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Yao dominates with 31 to beat Suns. Francis also comes up big

November 29th, 2007
by John
Yao Ming shoots a huge jump hook over the Phoenix Suns' Amare Stoudemire Wednesday night that gave the Rockets a 96-92 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game.  Yao would finish with a monster game, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 boards in the victory.Yao Ming shoots a huge jump hook over the Phoenix Suns’ Amare Stoudemire Wednesday night that gave the Rockets a 96-92 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game. Yao would finish with a monster game, scoring 31 points and grabbing 13 boards in the victory. Click here for more photos from the game.

Well, it didn’t take too long for Rocket fans who have been calling for Steve Francis to get quality minutes all season to prove to the head coach they were right all along.

Francis got significant minutes on Wednesday night against the Suns in Phoenix, and he was an important reason why they pulled out a big 100-94 win.

Francis provided a spark by scoring 9 quality points in 27 minutes. All of his buckets were huge at the time because for every shot he made, you knew it was going to force Adelman to give him more minutes in upcoming games, like most Rocket fans have been saying for weeks now.

But those shots he made did another thing – it made Rafer Alston realize that Francis is breathing right down his neck for playing time, and it paid off right away. Alston played much better on offense in this game, but believe me, it’s a fluke because Alston will always be a streak shooter. We’ll get to him more in a minute. Let me finish up on Francis.

Francis also had 7 assists for very meaningful and different kinds of buckets. I wish I could describe all of them, but there just isn’t enough time given how late the game started and ended.

Francis was also active on defense by blocking Shawn Marion in the middle of the fourth quarter when the Rockets were trying to hold the Suns off from making a late charge. He also stripped Amare Stoudemire of the ball in the final seconds of the game that resulted in a big Suns turnover, although it was questionable if he fouled him or not.

As much as we slam Adelman for being blind by playing Alston so much and for so long without giving any significant playing time to Francis, we have to give credit to Adelman for getting into the heads of his players to move the ball around like we’ve all been waiting for.

So when the game was in its last few minutes and was still close, I couldn’t wait to see how the offense would handle the pressure. That’s because we really didn’t get a glimpse of it during their blowout wins against the Nuggets or Clippers in their last two games because they weren’t close down the stretch at all.

I tracked each possession late in this game, and the Rockets actually did much better, moving the ball and getting high-percentage shots, including an important open hook shot by Yao that made it 96-92 with 1:08 remaining. Throughout the game Yao got the ball many times where he had room to operate rather than being double or triple-teamed, several times resulting from the rest of his teammates being patient to have him re-post with better position.

Yao rewarded his teammates with their patience by scoring a game-high 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking two shots. Against a team with whom he’s struggled against frequently, Yao played with confidence, hitting his shots from all over the court, including hustling down the court for a throw-down dunk after getting a dish from Tracy McGrady on a fast break.

He also scored on a jumper from 18-feet out, hit jump hooks in the lane, fallaway jumpers, and a spin move on the baseline for a dunk. You name it, and he did it. Let’s hope his teammates don’t revert back to settling for long jump shots, and instead continue to get him the ball in the right places to avoid the double- and triple-teams.

And give credit to Adelman for giving important minutes to Francis late in the game. With Francis, they have a very valuable commodity late in the game they haven’t had much of lately: another penetrator (in addition to McGrady) who can get to the hole and either MAKE a shot close-up, or create space to create shots for others. And that’s exactly what Francis did when he took Steve Nash 1-on-1 deep into the lane, then threw up a wild shot (as crazy looking as it was) that banked off the glass and dropped for a bucket that made it 98-94 with :29.9 remaining. That was the play of the game.

With Francis doing so well, he put pressure on Alston to play better, perhaps out of fear of losing minutes, and Alston responded on offense by hitting 3-of-5 three-pointers, and 6-of-11 shots for 15 points. I say good for him, but it still doesn’t excuse Adelman waiting so long to get Francis into games to push Alston competitively.

