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Rockets even record against Raptors

December 29th, 2007
by John
Yao Ming double-pumps in mid-air over Toronto's Rasho Nesterovic before shooting the ball toward the basket, which bounced around the rim for a bucket in the fourth quarter.  Yao led the way in the fourth quarter with 8 big points, and would lead all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting, and 9-of-9 from the free throw line, to give Houston a 91-79 victory over the Raptors.Yao Ming double-pumps in mid-air over Toronto’s Rasho Nesterovic before shooting the ball toward the basket, which bounced around the rim for a bucket in the fourth quarter. Yao led the way in the fourth quarter with 8 big points, and would lead all scorers with 25 points on 8-of-19 shooting, and 9-of-9 from the free throw line, to give Houston a 91-79 victory over the Raptors.

The Rockets found a way to win their second game in a row without Tracy McGrady and go 15-15 on the season, beating the Toronto Raptors 91-79. It wasn’t a pretty win, but when the Rockets needed to get over the hump in the fourth quarter, Yao Ming was The Man. In a stretch of about 5 minutes, Yao scored 8 points to help put the game away

At the 6:43 mark in the fourth, Yao calmly hit a turnaround jumper to make it 76-70. On the next possession, he elevated for a jump shot from just outside the left side of the lane, double-pumped in the air (pictured above), then threw up a shot that rattled on the rim a couple of times and dropped through to make it 78-72. When you’ve got a soft shooting touch, you’re going to get some nice bounces on the rim that will fall your way.

Then at the 5:39 mark, Yao did his favorite spin move on the baseline against Rasho Nesterovic, and Rasho fouled him. Yao went to the line and made both free throws to make it 80-72.

On the ensuing Raptor possession, Yao showed he wasn’t all about offense. Chris Bosh made a strong move to the hole, but Yao was able to get there in time to draw a charge! That play got the Houston bench on their feet applauding Yao for sacrificing his body.

A short time later with 4:21 remaining, Yao went baseline again, this time on Kris Humphries, and was fouled again. Yao would step to the line and hit both free throws to make it 82-74.

Finally, at the 2:30 mark, Yao turned baseline again, this time on Bosh, then spun away from the baseline to draw 4 different Raptors to him since they thought he would go up for a shot from underneath the rim. That’s when Yao astutely kicked the ball out to Luther Head wide open behind the three-point line, and Luther drilled it! That made it 85-75. I hadn’t seen that many players converge on a Rocket player since the Hakeem Olajuwon days, and makes you realize just how much other NBA teams respect Yao as an offensive weapon.

About a minute later Shane Battier sealed the win with a three-pointer from 3 feet behind the arc to make it 88-77. For good measure, Rafer Alston hit his fifth three-pointer of the game with 5.2 seconds remaining, a ‘garbage’ three, for the final points of the game to make it 91-79.

Until that fourth quarter when the Rockets made their move, the Rockets and Raptors were in a slugfest as both teams shot horribly. Houston finished the game shooting 39.5% while Toronto shot 37%, and that was an improvement from their halftime shooting when both teams only shot 37%, and were knotted up at 40-40 at the half. It was enough to make you want to change the channel and watch the historic New England Patriots quest to go 16-0 in their season, but I stuck with the game, and when Yao turned it on late, it made it all worth it.

It was also worth seeing Rafer Alston have one of his best games this season. After playing poorly the night before when he was only 4-for-13 and had 4 turnovers, he was a difference maker by hitting 5-of-6 three-pointers and 6-of-12 overall for 18 points. That means he was only 1-of-6 from inside the 3-point line, missing several layups, which isn’t unusual for him. But at least he made up for it with the 5 threes, and he only had one turnover.

