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Yao and McGrady have off night in Indy, but Carl cleans up in 4th

February 1st, 2008
by John
Yao Ming blocked Mike Dunleavy's layup attempt with 4 minutes remaining in the Rockets' game against Indiana.  Although Yao 'only' scored 17 points in the game, this block was huge since the Rockets were still trailing at the time 99-97.  Rookie Carl Landry scored a game-high 22 points to help the Rockets pull out a close game in the fourth quarter.Yao Ming blocked Mike Dunleavy’s layup attempt with 4 minutes remaining in the Rockets’ game against Indiana. Although Yao ‘only’ scored 17 points in the game, this block was huge since the Rockets were still trailing at the time 99-97. Rookie Carl Landry scored a game-high 22 points to help the Rockets pull out a close game in the fourth quarter.

The Rockets started their 3-game road trip in Indiana realizing the pressure was on them to win all 3 of these games against teams who probably won’t make the playoffs (Milwaukee on Saturday and Minnesota on Monday). If they don’t win these very ‘winnable’ games, the Rockets’ chances of making the playoffs themselves will take a huge hit.

So you think they would come out determined to put the clamps on early against a struggling Indiana team that had lost 4 in a row and 14 of their last 18, right? Not so.

They ultimately got the job done by winning the game 106-103, but the star who pulled them through wasn’t Yao or Tracy McGrady. It was rookie Carl Landry, who came back to the state where he played college (Purdue) and was a monster in the fourth quarter.

Rarely do you see a rookie make his first homecoming (of sorts) and be the X-factor in a game in front of his college team’s fans, former college coaches, and teammates. But that’s what Landry did. Landry scored 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, including 5-of-6 in the fourth quarter and 3-of-4 from the line for 13 points.

There is no doubt there is something really special about this kid. That’s what we had heard from the Rockets’ coaching staff and teammates about Landry in practice while he bided his time on the bench earlier this season, and by what he has showed us over the past couple of weeks since getting some playing time.

But after what he did on Friday night, those days of waiting his turn are a distant memory. Landry was aggressive taking it to the rim in the fourth quarter, scoring on 2 dishes from Aaron Brooks for dunks, spinning on the baseline for a beautiful score down low, and even hitting a jumper in the lane with 1:07 remaining. He also did some damage on the defensive boards by grabbing a couple of rebounds late.

He did so much, it’s hard to explain in just one or two paragraphs, so I’m going to do something I haven’t done in awhile. I have described the final few minutes of the fourth quarter at the bottom of this post so you can get a better feel for what Landry did, what the Rockets did poorly (look for the word ‘McGrady’ in the descriptions), and how the Rockets ultimately pulled this game out.

Before Landry saved the day by injecting some energy into the offense and grabbing boards on the offensive and defensive glass, the Rockets were pathetic on defense. They couldn’t stop the Pacers from getting easy layups and three-pointers, who shot an amazing 12-of-19 from behind the arc before missing their last 5 three-pointers.

I was disgusted with what I saw at times on offense, too. Same old McGrady jacking up jumpers and killing the movement of the offense (6-of-19 from the floor), getting beat down the floor late in the game by Mike Dunleavy for an easy layup, and traveling on an important fast break late in the game to turn the ball over. To be fair, McGrady did hit 3-of-6 three-pointers (shockingly), dished 9 assists, and grabbed 5 boards.

Rafer Alston was awful. In the first half he scored no points (0-for-5), had no assists and had no rebounds. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a starting point guard get ‘0’s across all 3 categories in a first half…ever. He then started the second half missing a teardrop in the lane and missing an easy layup next to the rim. That put him in an 0-for-7 shooting hole. Fortunately he would go on to make 3 out of his last 4 shots in the game to finish with 7 points along with 3 assists.

I’ve been thinking lately that Alston’s erratic play at point guard is not really all his fault. He must know he’s not good enough to be starting for this team, but other players the front office have brought in like Steve Francis and Mike James haven’t panned out as hoped, so he’s having to fill the spot until the Rockets find the right guy to play point guard, hopefully before the February 21st trading deadline.

