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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.

24 Responses to “Rockets blow another one, losing streak now at five games”

  1. Greg Says:

    I forecast another first round exit for the Rockets in 2008. Sad.

  2. KZ Says:

    I only watched the last two minutes of the game because I knew that these two teams were going to have a close fight to the last minute.

    T-Mac had two bad moves at the end of the game and it made me angry. Like I said last time after the Suns game, the most important thing for the Rockets now is to trade T-Mac and Steve Francis for Kobe. Again, T-Mac is a great player. But this team is going nowhere with T-Mac. “It’s time” to let him go.

  3. David Says:

    Yeah, totally agree with What you wrote about Rockets. From a good 6-1 start to a mediocre record now. This truely reflects what Rockets can do so far. Tracy choked, Yao hesitated, O-fer screwed.

    The other day i was checking the NBA hotspots http://www.nba.com/hotspots/
    I happened to review Alston’s hotspots as they claimed. Wow, it’s so revelational. I thought Yao should take a look at each of his teammate’s hotspots, esp O-fer’s!

    He was 2-39 from the right downtown, where he shot most so far this season. That was exactly the spot he was at when Yao passed him out of his intentional miss of free throw at the end of the Lakers game.

    Let’s look at this game. The trey he made 3 min left in 4th quarter is on the left. He missed all three including the one you described at 5’33” left in 4th as the stupid one, stunningly all from the right section where he’s shooting a joking 4.5 %.

    THought Morey’s very into statistics? He should help Coach A to advise player’s shooting selection. THe hotspot chart is really telling!!

    One more example, let’s look at Yao’s Hotspot chart, he’s generally “hotter” when shooting from the right. He has a stunning 0-10 from the foul line! Well, then dun try to shoot there next time;)

    If players bear the hotspots of their teammates, will it increase the offensive efficiency? Especially when the game is on the line, every possession is critical, and won’t it make more sense not to ask O-fer to shoot a 3 from the right???

  4. Mark Says:

    If they even make it to the 1st round. To do that, they will have to get rid of Alston… he’s just terrible. Not just tonight, every night. When you have a bunch of bad decision makers, the team will lose.

  5. jeff Says:

    Standing ovation for this piece of candid comments. We have too many people doing little things wihtout scoring; and Alston is the typical one. Where is Scola? He was doing fine in the last two games. But all of a sudden, he disappears. It is beyond my understanding. Did he do something wrong, so that he is punished ?
    Queer decision. To play safe, better bring Jeff back from the TV station.

  6. jeff Says:

    Greg, are you sure that the team can make it to the playoffs?

  7. monster Says:

    I understand what you feel. I always use 20 game mark to start judging on a team. As frustrated as I am I will wait for another two weeks. Whatever changes will made I don’t want to see:
    1) Head ever play point for any stretch of time. I held the view ever since Head joined the team since JVG days.
    2) No adjustment made to pass Yao the ball when he is fronted. We got to do something to make Yao effective to punish teams that go small and front Yao.

  8. GameNight Says:

    This team has no guts and no real leaders who can close out games. I don’t think people realized that Tracy MacGrady is nowhere near as good as Kobe Brent, especially in clutch time. MacGrady was way over-rated.

  9. JT in MD Says:

    Holy cow! guys relax…the rockets have lots of new guys including one international player with minimal NBA playing time under his belt AND they just went through the toughest teams in the league without tracy.–
    what if we judged yao by his first game, or first week…or first season.
    You sound like a bunch of charles barkley’s to me.

    Give it time…they will make the playoffs barring injury..anf then we’ll see. I think it’s a little early to be talking like the season’s over

  10. JT in MD Says:

    ps- I love the website and check it every day (just about) – keep up the good work!

  11. Jainon Says:

    the rox need good shooters surrounding tmac and yao. ra and mj can’t shoot, and bozi well hasn’t been playing well. this is not a team that will scare people. If either yao or tmac has a bad night, they can’t win against an elite team. camparing to the spurs, a team won when tim duncan scored only 9 points a couple weeks ago, the rox has no reliable bench player who can step up.

  12. rocfan Says:

    Understand your comments about Macrady and the coaching staff – but you need to really call out Yao.

