I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight, so I hope this is short. Let me just say I’ve read the articles on the Houston Chronicle site about this game, and I’m going to point out a different perspective for you if you’ve read those. I’m coming at you with a DVR remote in my hand that just played back a lot of replays frame by frame.
I can respect what the writers for the Chronicle have stated about the Rockets folding down the stretch in their game against Dallas, which Houston lost 107-98. I can also respect the players and Rick Adelman saying they didn’t make plays when they should have. All of that is true.
But let me just say this. This game was an entertaining horse race played between two good teams, BUT THE DAMN REFS HAD A HUGE INFLUENCE ON THE OUTCOME OF THIS GAME!
The refs blew at least 4 calls in the fourth quarter against the Rockets, and I’ll give the writers for this game a break since they probably didn’t have access to replay–or the time to review each play–to see just how much the game turned on these calls.
In the fourth quarter, the refs called two loose ball fouls on Chuck Hayes as he was positioning himself for rebounds. I slowed both of those plays down on replay, and if those were fouls, then every play in the NBA should have a foul called.
The second of those calls occurred with 5:43 remaining in the game with the Rockets down only 89-88. Jerry Stackhouse fooled the ref into making it look like he was pushed by Hayes, and the refs bought it.
This game was still winnable. But by not having the opportunity to get the rebound or score on those plays, that hindered the Rockets chances to do some damage.
Then with 5:23 remaining in the game, the damn refs called a foul against Yao for going over the back on Josh Howard, or whatever. Again, if that was a foul, then every play in the NBA has a foul.
That “foul” sent Howard to the line for two free throws, stretching the Maverick lead to 91-88. Again, points were put on the board that could have gone the other way for the Rockets.
Then with 4:27 remaining and the score only 91-90, the refs called Shane Battier for a foul on Jason Terry as he was driving to the basket, sending Terry to the line and making it 93-90. Battier was upset, the bench was upset, and I was infuriated. Who are these idiots calling the only game played in the NBA tonight? Couldn’t the league have gotten their best refs for this game?
After all of these calls, you could see Rick Adelman just disgusted, muttering curse words because of the incompetence of the refs.
Even with these bad calls, the game was still winnable.
The Rockets couldn’t overcome the loss of all those chances, though. The Mavericks went on a scoring tear over the next 3 possessions, ending with Shane Battier making a rare mistake by double-teaming Jason Terry out high, leaving his man Dirk Nowitzki open to hit a jumper to make it 103-94 with 2:30 remaining.
Give credit to the Mavericks for making shots, like Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, and Josh Howard. Those guys are great shooters…except when they have to play the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. By the way, I’m still enjoying that meltdown from last season’s playoffs. They had their chance to win a ring, and their time has passed, even if they go 81-1 this season. They will choke again come playoff time. Jump shooting teams tend to do that.
Like I said, I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight, so I’m going to wrap things up here very quickly. Just a few more thoughts…
Rafer Alston continues to get beat by Terry. He also decided to double-team NON-SCORING THREAT Desagana Diop AT THE ELBOW and let his man, rookie Jose Barea, drive past him and get into the lane for a score. I thought Alston was supposed to be the Rockets’ best “on the ball” defender (according to former coach Jeff Van Gundy)?
Yao made 9-of-12 shots for 21 points, including 3 buckets from the outside. I loved the fallaway jumper at the end of the first quarter from the top of the key. Sweet! That even made the Maverick fans ooh and aaah. Yao also had 11 rebounds and 2 blocks.
The play of the game for Yao occurred with 6:04 remaining in the second quarter when he threw one down over ex-teammate Juwan Howard with one hand, and was fouled! Talk about aggressive! Yao pulled the ball up high before he started his dribble so no one could swipe at it, then dribbled it once, took it off the floor with one hand, brought the ball high over his head, then stepped toward the basket and threw it down emphatically! That got the Houston bench off their feet! You had to think of Hakeem Olajuwon saying, “Be dominant, be dominant,” like he told Yao so many times during their training session in the off-season.
That play kind of reminded me of that play against the Lakers in Game #1 of this season when Yao drove to the hole aggressively and was fouled. I think Hakeem’s advice for Yao to “play big” is really sinking in. Then when Yao checked out of the game a little later, Yao said something funny to Juwan, who was still in the game, and Juwan smiled. No hard feelings between old friends.
I’m not upset that Yao didn’t take more shots in this game, as some might have wanted. He and his teammates had put themselves in a position to win late in the fourth quarter. That’s all you can ask for in a game against a team like the Mavericks. And when it came time for Yao to take over, like with 4:31 remaining in the game, he was defended well. At that time, Yao turned the ball over on an entry pass, but it was actually a decent tip by Diop, who stuck his arm underneath Yao’s arm to get a finger on the ball and start a fast break the other way leading to Battier’s phantom “foul.”
On the very next possession for the Rockets, Mike James threw a bad pass to Tracy McGrady that was tipped out of bounds off the Rockets. Then on the ensuing possession, Stackhouse hit a three-pointer to make it 96-92, then later dished a pass to Diop on the baseline for a dunk, making it 98-92. They capped off their scoring run by Dirk Nowitzki hitting a three-pointer that hit the front of the rim, bounced high, and dropped down to make it 101-92 with 2:55 left, and that’s all she wrote. It was too late for Yao to really do anything in crunch time.
Although McGrady finished with 35 points on 12-of-31 shooting, I think he missed a few shots in garbage time that make his stats look worse than what they really were.
Almost everyone made a few mistakes at the end of the game, but as much as Dallas folds in the playoffs, they are still a decent team that shoots well in the regular season and plays very well at home. No need to panic, though. I was impressed the Rockets didn’t crater when the Mavericks went on scoring runs (like Terry’s 10 points at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth) that could have rattled them much earlier in previous seasons.
The Rockets also had only 3 turnovers at halftime, and finished with 10 overall (less than the Mavericks’ 12). That’s not awful. It’s just too bad they couldn’t keep their turnovers down to single-digits, or it might have been a different outcome. And remember some of those stupid “fouls” can be considered turnovers.
Just think how much better the Rockets will be when players like Mike James (8 points on 4-of-13 shooting, including 0-of-5 from three-point land) and Bonzi Wells (1-of-7 for 4 points) make half their shots. These guys will rarely have off nights the same night.
I’m also encouraged to have seen Luther Head score 9 important points in the fourth quarter on 3-of-3 shooting, which occurred mainly by him attacking the basket.
So before we start thinking about how the Rockets “might” have resembled that team that lost to the Utah Jazz during the playoffs last season, let’s remember they didn’t really panic in this game, and let’s wait and see how they do against the Spurs on Tuesday night…hopefully with some better officials.