I still think that guy could be Aaron Brooks, though. In just one-third the minutes that Alston played (36 minutes vs. 12 for Brooks), AB had 6 points and 3 assists. Do the math, and it’s obvious who deserves to play more minutes.

Yao usually dominates against Indiana, having averaged 31.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and shooting 54.2% from the floor in his last 3 games against them. But he only shot 33% (4-of-12 field goals) and made 9-of-12 from the line on Friday (75% instead of his average of 85%). He did have a huge block, though, when he got his only block of the game against Mike Dunleavy on a layup attempt with 4 minutes remaining (pictured above) with the Rockets still leading the game 99-97.

It’s kind of strange how the teams Yao has done poorly against in the past, like Golden State, he has done well against lately like in his last game (36 points and 19 rebounds on Tuesday night). But against Indiana on Friday he didn’t dominate like he usually does. He did grab 12 rebounds and didn’t turn the ball over AT ALL, though.

In addition to rookies like Landry and Brooks, another first-year player who did some damage was Luis Scola by scoring 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting. It’s official: the Rockets’ 2006-07 weakness of not having athletic, scoring power forwards is now addressed with Scola and Landry. Check. Now let’s get do something similar at point guard, please.

If you add up all the Rockets rookies’ scoring against the Pacers, you’ve got 40 points. Not bad, not bad at all. Unfortunately, second-year player Steve Novak, who in esence is a rookie since he hardly played last year, was 0-for-3. But Novak was due a bad game after hitting 7 of his last 9 shots over the past two games.

It’s been well publicized lately in the local media, but Landry grew up in Milwaukee where the Rockets play on Saturday night. In that game we all know the Yao – Yi Jianlian rematch will be closely watched, but you’ve got to be a little interested to see if Landry will play even better in the town where he grew up. It’s hard to imagine him playing much better than he did on Friday night.

And don’t forget about Novak, who was at Marquette just a couple of years ago. Novak will probably get some playing time as a Rocket for the first time in the town where he went to college. I have a feeling he will do something special in front of his friends and family Saturday night.

As a side note, Luther Head pulled his groin in the first half, so that means Mike James will probably get activated and get some playing time in Milwaukee, where he played in the 2004-2005 season for 47 games.

Here’s that play-by-play from the end of the fourth quarter I promised you.

First, I must point out that Brooks, Landry, and Scola are in the game in the fourth quarter. You’ve got to love the confidence Rick Adelman now has in the rookies late in the game like this!

7:44 – Brooks penetrates into the lane dishes to Landry along the baseline who takes it strong to the rack and throws it down, and he’s fouled! Landry hits the free throw, making it 88-86, Indiana.

7:32 – The Pacers turn the ball over, and Brooks dribbles it up the court quickly to start a semi-fast break. Once he gets to the three-point line, Brooks bounces a perfect pass to Landry on the baseline, and Landry goes under the rim, elevates, and throws it down again! You can hear Rocket fans in the crowd (and maybe Landry fans, too) cheer on that one! The game is tied at 88-88.

7:12 – Kareem Rush of the Pacers hits a 3-pointer. 91-88, Indiana. The Pacers are 12-of-19 from behind the arc.

6:53 – McGrady jacks up a long two-pointer with 9 seconds remaining on the shot clock instead of trying to get the ball to Landry, who has the hot hand, or anyone else on the team. McGrady’s jumper is a brick.

6:44 – Kareem Rush is left wide-open for a 3-pointer with McGrady at least 12 feet away from him, but fortunately for Houston Rush’s foot was barely on the sideline. Turnover Indy.

6:25 – Scola dribbles the ball from the 3-point line down to the low block against Jeff Foster. Scola accidentally drops the ball, and Foster tries to go for the steal, but Scola recovers in time to pick up the loose ball and has an open look at the basket since Foster has taken himself out of defensive position by diving to the floor trying to steal the ball. So Scola just leans in toward the basket and lays it in off the glass! Huge bucket! 91-90, Indy.

6:10 – Shawne Williams drives it from the 3-point line to the hole and scores easily.

