Although the Rockets beat Milwaukee 91-83 Saturday night, the much anticipated rematch of Yao vs. Yi turned out to be a dud.
Yao had a below average game, getting outplayed by another #1 draft pick, Andrew Bogut. Bogut looked like the All-Star, scoring 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting, most of them made over Yao. I wonder if the Australian continent tuned in for this one?
Yao only scored 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting, was shockingly only 2-of-5 from the free throw line, but did rack up 3 blocks. He had his moments in the fourth quarter as the Rockets finally pulled away after the Bucks had taken a 69-68 lead early in the quarter. He had a huge dunk with 8:02 remaining to make it 72-69, and also had a block with 1:25 remaining to keep the Bucks from making a late charge.
Coach Rick Adelman was still supportive of Yao, saying, “He had a lot of good opportunities and good looks. You’re not going to be good every night…It’s all about winning. It doesn’t have to be about points.”
Yi Jianlian didn’t even do that well, scoring only 6 points on a shocking 1-of-10 shooting after scoring 19 points in their first match on November 9th. It looks like the kid is still settling for too many jump shots, or perhaps he has hit that rookie wall. Either way, 200 million Chinese fans could not be happy with what they saw from either Yao or Yi.
Because there was so much anticipation of Yao vs. Yi that didn’t pan out, it became a relatively boring, and frustrating, game. The Rockets couldn’t put away early an 18-29 Eastern conference team that had lost by 40+ points in their last game to Philadelphia, and who also didn’t have Michael Redd because of an injury.
Another strange thing happened. Tracy McGrady actually bailed out the Rockets by having a great shooting night. He scored 33 points on 14-of-27 shooting, and believe it or not, many of those shots were those jumpers that so often kill his team. But in this game, most of them fell for once.
It’s not the most elegant way to win, but given the Rockets needed a win badly and no one else was really doing anything, the Rockets will take it. McGrady also had 11 rebounds and 6 assists.
Another strange development I’ve never seen before was how Steve Novak got screwed. You probably already heard by now, but Novak was really looking forward to playing in front of his family and friends since he went to college at Milwaukee’s Marquette University, and only comes back to Milwaukee to play once a year since they are an Eastern Conference team. A very big deal for a young NBA player, right?
Well, someone at the Rockets didn’t put Novak’s name on the active list, a formality that’s done before every game. Instead, they reportedly put Mike James‘s name on the list TWICE. That mistake cost all the people from seeing their hometown hero play. Poor Novak. I bet you the odds of that happening are a million to one. The Rockets could have used him since they were terrible from 3-point range (5-of-18 for 28%). The guy who messed up owes Novak and his family a big dinner.
Rafer Alston was 0-for-4 from behind the arc, and even my man Aaron Brooks had one of his worst games from 3-point land, hitting only 1-of-5 shots.
And after playing so well on Friday night, rookie phenom Carl Landry struggled in his hometown, scoring 2 points on 1-of-2 shooting.
That’s why the Rockets will take this win any way they can get it. I just hope it doesn’t become a recurring theme where they have to rely on McGrady to bail them out. We all know how that will turn out over the long run. In the JVG era, that was an acceptable way to win. But we know this year they have got to be better than that.