    I understand this is his fan site, but if you condense the game to the critical points of the game — Yao missed two jumpers and made a stupid foul. The monster number he puts up means nothing if he can’t make the right decision or make the critical shots to lock up the win.

    I’ve noticed that when the games begins to get tight, he looses his bravado and looks more timid. The 4th quarter is when the rockets ususally loses it, and that is the time that Yao needs to step up. Somebody..the chinese media somebody call him out on his timidness when the game is tight. If he can’t overcome this characteristic, his will be a sad story of what he could have been. No one will care if he is a nice guy, hard working. The final judgement is his ability to be a winner, and at this point he is not.

    I agree with many of your observations, but there were more mistakes in this game too numerous to go through than Yao’s “missed two jumpers” (he makes more of those than anyone on the team) and “stupid foul” (he shouldn’t have been guarding Harris in the first place). I did point out him passing up open jumpers, and on one of them passing to Alston behind the 3-point line in the clutch, and mentioned how that was a significant mistake.

    Most teams don’t their big man to handle the ball in crunch time. It’s too risky. That’s really the ball handlers’ time to shine (Kobe, Lebron, Michael, hopefully McGrady), especially if your coach doesn’t emphasize passing like we all thought Adelman would. I think they do expect them to make shots. On those two critical possessions involving McGrady, he didn’t get it to Yao so he could even attempt a shot. But I do think Yao has a confidence and mental strength issue, which I have pointed out before, but not as much because there are so many other glaring problems this team has to fix (Adelman’s offense, defense, Alston, McGrady) before calling him out so much on it. — John

  13. cardfather Says:

    Based on what I’ve seen in the past few games, I don’t agree with Greg:

    “I forecast another first round exit for the Rockets in 2008. Sad.”

    I don’t they’ll make the playoffs at all!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Frank Says:

    T-Mac never won a playpff series, just the asian luck! Trade him out, Trade Steve Francis out. Bring in KB24…. its gonna go from Kobe and Shaq to Kobe and Yao. And so it begins…

  15. richard Says:

    Frustration! I agree with John. Yao is reluctant to shoot during close game. It’s really odd….He needs to get over the hump or see a sport psychologist to overcome his fear. T-mac is good b-player but he’s not a leader and same with Yao. Prone to injuries and make bad decision too during close games. He too needs a sport psychologist. Ofer…got one word for him “Insane”. He can only play street ball. Coach Adelman….can’t really blame him for everything. He’s new….new system…but he’s not a new coach. I think he needs to act fast and do some adjustments really quick…if not he’s not coming back next year. The rest of the bench player…whew! I don’t know. Battier/chuck…I like them, but besides flopping and playing defense..they are no threat when it comes to offense. We need players like Harris…howard…stackhouse..who’s agressive and full of energy..offensive threat and can play defense. Was so impressed with the Mavs when they were down by 17 ….felt like the whole team came together and fought together. Driving the ball to hoop on every single possession. Why can’t the Rockets do that….instead of shooting three and perimeter J’s. sigh. Honestly…I think we need to consider on trading some players that we can use. It doesn’t have to be Kobe but someone who knows how to close out games and have the heart to win! There’s a game tonight with Miami…usually I’m excited…but I just have a feeling we’re going to lose again!

  16. Wilson Says:

    Start Luis Scola in the starting lineup and let Aaron Brooks play more!!!

  17. monster Says:

    I hope the big per game minutes Yao logged is RA’s way of making Yao comfortable to his system. After 20 games or so I want his time to stabilize around 35 for regular season games.

    I don’t recall RA ever had a center with whom teams had to front to deny touches. I still like to see something done about it. Otherwise any team can go small, take Yao out by fronting him, not getting punished. I hope RA will look into that. If not the post season does not look promising.

  18. D Says:

    John, you are doing a great job covering Yao. With that being said, I think that you have to call him out more often.

    I am a big Yao fan, but from I have seen so far in his NBA career, I don’t believe that he can lead the Rockets to a championship. As illustrated from this and other games, Yao often miss critical shots when the game is tightening up. You can criticize all the other role players on the team, but Yao is the face of this francise, he needs to deliver in crunch time.

