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Suns torch Rockets to hand them 4th loss in a row

November 18th, 2007
by John
Yao Ming expresses his frustration to the ref during the Rockets-Suns game on Saturday, November 17th.  Yao had a sub-par game against the running Suns, hitting only 4-of-17 shots for 12 points in a 115-105 loss, the Rockets' fourth loss in a row.Yao Ming expresses his frustration to the ref during the Rockets-Suns game on Saturday, November 17th. Yao had a sub-par game against the running Suns, hitting only 4-of-17 shots for 12 points in a 115-105 loss, the Rockets’ fourth loss in a row. Click here for more photos from the game and here for photos that include Steve Francis, Luis Scola, and Tracy McGrady.

What an embarrassment. I’m not going to point the blame for the Rockets getting schooled by Phoenix Saturday night on playing five games in 7 days, like the Houston announcers did. I’m also not going to blame it on Tracy McGrady not being in the lineup. Those are cop-outs. (I’m kind of reminding myself of how JVG talks. Scary).

Instead, you’ve got to look at the major drop-off in defensive intensity under the Rick Adelman era. All the experts say he focuses on defense just as much as offense. But I have never, ever seen a team shoot 73% in a first half, and 62% overall, like Phoenix did Saturday night, and have as many open 3-pointers (which turned into 6-of-12 from behind the arc in the first half).

Sure, the Rockets’ offense looked good in the first quarter scoring 30 points to the Suns’ 37. But you knew they weren’t going to be able to keep up with the Suns, who kept pouring it on in the second and third quarters, hit half their shots in the third, hit three 3-pointers, and outscored the Rockets 25-19 in the third to take an insurmountable 94-76 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Rockets did cut the deficit down to 9 points in the fourth, but all Phoenix had to do was turn on the jets again by putting Steve Nash back into the game, and that was the ballgame.

Even Steve Francis’ first action of the season didn’t make any difference. With Adelman finally figuring out that Rafer Alston had to be replaced in this game starting in the second quarter (a little too late in coming, though), Francis was rusty, hitting only 3-of-11 shot to score 8 points. He did show an ability to penetrate into the lane a couple of times, including dishing a nice bounce pass to Yao for a layup attempt where Yao was fouled. But he also went brain dead a couple of times on defense trying to guard Leandro Barbosa. We’ll see if Adelman keeps playing Francis in lieu of giving Alston so many minutes. I wouldn’t mind it.

But to me, the second biggest story of the game right behind the Rockets’ bad defense was Yao Ming’s second bad night in a row. He was only 4-of-17 from the floor, which is about the worst I have seen him shoot when taking that many shots. He was having so many problems, he only played 22 minutes when Adelman decided to take him out and go small with Luis Scola playing center.


Bonzi Wells was even worse, going 0-for-6 from the field, including missing lots of layups, and missing two free throws. What the hell has happened to Bonzi all of a sudden, starting with his 1-of-9 shooting night against San Antonio? That’s Rafer-ish! Also shooting poorly was Chuck Hayes, who was 1-for-5. With Yao, Bonzi and Hayes struggling down low, it was going to be tough for the Rockets to win.

Thanks goodness Scola picked up right where he left off from Friday night in San Antonio, hitting 10-of-19 shots for 20 points and 11 rebounds against Phoenix. So did Mike James, who hit 6-of-12 shots for 17 points, and was the leading scorer for the Rockets in the first half with 15 points, while Yao only had 1 point at halftime. 1 point.

Adelman took out Bonzi because of his struggles and played Kirk Snyder to provide some athleticism to try to “hang” with the track meet the Suns were running. Luther Head also scored a season-high 16 points, including 4-of-7 from the three-point line. Finally, Adelman played Aaron Brooks in the game’s final minutes, who hit a three-pointer as well as beat speedster Leandro Barbosa to the basket for a layup. Now that’s speed. I have a feeling Brooks’ speed is going to come in handy later in the season.

Unlike last year, Yao was not able to carry the Rockets to a victory without McGrady since he hurt his elbow 3 games ago. Yao didn’t even come close to dominating, hitting only 11-of-33 (33%) over the past two games. He just seemed to be rushing his shots and didn’t look comfortable at all. But Yao won’t have to get too down on himself because McGrady is expected to play Wednesday night against Dallas after getting 3 extra days of rest. That will make a world of difference to Yao because most of the shots he makes that increase his shooting percentage usually come from McGrady keeping opposing defenses honest, leaving Yao with less pressure on him defensively. McGrady also has a great knack for getting Yao points as he’s moving to the basket, like on pick-and-rolls.

