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Houston handles Hawks; Yao dominates with 28

February 9th, 2008
by John
Yao Ming scores two of his 28 points (12-of-17 shooting) Saturday night in Houston against the Atlanta Hawks.  Houston beat the Hawks easily, at one time holding a 33-point lead.  The Rockets have won 6 in a row to get their record to 30-20 and are in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot.Yao Ming scores two of his 28 points (12-of-17 shooting) Saturday night in Houston against the Atlanta Hawks. Houston beat the Hawks easily, at one time holding a 33-point lead. The Rockets have won 6 in a row to get their record to 30-20 and are in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot. Click here for more photos from the game.

Coming into Houston on Saturday, the Atlanta Hawks were on the second night of a back-to-back (losing at home to Cleveland the night before), and had lost 9 of their last 10 road games. But the Rockets showed no sympathy by playing one of their most complete games of the season, drilling the Hawks 108-89 to win their 6th game in a row and go 30-20 for the season. After the Rockets were a mediocre 13-15 just 7 weeks ago, it’s getting really interesting in Houston these days.

The Rockets had 29 assists against Cleveland on Thursday, and Saturday night they racked up a season-high 32 dimes while scoring 44 field goals and shooting 54.3% from the field. They shared the ball so well and had guys cutting to the basket for easy shot attempts, it reminded me a lot of the Sacramento Kings during their heyday under Rick Adelman. Or dare I say it, the Spurs during their championship runs.

It’s very rare when a team achieves that level of chemistry where the Rockets get as many assists as they’ve had the past two games. I remember back in 1994 and 1995 when the Rockets won their championships, a lot of it was the result of unselfish basketball like what we’re seeing now. It’s still early yet, but if the Rockets keep this up, it going to start getting really fun in H-town.

While everyone was passing the ball, Yao Ming was being his dominant self by scoring 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting (10 in a row at one point), 4-of-4 from the line, and blocking 2 shots. He also had 3 assists to join the passing party.

The Hawks had no answer to the Big Man, either down low where he scored multiple times with left-handed jump hooks off the glass (he seems to really have perfected that shot). And they could only watch in awe as he hit two long jumpers from the top of the key to finally break his shooting slump from out there.

And did you see that play where Yao got the ball behind the 3-point line, then dribbled it a couple of times toward the basket taking giants steps to get all the way to the basket for a layup attempt? Although he missed the shot, it showed yet another move in his arsenal that has to keep opposing defenses guessing.

Tracy McGrady played a smart game by not jacking up too many ill-advised shots (just 14 field goal attempts, making 5 of them), and instead looked more to pass. McGrady had a team-high 8 assists while scoring 15 points. When McGrady plays like this by emphasizing passing more than jacking up long-range bombs, the Rockets are clearly a better team with him than without. I’ll take the assists more than his points any day.

The Rockets led by 30+ in the 3rd quarter and cruised the rest of the way. My only complaint was when they had Yao in the game in the fourth quarter with a 31-point lead. Way too risky, and Yao needs as much rest when he can get it. But after he hit his second long jumper from the top of the key near the beginning of the 4th quarter, Adelman got him out of there.

It helps a lot that the Rockets got off to a hot start again, thanks to Luis Scola being in the starting lineup and scoring 8 points in the first quarter on 4-of-5 shooting and grabbing 6 boards. Scola’s offensive punch helped the Rockets build a 14-point lead in the opening quarter. Scola would go on to make 3-of-3 shots the rest of the way to finish with 14 points and 9 rebounds.

The recipient of several passes from McGrady, Bonzi Wells played a solid game by scoring most of his 11 points in the paint on 3-of-4 shooting and dishing a season-high 6 assists. And get this: He made 5-of-6 free throws after only making 1-of-5 on Thursday night against Cleveland. If he continues to do that, he will become an even more important part of this team.