6:01 – Brooks tries to bounce a pass to McGrady, who is posting up his man, but the ball is stolen by Jamaal Tinsley, who throws a long pass from the free throw line in the backcourt to a streaking Mike Dunleavy at the other end of the court, who lays it in for the score. McGrady got burned badly by Dunleavy with just good old-fashioned hustle to score on that one. 95-90, Indiana.

5:43 – McGrady FINALLY takes it to the hole for the first time, and he’s fouled. I think this is the first time in the game he was aggressive and took it into the paint. McGrady hits both free throws. 95-92, Indiana.

5:29 – Danny Granger comes around a Jeff Foster pick and hits a jumper. 97-92, Indiana.

5:15 – McGrady jacks up a jumper and misses. The rebound goes out of bounds off Indiana. Rockets’ ball.

5:00 – Alston hits a jumper after the Rockets moved the ball around on offense. Alston did a good job of faking out his man to get an even more open look. 97-94 Indiana

4:42 – McGrady steals the ball and starts dribbling it up court on a fast break, but he travels and turns it over!

4:26 – Foster scores on a layup on a pick-and-roll with Mike Dunleavy. Bad defense. 99-94, Indiana. The Pacers have hit 8 shots in a row. Where’s the defense?

4:09 – Alston throws a pass from the 3-point line down to Landry in front of the paint. Landry reverse pivots against Foster, then elevates and scores! And he’s fouled! HUGE play since the Rockets trail by 5 points! Landry hits the FT, making it 99-97, Indiana.

4:00 – Mike Dunleavy takes it strong to the hoop, but Yao Ming comes over to help on defense and blocks it! Great D by Yao, which is his only block in the game, and it came at a great time. FINALLY SOME DEFENSE!

3:45 – Alston throws a pass to Landry on the left baseline, and Landry quickly does a beautiful spin move that gets him an open look for a layup and a score! WOW! WHAT SPEED! The score is now 99-99! That was Landry’s 10th point of the quarter! I can’t remember the last time I saw this many nifty moves by a rookie down in the paint, except maybe some of Scola’s!

3:33 – The Pacers miss a 3-pointer, and Landry grabs the defensive rebound.

3:14 – McGrady kills Landry’s momentum by jacking up a 3-pointer and missing. There’s an argument that he was wide open, so he should have taken the shot. But McGrady isn’t that great of a 3-point shooter, so the Pacers may be daring him to shoot it and instead collapse down low on Yao and Landry.

3:07 – Travis Diener just misses a 3-pointer.

2:51 – McGrady dribbles into the lane and dishes to Yao for a layup! 101-99 Houston! See, good things happen when McGrady takes it into the paint!

2:25 – Landry ‘fouls’ Troy Murphy on a jump shot along the baseline, although Landry may have had position and Murphy might have jumped into Landry to draw the foul. Murphy makes both FTs. 101-101

2:02 – Yao misses a fadeaway jumper along the baseline a little too far away from the basket than what he’s usually comfortable with.

1:48 – Mike Dunleavy misses a 3-pointer. Good thing the Pacers are settling for 3-pointers. They are now cold from behind the arc. They may have missed 3 in a row from there.

1:07 – The Pacers double-team Alston with the ball, leaving Carl Landry wide open at the elbow of the lane. Alston does a good job passing out of the double-team to get the ball to Landry, who takes a jump shot with x seconds remaining on the shot clock, and HE NAILS IT! 103-101 Houston!

1:10 – Danny Granger drives to the hole on McGrady, but misses a tough layup attempt off the glass. But the ball comes down to Jeff Foster in front of the basket, and Foster puts the shot back up, BUT HE MISSES IT! Granger and Landry both grab the rebound, resulting in a jump ball. Good hustle by Landry! On the jump ball, Landry tips the ball too strong out of bounds, giving the Pacers the ball.

:56.1 – Dunleavy shoots a jump shot that misses. Jeff Foster grabs the rebound, but is fouled by Landry. It’s not a shooting foul, though.

:47.8 – On the inbounds play, Diener misses a jumper, and LANDRY IS FOULED BY TROY MURPHY ON THE REBOUND! That sends Landry to the free throw line. Landry makes 1-of-2 free throws. It’s now 104-101 Houston.