So you’ve got 25 points for Yao and 18 points for Alston. Unlike the night before where the Rockets had 6 guys finish with double-digit scoring, they had 5 players this time contribute significant points, and that was Luther Head, Battier, and Bonzi Wells. Head and Battier together made 5-of-13 three-pointers and scored 13 and 10 points, respectively. Combine that with Alston’s 5 treys, and you’ve got a very good 10-of-22 shooting from behind the arc compared to Toronto’s 2-of-10. Those threes, the Rockets 23 assists compared to the Raptors 18, and 17-of-19 free throws made versus Toronto’s 9-of-17, was really the difference.

Battier had one of the most exciting plays we’ve seen from him in a long time that wasn’t a three-pointer. After Alston hit a three with just a few seconds remaining before halftime, Battier store Toronto’s inbounds pass at half court, and then with the knowledge that he had to do something quick before time expired, he took it strong to the hole, elevated, and with his right arm, extended the ball away from a Chris Bosh block attempt, scooped it under Bosh’s arm “Dr. J” style and laid it off the glass for the score! Battier should do that more often! That hustle play and acrobatic move tied the game at 40-40 headed into halftime.

By that time, if you looked at the boxscore you’d see that no player had double-digit points (I wonder if that has ever happened in an NBA game before?), and only Battier and Toronto’s Jamario Moon had more than two field goals (they both had 3 each). Bonzi had two field goals, but he had missed 9 others for a hideous 2-of-11 shooting.

But there’s something about Bonzi’s misses that aren’t as maddening as other players who would miss that many shots. Even if Bonzi misses, he doesn’t give up and just seems to keep attacking the rim, unlike another player on the team (cough cough). And if Bonzi misses, he’s always strong on the boards, which he was Saturday night as he finished with 10 rebounds. He also can hurt you with his passing, as he did Saturday with 5 assists. From the field, Bonzi would finish 4-of-17 overall for 13 points, with 2 of those second-half field goals coming off dunks.

One of those dunks came off a beautiful pass from Yao, who threw an overhead bullet pass from behind the three-point line to Bonzi down low for a one-handed slam to make it 46-44. The other dunk came when Chuck Hayes, from the high post, dropped a pass off to Bonzi down low for a dunk. That was the second time in as many nights where Hayes played the high post and delivered a pass down low for an easy shot. As offensively challenged as Hayes is, he’s actually not that bad of a passer.

Heading into the third quarter, Yao had played an incredible 23 out of 24 minutes, and you had to wonder why coach Rick Adelman had decided to play Yao so many minutes early on, especially on the second night of a back-to-back. That had to be a record for Yao.

The third quarter was fairly uneventful, except for a few plays like Yao’s aforementioned pass to Bonzi for a dunk.

Things stayed fairly close until the fourth quarter when the Rockets made their move to get separation from the Raptors. At the 7:30 mark, Luis Scola hit one of his beautiful, high trajectory jumpers that hit nothing but net to make it 74-70. After that, Yao went to work to put the game away as I described earlier.

On the Aaron Brooks front, he only played 14 minutes and made 2-of-7 shots, with one of those scores coming off a sweet reverse from underneath the rim that made you say, “How did he do that?” and another one coming off a fast break where he jetted to the basket for a layup off a fast break led by Alston. You can tell the Toyota Center crowd has come to expect very exciting things from Brooks anytime he takes it strong to the hole. As disappointing as the Rockets’ season has been thus far, you can tell Rocket fans are still watching since they seem to understand what Brooks can do.

Now the Rockets have won 2 in a row in a back-to-back situation, the first time they have done since March 2006, and are back to the .500 mark at 15-15. We’ll see if McGrady’s probable return on Monday against Golden State will mess up the Rockets’ flow to hit as many three-pointers like they did on Saturday night, and general improvement in moving the ball.

Speaking of McGrady, why doesn’t he sit on the bench when he’s injured and not cheer his teammates on when almost every other injured player in the league does that? Damn, even injured T.J. Ford was on the bench in street clothes for the Raptors. Is it too “beneath” McGrady to be with his teammates when he can’t play? He’s really starting to bug me. It may not be strong enough grounds to be traded, but you just wish he would be more professional about what he says and does.