Now the Houston announcers will tell you how great Rafer has been playing the past two games (he scored 17 points on Monday night against the Clippers), but there is one part of his game that absolutely sucked (as usual), and that was defending the other team’s point guard. There were 3 times in the first half where he couldn’t keep up with Steve Nash around picks that would result in jump shots, or just leaving him wide open for jump shots. That’s 6 points they could have prevented from happening.

There are a few other things the Rockets will need to do much better in addition to what I mentioned earlier. Those things include:

• McGrady needs to get with the program and make his free throws. He made only 3-of-8 Wednesday night, and he missed 5-of-15 on Monday night. That will come back to haunt them eventually.

• Near the end of the first quarter, McGrady took Houston’s last 6 shots. That’s not enough balance. Other than that, I did like how McGrady seemed to attack the rim, not settle for too many jumpers, and he finished with 18 points on 19 field goal attempts. Add the 5 free throws he missed, and he would have scored 23 points. He also had 6 assists. I can handle those numbers, because that means other players are getting an opportunity to keep the opposing defenses off balance.

Chuck Hayes left Shawn Marion wide open for two 3-pointers, collapsing down in the paint and letting a pretty good shooter kill them with 6 points. Everyone says how great Hayes is on defense, and that may be true when he’s defending a guy close, but when he’s helping out his teammates on defense, he sometimes ignores his man way too much. Later Marion would burn a different Rocket defender for a three-pointer. Can someone coaching the players let them know they can’t leave Marion that wide-open, no matter how bad the form is on his shot?

Outside of that, the refs were awful, letting players get away with assault and battery. Finally, don’t let the announcers fool you by saying the Rockets’ defense was the main reason the Suns only shot 41.5%. Their defense was good, but the Suns missed lots of open shots. We all know that can happen to Houston at any time, with the Suns being human, too.

Looking ahead to Thursday night, the Rockets play the Warriors at Golden State on a back-to-back. The Warriors beat the Suns pretty handily the other night. So as good as the Rockets played on offense against the Suns, from what I saw with the holes in their defense (with Nash and Marion), I don’t think there’s any way the Rockets can stop the Warriors enough to win. That should end their current 3-game winning streak. I’m not being a pessimist, just a realist.

The one thing I always look forward to seeing (and hearing) Thursday night is the roar of the crowd in Oakland when Yao does anything well, like hit a shot or just make a free throw. The Asian-American fans in the Bay Area come out in droves to support the Big Man.

11 Responses to “Yao dominates with 31 to beat Suns. Francis also comes up big”

  1. micky yam Says:

    wow the win over the suns made me excited to watch the rockets play again

  2. Wendy Says:

    Come on John,
    you just don´t want to jynx the winningstreak, don´t you? 🙂

    Anyway, if someone like you, who was the biggest apostle for the trading away of Francis back then (I agreed with you, btw, and I was horrified when they brought him back), now calling for Franchise minutes, that´s really something. Hopefully the positive trend continues.

    BTW, Bill Simmons criticized Yao´s defense pretty harsh in his ESPN West Coast Preview, how do you think?

    Francis seems to have matured and been humbled over the past few years, which is exactly what he needed to calm down and not force things. So I can handle the “new” Francis because he also hasn’t been a distraction while being relegated to the bench, which also shows his maturity. He’s also better than Alston, so he’s the best option at PG. With that said, I am still concerned if he becomes a starter he will get a big head and revert back to his old ways.

    I’ll have to read Simmons’ story about Yao’s defense again to remind myself of what he said. — John.

  3. curtis Says:

    Well, I think you are being just a little bit too cynical here John, I think the rockets will win the game with golden states tonight and improve to 4 straight wins, why? with Yao playing the way he did and with francis getting more minuts, they can dominate the inside (no big man for GS) and penatrate the lane by francis or T-Mac, dish out shots and make threes, I just don’t see how GS can stop this new charged up group, the key is to PLAY FRANCIS AND SCOLA! Let’s all give credit to the rockets and will them to win!