:32.0 – Dunleavy scores easily on a drive to the basket. 104-103 Houston. BAD DEFENSE.


:6.3 – Diener misses a 3-pointer, and Battier is fouled over the back by Dunleavy. Battier goes to the line and makes BOTH free throws to make it 106-103, Houston.

After some decent defense by the Rockets, Mike Dunleavy shoots a long 3-pointer a couple of feet behind the arc, and MISSES! THE ROCKETS ESCAPE WITH A VICTORY AFTER THE PACERS MISS THEIR LAST 5 THREE-POINTERS (at least 5).

11 Responses to “Yao and McGrady have off night in Indy, but Carl cleans up in 4th”

  1. curtis Says:

    is it possible landry is just an one time wonder or could he be the succeeder of yao and becomes the face of houston? I think he ‘s got potential and he could be the bynum of the lakers, so where is yao’s place then, he may have to work harder now with landry is doing so well.

    curtis, i applaud your optimism, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. it’s only been a couple of weeks. even if landry becomes as good as we hope he’s going to be, he would play power forward (like he did in the fourth quarter with yao tonight). there will be room for landry/scola to play along side yao and dominate together. kind of like hakeem and ralph. regarding bynum, bynum plays center and pau gasol will play power forward.

    what could be really said is that a logjam at power forward could develop with scola and landry both playing well, and if the rockets are serious about getting a big name point guard (jason kidd?), one of them would probably have to be part of a package deal. that’s why i hope the rockets will give aaron brooks a shot to start or play big minutes before giving up one of these guys in a trade. — john

  2. AR Says:

    Look at the number of shots T-Mac took in the game, how pathetic it is the percentage! The 13 points with 2 minutes against Spurs was just so distance. We don’t expect such abnormities take place so often. Did Oldman and T-Mac realize that he took too many pull-up jumper shots and too awful????

  3. Latik Says:

    I don’t know what’s up with Alston. He played well when Tmac was out with injury. As soon as Tmac returned, he was back to his old self. Maybe it is merely a coincidence, but he seemed to play with a lot less confidence when Tmac was playing. Maybe because Alston touched the ball less? initiate the offense less when Tmac was the court? The PG production has been the Achilles’heel of the team.

  4. Brian Says:

    Great coverage man, thanks a lot.
    Go rockets!

  5. monster Says:

    I am a little concerned about the lack of flow when Tmac is on the court. When he is hot it covers up. But he is not the Tmac of old times. He is off more than he is on. I hope he can blend in and do things in the flow. I am a little sick of him catching the ball and reseting the offense.

  6. Wilson Says:




  7. JVG Says:

    The new starters line up would be better if this combo works :
    Wells (Tmac plays in the end of 4th quarter last 10 minutes)

    this combo will damage any teams who tries to double-team Yao, caz Brooks can dribble and deliver assists to any open players for shots and lay ups, with Scola and Landry along Yao’s side, they all able to finish the jobs, get an offensive rebound, box out, and share Yao’s load, unlike Hayes and Battier, and Rafer, not a high % done deal.

    2nd Unit :
    Tmac (6-man)
    Head/James/Kirk/Rafer(would appreciate if he just sits through every game)

    Since Tmac likes to be the super star, in 2nd unit, it would be a hard match-up for any teams 2nd unit, and his supporting cast would let him shoot as many shots as he likes to, without hurting Rockets that much, plus 2nd unit is a strong defensive unit, other teams would have a very difficult time to score, and Tmac can save his energy to join the starters in 4th quarter.

    Rafer is the main reason that Rockets still remains to be an outside elite team contenders, Tmac’s ill-advised jumpers is the major reason Rockets scores are mostly behind other teams, he should ONLY shoot 10~12 shots a game, no 3pts, leave that to Brooks and Novak, they got better skills in that area, what Tmac’s remaining value is penetrated and dish out assists, attracts double-team and creates open shots for team mates, but I doubt that he is willing to take that role and think of the team 1st instead of himself and his name brand shoes.