9 Responses to “Rockets even record against Raptors”

  1. Brian Says:

    Great win for us. Its been hard for rocket fans lately…but gotta be strong and not give up on our team.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Me-Mac is a quitter. The Rockets definitely played good yesterday and tonight without Tracie McLady. We need to trade McLady!

  3. James Ma Says:

    Give a lot of credit to Chuck Hayes for the win tonight as well. His defense on Bosh was awesome and helped keep the Rockets in the game.

    I disagree with those who say that T-Mac has become a liability. I believe he’ll find a way to fit his considerable talents into Adelman’s system and make the Rockets that much better for it. Every player is still trying to figure the system out and some progress has been made. T-Mac is no exception.

    Best of all, Yao is really a changed man this season. He is leading and is playing with the grit, determination and toughness we’ve all been waiting to see.

  4. Kaolin Says:

    Does this mean you have officially dropped the “Rick Idleman” name or was that a typo? Just curious 🙂

    I’ll use the “Idleman” name for those occasions he fails to make changes when he should, either with players in the line-up, or anything else that shows he’s being too laid back. That means in one part of my write-up, he could be “Adelman” and in another part of the same story, be “Idleman.” — John

  5. Jackie Says:

    I hate to say it, but Tracie McLady is a chemistry breaker. It seems like Rockets are playing much better without Tracie McLady. Everyone is sharing the ball, there’s more ball movement, and the result was everyone contributed in one way or the other.

    Yao was a stud tonight, playing with the flu.

    I’m still not too fond of the hiring Rick Idleman ever since the beginning. Rick Idleman’s Princeton offense is not suitable for this Rockets roster that’s assembled to play half court offense. Right now, Rockets are struggling with this up-tempo offense and their defense took a back step from the Jeff Van Gundy days. Rockets needs to hire a coach that is good at coaching half court offense and stresses defense. The perfect candidate for our next coach in my opinion is Rick Carlisle and Phil Jackson. Of course Phil Jackson is out of the wish list, but Rick Carlisle is a good candidate.

  6. Paul Says:

    What has happened to Yao’s shot?

    He used to have a nice arch on his shot but now it’s turned into line drive and a lot more bricks off the side of the rim. It looks like someone has convinced him to throw line drive shots at the basket instead of shooting it up. I haven’t seen him shoot the jumper consistently this season. He used to run off 3 to 4 jumpers in a row with ease. Now I see him hit maybe two in a game. Why has he changed his shot all of the sudden in his 6th season?

    John, you get close to Yao for interviews. Can you ask him why his gone from a soft feathery nice arch shot to a line drive brick?

    I’ll start watching to see if I see the same thing you’re seeing. I will hopefully start going to Toyota Center near the tail-end of the season where I can see Yao and ask him these kinds of question. — John

  7. jeff Says:

    I agree to Paul’s observation. It is very obvious in the free throws. There is no arch. It is confirmed. If JVG is still here, timely advice would have been given to Yao. I remember JVG once said that he was a fan of Ray Allen, because Ray had the most beautiful arch in his shots. Of course, we do not expect such sharp observation from our present Head Coach. He even does not know that Scola and Brooks are valuable assets of the team and try hard to forget about them. May be , in the next week, Scola will find himself in the D-league. For Disaster Idleman, it will be a very normal decision.

  8. Allen Says:

    What do you mean it is obvious in his free throws? At one point this season he had 30+ straight free throws, and is setting a career mark for free throw shooting. I think you guys are watching a different player.

  9. richard Says:

    tracie mclady….haaaa you are soooo creative JACKIE….

    i’m confuse about tracy…..i like the guy, he’s a good ball player and a great playmaker…but he takes too many jump shots lately and trash talk about yao vs. howard a little too much….

    this season, rocket is a much much more fun team to watch…..i forward to every single rocket game and starting to watch as many bucks game as well….got to support chairman yi too…..

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