    I don’t think anyone, including Yao, can lead a team to a championship by themselves. I think he needs help, just like Shaq needed Kobe, Shaq needed Dwyane, Robinson needed Duncan, Duncan need Parker/Ginobili, like Lebron needs somebody. — John

  19. Luckyme Says:

    I have said it before, both Yao and Tmac could use a sports psychologist; in fact the whole team could use one. It seems when things are going touch – if one player misses a basket, then one after another will follow and miss it somehow. It seems everyone becomes to doubt himself and loses confidence.

    On another note, I just don’t understand why Yao will pass up the ball instead of attacking the basket so many times. Is he afraid of been blame as selfish? I have no clue.

  20. richard Says:

    Yeah….but that somebody is not Tracy. We need someone else. I just have a feeling that he’s not the one. But who would be a better complement? Kobe is a good scorer but not a team player. He plays for his own glory. Any suggestions John?

    I agree that the Rockets need to start looking for alternatives. They are hard to come by, but Kobe would be the top one. After that, names that come to mind are T.J. Ford, Mike Bibby (a little too old), and Jose Calderon. There really aren’t many others — maybe that’s why the Rockets were so high on Aaron Brooks when they drafted him. Speed like that is hard to find. — John

  21. Jainon Says:

    no team ever won a championship by only two players. a championship team always had good supporting casts. the rox on paper seem to have them, but so far s.f and bonzi wells and others have contributed very little. let’s face it. Yao and tmac aren’t good enough to carry a team. it is not their fault that they can’t. I can’t think of any team that won consistently with only two stars and no good support casts. who is the scoring threat out of the starting lineup besides yao and tmac? who is the scoring threat/defense specialist coming off of the bench? we don’t have anyone.

  22. Wendy Says:

    You know, I´m upset too… but somehow I´m not worried.
    It was expected, these growing pains.
    I believe in the team, they will grow. After all, its just November .)

    Our record would be a lot better if we had Boston´s schedule (laughable:p )
    But it´s time, too.

    See ya at the Conference Finals!

  23. Jim From Hollywood CA! Says:

    Guys please reply to this response if You feel the same way I do……It took me two days to calm down to post this comment. Im upset at one play in particular. When T-MAc hit a three pointer that banked in he started laughing it off. Good shoot, but what does he do? He wanted to prove to everyone that it was not luck and came down on the next posetion and he had his mind already made up that he was going to take another three. That to me decided the game because after that the Mavs went on a run and didnt look back. Yao is to good of a player to be overlooked. He plays hard and UNSELFISH every game. Kobe for t-mac?

    Very good observation, Jim. I had forgotten about that. Yes, I agree with you. He can be very selfish. That can be good at times if the shots are high-percentage ones. I don’t mind if he takes it to the rack multiple times, but to jack up long two-pointers or threes consecutively can kill a team. I think McGrady keeps wanting to relive that 14-point scoring barrage in 44 seconds against San Antonio. That was a once in a lifetime deal. — John

  24. jeffers Says:

    rockets just lost to heat, very frustrating. everybody choked at the end of fourth quarter yet again, no movement in the team at all, when tracy gets double teamed, everybody just stood and watched, yao fouled out, shaq had a monster night, rafer still jacking up those air balls, mike james still can’t play a simple pick and roll to yao, personally I don’t get all this hype about MJ being a good player, he only scores like he does because he takes just as many shots as yao does, but he doesn’t get the blame for losing games. I don’t even want to talk about how mcgrady can suck at crunch time, thats just how he plays, thats why he never won a playoff series. and aldeman, i am getting so sick of this guy, we might as well bring back JVG to coach rockets again, if you ask me, I think rockets would have done much better if JVG was coaching this year, coz looking at this team so far, its JVG basketball at a lower standard, Aldeman is just as stubborn as JVG, whats the point in getting another coach to coach JVG basketball? and its the first time in yaos career i think he actually criticised his teammates after losing a game, yao had a point, late in the fourth quarter, he had so many opportunities at the weak side, but he is just not getting the ball, and why did everyone blame him for fouling on Harris, i mean hello? yao has to wipe everybody’s arse and then gets the blame for it?

    Aldeman nedds to go, i just think JVG is better than he is. at least JVG single handedly made yao into the best centre in the league(even if it is just statistically speaking), now aldeman can’t even make his mind up on who he will set his plays around, thats why he doesn’t have any plays. this team might as well play without a coach.

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