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Rockets blow another one, losing streak now at five games

November 21st, 2007
by John
Yao Ming goes up for a shot against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night.  Yao's numbers were phenomenal: 30 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks.  But the Rockets blew a big lead and lost another one in the clutch, this time to Dallas.Yao Ming goes up for a shot against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night. Yao’s numbers were phenomenal: 30 points, 15 rebounds, 6 blocks. But the Rockets blew a big lead and lost another one in the clutch. Click here for more photos from the game.

The Rockets choked another game away, blowing a 17-point lead in the third quarter and a 5-point lead with 1:40 remaining, this time to Dallas on national TV. I knew it was going to happen even when they were up by 17. Now that’s pretty pathetic when you know the Rockets are going to blow a lead that big. I wasn’t happy with what I saw as the lead started disintegrating. This choke job was inevitable. Choke City II, anyone?

I’m furious about this loss because this Rockets team hasn’t changed one bit from last year’s team that blew a nice lead against Utah in Game 7 of last year’s playoffs.

I’m not going to hold back like the Houston Chronicle columnists probably have to do because they are getting paid to write professionally, whereas I’m a blogger that doesn’t get paid one cent to do what I do, so I’m beholden to no one. I’m going to let it fly, so forgive me if it sounds like I’m a kid ranting in a discussion forum, or if I have typos. Like that famous line from a movie, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more.”

The Rockets brought in a new coach to fix the offense, and not only has it NOT changed when it comes to crunch time, but their defense is worse to go with it. This is a poorly coached team that keeps flubbing up on offense like last year’s JVG team, and all those Rockets’ season ticket holders who bought tickets with the promise of big things should ask if they can get their money back.

Before this game, I was saying to myself this is a huge game for the Rockets to make a statement to the league — and themselves — that they have the mental fortitude to gut out a win after losing four in a row. They absolutely needed this win to stop the bleeding, and keep from becoming a disappointing 6-6 when the rest of the division is already leaving them behind.

Of course, we can look at the two possessions starting with a little under a minute left in the game to see no difference from last year’s team. Tracy McGrady takes the ball to the lane around a Yao pick, Yao follows alongside down the middle of the lane, but the defense is pretty good, McGrady can’t get the ball to Yao and instead passes the ball goes over his head for a turnover. CAN WE GET SOME “ADELMAN” BALL MOVEMENT, PLEASE?

Then the stupidest play I have ever seen since, well, last year’s Utah series, happens on the next Rockets’ possession when McGrady comes around a pick near the 3-point line, and he hoists a long, low-percentage two-pointer that clangs off the rim! THIS IS WHY I DON’T BUY INTO THIS DAMN “T-HYPEN-MAC” HYPE. WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

He will always be called “McGrady” to me until he can show that he can consistently make plays in the clutch at the end of a game. It’s like he completely loses his mind and goes back to thinking he’s on a playground in the final minutes of a game. Mr. Morey, you might want to pick up the phone and call Mitch Kupchak in LA to see if they are interested in potential trade talks that you weren’t interested in doing a couple of weeks ago. I’m serious. But I think Morey may have blown his chance because now the Lakers are playing better than the Rockets, have a better record, and are less likely to trade the Kobe-ster.

I really want McGrady to succeed, like all of us. I don’t mind him being a facilitator. I don’t care if he scores another jumper for the rest of his career and he just takes it to the hole, draws double-teams, and passes to open teammates like he did most of this game.

There is a reason why shooters like Mike James and Luis Scola are on this roster: to hit shots in the clutch when he and Yao are blanketed by defenders. Why aren’t they being used after McGrady draws a double-team? You can blame McGrady for part of this, but you’ve also got to blame the coach who allows the same stupid plays to occur, and doesn’t play Scola at all when they need scoring options.

I don’t know about you, but I think this Rockets team already needs to drastically shake things up before this season becomes a major disappointment. They need someone who can be a leader with the ball down the stretch, not just someone who can pass it to Yao like Rafer Alston (when he decides to do it). They need a Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker-like guy who can take it to the hole like and score, get fouled, or both, like Devin Harris did so many times in this game. That player may already be on their bench, and it’s not necessarily Steve Francis, although I wouldn’t mind seeing him get more of a shot.