If there is one good thing that can come out of this four-game losing streak is that the Rockets now know how they stack up against the league’s best, and they know matching last season’s 52 wins is not going to be a cakewalk like many thought it would be. It’s now time to get to work to fix all their problems, and they will have 3 days to work on it until they play Dallas (again) on Wednesday night. Hopefully defense will be high on the agenda.

13 Responses to “Suns torch Rockets to hand them 4th loss in a row”

  1. AirChina23 Says:

    I actually had this game the Bucks game on side-by-side. Both Yao and Yi had struggled and both of them only had ONE point at the half. I was curious to see how Adelman would counter the Phoenix track team, instead I saw no D, as you have pointed out. Hopefully they will get some time to rest and reflect and come back stronger physically and mentally.

  2. richard Says:

    Watched the game last night. Too fast too furious was the name of the game. Phoenix is just too fast and talented. All of them can score and can run. Yao is too tired playing consecutive games. It only takes 2-3 seconds for the suns to score. Everytime rockets score….suns score a sec later. I hate to think that without tracy…rockets can’t win games. Scola did a good job but you need other supporting cast. Off night for Yao because of conditioning. Ajustment….Adjustment….adjustment with the D!!! I have the same feeling again from last year….scared to watch the game because chances of losing is high!

  3. Luckyme Says:

    I am really not sure if playing over 40 minutes a game continously or playing 5 games in a week during the last week tired Yao out, but it seems he lost confidence and his shooting touch as soon as TMac got injured – granted he got double or triple teamed very often. It seems he pulled back quite a bit for fearing he might get injured too? I wonder if he has the assistance of a sports psycholgist now, and if not, perhaps they should provide him one to help him to prepare better mentally.

  4. curtis Says:

    Is it just me or is T-Mac always gets hurt when there is a line up of hard to beat teams come around? it seems like whenever Yao has been doing real good, (like winning the player of the week award and over score T-Mac) and the schedule gets tough, T-Mac is not there! It is almost like he is trying to prove that he is the leader of the pack, and without him Yao can’t do it, maybe its just coincidence, but its like that for a couple of seasons now, so I wonder.
    It is not fair to play those tough experienced western teams with Yao alone with many new players on the team, he may be underperformed now but he will dominate once again!

  5. richard Says:

    I agree with you luckyme, I think partly it’s a mental thing. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as sports psychologist. But I think it would be helpful if he regain his confidence. This is Yao’s team. Yao needs to step up and prove to everyone that even without tracy they can still win games. Maybe not all the time but atleast 3/4 of the time. Maybe Yao needs some steroids or something J/k. He’s too slow on this game. When he gets double team, he doesn’t need to kick it out all the time. Where’s all the re post ???? Yao if you’re reading this! Please be more aggressive on both ends of the court. If you have to shove somebody to regain respect do it! Don’t let them push you around. Grab more rebounds if your shots are not falling. For god sake you’re 7’6. Don’t the rockets teach him how to position so he can get more rebounds? The refs are horrible too with this game. Same with the previous game with the Spurs. Female refs during the Spurs game don’t know how to officiate. It’s going to be a long season if this is the way they play.

  6. Zoe Says:

    Very disappointed, very paintful to watch Yao and Rockets’ game, I have to admit that a bad game ruins a good evening.

    I am wondering what is going on behind the poor shooting and poor performance by Yao Ming. I pointed to him, not other Rockets, as I am his big fan, not others. Obviously, compared to the last year, the biggest changes are:

    (1) The coaching staff and their coaching phylosophy. This is the biggest change of all changes. It they want to turn Yao to Devac or Miller, they got the worse part, but not the benift of it – both Yao and Rockets lose.

    (2) His new teamates. How does he communicate with them on and off the games? Can he invite his teamates to watch the game vedio together to figure out every turn-over and good and bad passes and even practice with them one on one?

    (3) His new marriage: I can not comment on this, but this is certainly a big factor to his personal life as well as anyone else’s life in this situation. Is his wife expecting a baby which could be a nervous or anxcious experience?

