yi to reach his full potential. Unlike Yao, who’s more of a “thinker”, Yi plays on pure basketball instincts and athleticism. These two are completely different basketball specimens, and I don’t mean just physically. It’s gonna be fun watching these two play for years to come!

  5. D Says:

    It’s obvious Yao needs a big man to support him. Aside from Yao, the rest of the team is short. He needs another rebounder that can play defense, yet fast enough to run with the other meatheads and play in Adelman’s system. Looking at the old championship Rockets, Hakeem had awesome rebounders by his side. Otis Thorpe, Clyde, even the small guys could grab rebounds on that team.

    I like Tmac and all, but he has got to go. He’s not willing to be second fiddle to Yao and at times shoots horribly without giving it up to Yao.

    Houston should trade him for Marion. And ship a bunch of the others (Francis, Alston, James) for Raja Bell.

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