    If Rockets could trade Rafer, Battier, Hayes, and Kirk for a better/super point guard, with Brooks and whoever runs the back court, Rocket would be a very competed team next season.

    Brooks needs more time to jell with their starters line up, once their chemistry being developed, they should be running like an well-oiled machine.


  8. kai Says:

    So I watched this game and the previous one against Golden State. And to be honest, I think Tmac really shouldn’t have played that much. When he’s in the game, he hurts the play of Yao and Alston and takes playing time away from Bonzi Wells and Luther Head. Also the ball movement was once again JVG-like in this game, thank goodness we were playing against a hopeless team.

    I am not sure if anyone noticed, but there were many times he could have passed to Yao but chose not to. It’s almost like he doesn’t want Yao to have a big night. And other players, like Bonzi, Alston and Luther are less aggressive when Tmac’s in the game. He also played horribly in this game on D.

    I think the talk of Yao finally taking over this team has Tmac a little pissed off, and thus hurting the chemistry between him and Yao. Really at this point, I think the rockets need to trade Tmac or Yao. They are not Tmac’s team anymore, and they can win without him. I would really like it if they can package him one way or another to NJ for Jefferson and Kidd. Though that would be unlikely.

    I also wonder how the Lakers would feel about trading Gasol + Bynum to Houston for Yao. Now that’s not a bad trade for Houston, and with Odom, Kobe and Yao, that’s a championship winning team.

  9. Allen Says:

    I have three points.

    1) Defense. Wow. If we don’t start playing better D, it won’t matter that Landry looks good, or that Yao is tearing it up lately, or that Tmac will be back to full strength shortly. We won’t get into the playoffs, much less out of the first round, unless we can actually stop someone.
    2) I love Landry, and I think he is better than Scola. I’m not sure if he will ever be a starter bc he is undersized and has a little trouble with defense, but I love him as a player. He is like Hayes with the energy and whatnot, but has a lot more offensive ability. However, I still think Hayes will be on the floor when the opposition has a stud scoring forward like Al Jefferson, etc. I do think that Landry’s production will tail off once teams actually get a scouting report on him, much like what happened with Millsap in Utah. But nevertheless, he is doing a great job of taking advantage of the time he is getting. He brings a lot more to the table than Novak.
    3) Pg’s. I really don’t know what the Rox can do to solve this problem. Rafer isn’t cutting it, at least when Tmac is in the lineup. Rafer’s play dips significantly when Tmac is in the lineup, for whatever reason. But it isn’t all his fault. I have a feeling the coaching staff is trying to get him to shoot his way out of this hole he is in, for better or worse. The worst of it all is that there is no solution really. Say you put Brooks in the starting lineup, which is a stretch anyway. Fine, but then you lose his offense off the bench and put him up against starting point guards, which is a lot more difficult on a rookie. The other side of that equation is that Rafer does not possess skills which are really any help off the bench. He can’t shoot. As if that wasn’t a bleak enough situation, we don’t have any trade assets which will get us a decent point guard. Noone wants Rafer, James, or Francis. We have screwed ourselves by going after Francis and James when we should have looked to trade for Earl Watson or Ridnour from Seattle, or Antonio Daniels from Washington. We will never have a star point guard in Houston, just by virtue of having two stars already. But I don’t see us being a player in the trade market. Not to mention that Les wants to dump salary (see Fran’s blog), which means that likely we will not do anything this trade season.

    Do you see light at the end of the tunnel for either the defense under Adelman or a resolution to the pg situation other than throwing a rookie in to run the point?

  10. dino Says:

    I don’t like Yao giving screen to his team mates a lot, I think it’s a waste of his talent. I think he should have his back around the basket, ready to catch and shoot.

  11. AirChina23 Says:

    Yao Ming matched his Conseco Fieldhouse NBA career high in points. In the past, the Yao Ming fans in Indianapolis were always isolated. This year they have another group supporting Carl Landry, who played his junior college and college ball here. It is very good to see Landry come through and have another break out night. If Adelman can be more consistent with his rotations, Carl can produce even more magic in the rest of this season. Too bad Landry didn’t really get to play until 2008, otherwise he would’ve been in the Rookie Challenge for sure.

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