When thinking of providing my comments on the Rockets-Hornets game Sunday afternoon, I was going to try to do another podcast, but the pain in my shoulder is even worse, so I will just type up something brief here using one hand in shorter sentences. It took me longer than I thought to type this, so please forgive any typos.
The Hornets were the better team Sunday in stopping Houston’s 5-game winning streak right when they started feeling good about themselves. They hit shots and the Rockets didn’t. Yao was a monster, scoring 30 points, grabbing 16 boards, and 4 blocks. He did miss some chip shots he would normally make, including a jump hook in the lane with 18 seconds remaining. But without him, it would have been bad.
He also had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer, of all things, with 7 seconds remaining, but it fell just short. It would have been something if he had made it. Not only would that shot have been on ESPN Sportscenter, but he could have become a legitimate 3-point shot option for game-winning or game-tying shots in the future. Remember, with him being 7’6” and shooting a high trajectory shot like that, no one can block his shot from way out there. I think it was just as good of a shot as anyone else could have attempted. No one else seemed to be moving around to say “I’m open,” and Yao being the leader he is, he took on the responsibility. It wasn’t meant to be.
He did have two consecutive plays with just under 2 minutes remaining where he turned the ball over. On both plays, I watched the replays on my recording of the game over and over, and despite everyone saying he was fouled by Tyson Chandler, it looked like the ball slipped out of his hand, and that’s because I thought he was trying to rush the shot because he was going to get a 3-second violation (it wasn’t called by the refs) but he knew it must have been coming. The other guys took too long to get him the ball, so it wasn’t his fault he was in the lane that long. And if there hadn’t been a turnover, then it probably would have been a 3-second violation.
On the second turnover right after that, Chandler slapped his hand down on the ball, and I checked the replay again and again and it looked like Chandler got all ball, but on the follow through Chandler hit Yao’s wrist. However, Ithink the rules might say that isn’t a foul. If you hit the ball before the hand, I think the hand contact is considered incidental, kind of like when you block a shot and follow through to make contact with the shooter’s arm.
Aaron Brooks played well with 11 points, including a span in the second quarter where he scored 8 points in 7 minutes. Instant offense. I liked how he was aggressive on one play where he took it to the rack through 3 defenders and was fouled. Fearless. On another play, he led a fast break, then stopped and popped at the free throw line to swish it. What talent to do that. I can’t wait until he is a higher priority option in the offense during crunch time, right after Yao. He’s used to hitting big shots in college, so there’s no reason why he can’t do that in the pros.
Adelman put Brooks into the game late when everyone knew the Hornets would give it to Chris Paul to help them get the lead. So everyone must have thought that Brooks was going to defend CP3, which would have been a smart move, you’d think. That didn’t happen. Instead, it was Rafer Alston ‘defending’ CP3, who burned him and scored easily on a layup. I know that help defense is needed in that situation, but at least put a quicker guy like Brooks who can slow the guy down. Alston plays matatdor defense way too much. Instead, Adelman told Yao that he needed to “back up” in that situation to make the shot more difficult. How about some D on the perimeter? Or maybe a double-team? Make other guys beat you, not CP3, because he WILL beat you.
Rockets offense was very one-dimensional in the 3rd quarter. Yao was doing all the work, basically, with 13 points. Again, Chuck Hayes and Shane Battier offer nothing offensively (they both scored an amazingly low 2 points each!). I was upset they didn’t put Luis Scola in when they were struggling. Even Bill Worrell, Houston’s announcer, couldn’t believe they left Shane and Hayes in there that long. And Bill almost never criticizes.
Carl Landry played again for the second game in a row. He looked good in his brief 6 minute stint. At least Adelman is playing a promising rookie. Who knows, he could be grooming him and Luis Scola to take more of Hayes’ minutes. Landry reminds me a little bit of former Rocket Kenny Thomas. Similar body. Quick around the basket. I think Landry is quicker, though, and I think his outside shot may be better. We’ll see.
Rafer Alston (12 points on 4-for-13) and Luther Head (11 points on 4-for-11) were underwhelming compared to Chris Paul, who had 19 points and hit that big shot down the stretch. That’s when it really counts. Alston started off a poor 2-for-10 until he hit a couple of shots (including an unintended bank shot) and 2 free throws at the end of the third. Luther didn’t seem aggressive like in recent games.
Lesson learned? Guards need to keep moving the ball and attack the basket, and play Scola and Brooks more.