Who is it? Maybe Aaron Brooks. I know, I know, he’s just a rookie. But to say a rookie cannot contribute is too JVG-like. Look at what Chris Paul did his rookie year. Also, the Rockets are desperate, and if Brooks has world-class speed like the Rockets’ brass were saying all summer long, then give the kid a shot. It’s a lot better than what we’re seeing now.

Hey, if Devin Harris got playing time as a rookie and was effective (and look how good he is now), then Brooks certainly deserves a look. Forget about the defensive match-up issue. He can’t be much worse than Alston! And if the Rockets are worried about Brooks’ height, then they shouldn’t have drafted him in the first place.

Remember also that Sam Cassell was a rookie during the Rockets 1993-94′ championship season. Cassell was clutch, and maybe Brooks has a little bit of Cassell in him. Brooks was a big-time college player in a very tough Pac-10 conference. I know it’s sad that a team with all this talent may have to rely so much on a rookie, but it comes down to who can get to the rim like those players I just mentioned.

You would think McGrady would be that guy, but for some reason in clutch time he doesn’t use it, opting to throw bad passes or hoist stupid, low-percentage shots. So take the ball out of McGrady’s hands in the clutch and let’s see what the rook can do. Of course, you need to play Brooks before crunch time, so take significant minutes away from Alston and give it to Brooks. That’s how desperate things are, or the Rockets are going to lose fans quickly. I can already tell you the traffic to this Web site has dropped off since this 5-game losing streak began, so I can only imagine what the empty seats at Toyota Center are starting to look like. Owner Leslie Alexander won’t stand for that very long.

I didn’t have many negative things to say when Adelman was hired, but I wasn’t extremely excited about the choice other than the fact it was NOT JVG again. There was something that Yao Ming was quoted as saying in the preseason that concerned me, but I was hoping it was just Yao being his normal worrying self. I forgot exactly how he said it, but he said something along the lines that he was nervous that this team doesn’t prepare as much as JVG’s team did, like they are a little too laid back. Tonight’s Rockets team had over 3 days to rest and prepare for this game, whereas Dallas played last night, and the Rockets couldn’t design a few set plays in advance for a game that was destined to go down to the wire?

We all had heard how JVG’s teams were the best prepared team in the league, but they had no soul to win big playoffs games. Now we have a mediocre team that isn’t prepared, and they still have no soul to win big games.

I could go on-and-on about how the Rockets botched this one, but I’m sick and tired of it and want to close this thing out.

However, I can’t leave without saying how much Alston continues to suck. I don’t care if he hit 7-of-13 from the field, and 3-of-7 three-pointers (seven 3-point attempts too many, I might add). He was nowhere to be seen at the end of the 3rd quarter when Harris blew by Bonzi Wells for a layup to start the comeback and give Dallas hope. Where was Alston? About 15 feet away.

Then of course, he leaves Yao on an island in the late stages of the game when Harris blew by Yao for a layup, and was fouled. And you can’t help but be a little encouraged that maybe Adelman has finally had it with Alston when, after Alston tried a stupid 3-pointer (and missed, of course) with 5:30 remaining when Mike James and Shane Battier were wide open and there was 20 seconds still remaining on the shot clock, Adelman reportedly ripped into Alston in front of everybody at the timeout. If Adelman continues to play Alston like normal after that and not play Steve Francis (who didn’t play Wednesday night), then the Rockets have absolutely no hope.

I also have to jump on Yao for passing up a couple of wide open shots near the top of the key, shots he had hit all night. At the 3:52 mark of the fourth quarter, he passed up an open shot and dished it to Alston, who jacked up a 3-pointer that missed.

Yao, you’ve got to be smarter than that. You’re the best shooter on the team, you’re open, you’re 7’6″, can shoot over anyone, and you give it to Alston? Even if he scores 30 points, grabs 15 boards, and blocks 6 shots like he did tonight, when Yao of all people starts making decisions like that, then you know this team has no hope.