    All of above are the immaginations from a long-time Yao fan – I hate to think that Yao Ming’s NBA career is now in the declining stage from it peak, as he should be in his peak or going to peak.

  7. SIMON TAI Says:

    Yao should not have played all the five games in such a inhumane schedule, especially for him, such a big man (Needlless to explaine). He should have only played the 1st, 3rd, 5th games, the 2nd and the 4th or the 1st, 2nd and the 5th. It depended. This doesn’t mean that we were giving up the game without MM. On the contrary, chance of victory would be enchanced.
    Yao’s unsatisfactory performance could be expected in such a stituation, i.e. tight schedule, hard-to-defeat opponent and, of course, without T-Mac.
    If there must be someone to blame, it’s the coach. He not only should know how to use his player, but most of all, WHEN NOT TO USE.

  8. cardfather Says:

    After watching the last two games, it has become more apparent to me that Yao definately needs to be more AGGRESSIVE especially under opponent baskets. For a guy who’s 7’6″, he’s taking too many jump-shots. He needs to muscle his way to the basket more often like Shaq and just shove the ball in the basket! His 49.2% field goal percentage is way too low for his height and position. I agree with Richard about Yao’s weak rebounding efforts especially on the offensive end. He needs to learn to anticipate WHEN to jump for the ball. It’s frustrating seeing him being out-rebounded by guys who are a foot shorter.

    I know he’s usually double/triple-teamed, but some of Yao’s moves are also getting too predictable and opponents are reading him and his moves like a book. Guys like Marion and HIll were swatting his shots and passes from behind. He needs to go up strong and try to slam it home more often. That’ll also help him draw more fouls.

    I know it’s still early in the season, but could the Rockets experiment with a different starting line up? Based on the last two games, I think it’s time for Scola to be a starter (Yao, Scola, Battier, McGrady, Head/Francis). C’mon coach, do something!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. Ben, NY Says:

    very close to my prediction that rockets could maybe win one of the three games vs spurs, suns and dallas… let’s hope they can at least take the next one…

    my one observation: Yao Ming’s performance seems to diminish whenever he gets recognized as Player of the Week. I remember that’s what happened last year as well…

  10. richard Says:

    Am not sure if Yao ming is aware of this website Yaomingmania? If he does surf…I wish he would check this website out and that he will spend some time reading our comments. We might not be coaches or trainer but as a basketball fan we observe the things that they might have missed. I just want to say that we are here for you Yao! You may not play great all the time but we still support you. If you’re not scoring I wish you could grab more….rebound…..rebound….rebound….if you can block shots that’s a plus. Happy Thanksgiving! Thanks for creating Yaomingmania so that I can voice my opinion and let all my frustration out! whew! =)

  11. H Says:

    Yao has to have a sense of urgency that he only has 3 good years left before his play level begins to go downhill. Step up and be the go-to guy. If he continues to play like this, he’ll be a major disappointment to me and a bunch of other people. I truly believe he can be one of the dominant offensive big men ever with his size and shooting touch.

    The only way the Rockets will win the championship if he is the got-to guy and dominate.

  12. Luckyme Says:

    I think I agree with some of the readers here saying that Yao should get more aggressive and attack the basket more often. At the moment, his moves are very predictable – back to the basket, pauses, fakes left or right, and then may shoot a fade-away. Other players can easily come from behind and knock the ball away from his hand. He should bulldoze his way straight to the basket and get fouled. He needs to change his strategies often.

  13. Jebb Says:

    A few tips for Yao:-

    1. Don’t let your opponents push/knock you around! Fight back! Use your elbow if you have to ( ask Mutombo / Karl Malone ), it will help to secure few more rebound per game and reduce contacts from your opponents!

    2. Give hard foul ( once per game ) to your opponent whenever opportunity arise! It helps to discourage layup on you. You should instill some fear to your opponents when they come to the paint!

    3. Attack the double team sometimes! You did well last year! Don’t give that up!

    4. Demand the ball more, you & Tmac are both the leaders of this team. Let your teammates know how & when to get you the ball! I saw many times in the past eleven games that even when you were at the painted area, your team mate still preferred to shoot rather than pass to you. Tell them you are not happy with that kind of plays!

    Jebb, sorry for the delay in approving this. Since your post very early this AM, I had doctor’s appointment that went long today and I’m now getting caught up on my email. — John

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