    Curtis: I hope you’re right. But even without Jason Richardson, Golden State is still a handful. The one saving grace of the Rockets not beating Utah in last year’s playoffs is that I think they would have had to play the Warriors in the next round, and that would have been a disaster. Hopefully under the new Adelman system they can keep up.– John

  4. James Says:

    Hey John and readers,

    Fan Confessional:

    I found this website a few years back and have been a big fan since then. I have to admit when Yao first came into the league I found myself liking him just because he was asian and I was asian. It was natural for me to say, “I love Yao. What a beast of a player” during his first season. But lets face it, he had more growing pains in his first season than dominating games. Towards the end of his first season, I realized that my public defense of Yao wasn’t because I really admired his game and thought he was the best center in the league, but there was just some natural primitive sensation for me to have to say that I liked the Asian NBA player. I played four years of basketball in high school as a small forward/SG and I lived in Los Angeles (laker/Shaq) land when Yao got drafted, so I really couldn’t relate to his basketball techniques or vouch that he was going to be the best center in the league. During the end of his second season I made an ephiphany that my love for Yao wasn’t genuine but more of a duty to my fellow asian brother.

    However, during the past few seasons I found myself really enjoying the Rockets and Yao. Of course, I had to check myself to see if I was being honest to myself, but as he started to play better and his personality came out I realized I had become a genuine YAO fan! His play has progressively gotten better, but what really attracts me to him is his personality and character as a person. I respect his humility, humbleness, and strength as a global icon/leader. Never once have I read a quote by him and think, “what a typical, rich ungrateful SOB athlete!” Today, I can honestly say that I am a huge fan and I will continue to follow his career until he retires. Even when he gets injured, misses free throws/layups, gets tired, loses, etc.

    So, I just hope this brought back some memories of why and when you started to become a beliver. I also wanted to say THANKS to John and all the other people that work on this website. Your dedication to bringing your opinions and insights on Rockets games and Yao, really helps the people who don’t get the games on TV. Now, I don’t agree with everything you say, but I respect your opinions and enjoy reading your observations. Hey, the best sports writers and commentators in history had the most controversial/opinionated personalities. I know that after the 45 second Rockets game highlight recap I see on ESPN News, I can come to this website and really get some in depth description.

    So…please keep up the good work and continue to post! I know you do this for fun and out of your heart so with that, all the patrons to this site owe you thanks! Just remember on those dark days when you don’t want to post, there are plenty of people that come here who NEED YOU! I mean, I have never posted in my life but have been reading your articles for the last few years. To many of us Yao fans, you are OUR Bob Costas, Dan Patrick, Stuart Scott, Bill Walton, Stephen A. Jackson,etc.

    With that I say, God Bless and keep up the great work!


    Hey James, thanks for your perspective on following Yao over the past few years, and for the awesome note to me. That’s one of the nicest and most inspiring emails I’ve ever received. First, I have to give credit to Raymond/pryuen for being so dedicated in the YaoMania! forum by posting photos, translations, and observations of Yao when is over in China that would be very difficult for me to find. It’s efforts like his that help keep me going. He is truly an inspiration.

    I have to admit there are many days where I ask myself if it’s worth it. I thought when I started the site over 5 1/2 years ago that I would be able to run the site as a full-time endeavor, but the economics of making money on the Internet makes that a very difficult proposition. For example, even with the PamBee ad I have had on the site for the past few weeks, it has generated no sales, so I’m not making any money from that (seems par for the course for any ad I have on the site). But that’s okay. It has been a learning experience, and there is alot of value to be gained from that. As a result, though, I have to work a full-time job and it becomes a difficult strain to balance a demanding job and a personal life (my wife is a Saint for being so understanding).

    But when I get emails like yours, it really helps. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to blog as much as I have done in the past because of time constraints and other life demands. I know I would miss it if I stopped cold turkey, though. Maybe my blog posts will become shorter (although it’s very difficult to hold back when I see the team screwing up), or I won’t do them as often — maybe once a week. Who knows what will happen. But regardless of what happens, I will be thinking of readers like you who appreciate what I do, and I will consider it seriously when thinking of my future plans.

    Thanks again for the kinds words!


  5. Jack Says:

    Great responses from everybody! Love to hear and read all blogs. Yesterday, the Rockets won because they kept on passing the ball to Yao. He was great from every angle. Let’s hope the Rockets keep up it up in Oakland tonight. Also, great to see S.Franchise back. He was always very supportive of Yao when he first came into the NBA so now it’s Yao turn to welcome him back. Talk you all soon!

  6. Brian Says:

    Hey John,

    Thanks for continuing to update your blog. I really enjoy reading it.
    Gotta give more love to Chuck Hayes though, he was defending everybody last night.

    Brian, I think Hayes is a good defender, but I think he gambles too much. I see that slowing down my DVR and seeing how much room he gives his own man to help out in defending other players. That can make you look like a stud at times defending other players, but look foolish when you leave a guy like Shawn Marion wide open for threes. It’s just like a cornerback in football who can look good making the spectacular play, but look bad when burned badly for a touchdown. I think the coaches need to tell him better who he gambles on. Right now it looks like he’s free to freelance on defense. — John

  7. Jim From Hollywood CA! Says:

    Saw the whole game guys. Yao really wanted that game. Maybe because of the fact that he was foing against Amare who won the rookie of the year the year Yao came into the league, Close reace for that one. Im glad Steve Francis was in late. He gives them a solid offensive option. we all know that TMac wants to score, its just in his nature, But if he wants to do that then why not also get the team say 8 or nine rebounds. I guess im just really impressed how Lebron James gets his whole team involved and manages to score 28 pts, 8 assists and 10 boards almost every night! Tmac needs to get his team involved more. I really think Steve Francis will be the difference this year in getting over the Hump. As for tonight I think it will be a very close game. My heart says Rockets by 4!

  8. Daniel Zhu Says:

    Dear John,

    I too have been an eager reader of your blogs and share exactly the same sentiments as James. I don’t know how you gonna keep this up but sure wish you find a way to do it.

    Yao is inspirational to me both on the basketball court (pick-up games) and in other areas of life (as an Asian American and as a human being in general).

    Thanks a million!


  9. arthur ko Says:

    wow, there’s so much love on this string of posts after a great victory by the Rockets- I might as well jump on and confess my constant and secretly fun visits to this website almost daily for the past 4 years. Even before Yao officially entered in the nba, I found this site and began reading up on every piece of information so I too, would like to express my appreciation. I wish there were a way to have this pay off better for John besides just the emotional gratification or whatever you call it from being a loyal Yao supporter. If I may suggest, John- maybe you can set up a subject for charging 5/10/15 dollars a month and see how people respond to that. I think if you were to convey your efforts and side of the story well enough, many people would understand. Many of the people who visit this site are loyal, and then maybe we could set up a staff to help out with the general summaries. We could have volunteers who watched the game write their in depth analyses out. Anyway John, you’re doing a great job. I’m a UCSD graduate of 04 and live in LA where I secretly wish Yao would be traded to but accept it won’t happen. Later!

    Hey Arthur, thanks for the love. It’s always good to hear from loyal readers. I’ll think about those ideas you have mentioned. I might reconsider doing a “tip jar” like I did a few years ago (it was too much trouble to create a subscription-based, password-protected site, etc.), then stopped the tip jar after I started putting ads on the site, but maybe I restart that since ads don’t really make any money. I’ve also had some volunteers help out in the past, but sometimes it’s hard for people to keep the commitment once they realize how much work it is. But I’ll keep you posted on these ideas you mentioned. Thanks again for your support. — John

  10. poohesco Says:

    g.s. defense is horrible…rox win tonight!

  11. Eric Says:

    Like James, I have never responded to any post on BBall but your site is my regularly visited place for Yao’s latest update as well as Sohu’s

    Keep up with your work as there are more followers of your site than you may think and we all support your fantastic effort behind the scene!

    Thanks, Eric! — John

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