Because the game was such a blowout, Aaron Brooks got 20 minutes of playing time and scored 7 points by hitting 3-of-7 shots, including a 3-pointer to hopefully give him confidence in the area where he has struggled recently.

Also hitting 3-of-7 shots was power forward Carl Landry, scoring 6 points and getting 19 minutes of playing time.

Because there was so much garbage time, Steve Novak played the entire fourth quarter and looked good hitting 4-of-6 shots to score 9 points.

Not to be overshadowed was the Rockets defense, holding Atlanta to just 37.2% shooting overall (28% by halftime), one of their worst shooting nights of the season, and held them to just 10 points in the second quarter. Houston also had 4 steals and 6 blocks in the game.

While Houston continues to roll and win games convincingly, the teams they are battling against in their same vicinity (8th playoff spot) are struggling somewhat. Golden State has been playing poorly at home recently. They lost at home Thursday night against a mediocre Chicago Bulls team, and played poorly at home Saturday night against Sacramento barely winning by 3 points. Also, they barely beat the Knicks at home on January 27th, the Nets on January 24th, and lost to Minnesota on January 21st. So that’s all good for Houston.

Meanwhile, Portland (the Rockets’ next opponent on Monday night) lost to a mediocre Indiana team on the road Saturday night, and they come into Houston 2 games behind the Rockets. A win on Monday night for the Rockets would be huge for Houston, giving them a 3-game lead over the Blazers.

Looking above themselves in the standings, the Rockets are only 3 games behind San Antonio for the 5th playoff seed. It’s just amazing how tight things are in the West. It’s still too difficult to predict who will get the top 4 seeds in the West, which will determine who the Rockets will play if they end up making the playoffs.

If I had to choose, I would want Houston to play Dallas or New Orleans since the Rockets have a fairly decent history against those teams. I wouldn’t want Phoenix, not because of the Shaq factor, but because of their run-and-gun style is still so hard to defend. Neither would I want Utah or San Antonio, for obvious historical reasons. The Lakers also scare me because of all the weapons they now have on that team. So to me, Dallas and New Orleans are the lesser of all evils.

8 Responses to “Houston handles Hawks; Yao dominates with 28”

  1. jeff Says:

    It is too early to talk about the possible opponent in the play-offs; because I do not know whether Idleman will give the minutes of Bonzi and Scola to Hayes again. If he does, forget about the play-offs.

    Bonzi and Scola are the real force behind Yao and T-Mac. Landry and Novak also have plenty to offer. But inconsistency must be allowed for the latter two in view of their shortage of experience.

    I will be shocked if Scola’s minutes are reduced now, even considering Idleman’s puzzling decisions from the past. With Bonzi, I’m always worried that he’ll slump again. I thought he was great during that 6-1 win streak to start the season, but then his game went south. Hopefully he has hit his stride now and he will stay consistent. I think if Landry and Novak do well, that’s great. But I would consider their contributions to be gravy, not essential to make the playoffs if Scola continues to play well and get minutes. — John

  2. BOBBYNYC Says:

    Forget about the offense, what is up with our defense? I thought our D was supposed to suffer with the departure of JVG. Our offense is not just clobbering opponents, but our defense is killing opposing teams. What do you attribute this to John? Players left over from the JVG regime or is this a new defensive scheme drawn up by a defensive guru from Adleman’s staff? Oh btw I saw some highlights from last nights game I can almost guarantee someone in that staff is teaching Yao some big man fundamentals. That spin lefty layup. Just fundamentally sound. Whoever it is, he needs to get some big time props! I also noticed T-Mac playing with some fire now that I havent seen him do before. He’s letting his emotions play out right in front of our eyes. Something he doenst do much. I like that. Seems like he’s starting to buy into the team concept. Can’t believe I’m saying this but it seems like this team and this offense can make a deep run into the playoffs finally. But I don’t know if I’d want the Mavs. Seems like they got something to prove this year from last years debacle. John any rumors about possible trades?

    Bobby, I think the good defense can be attributed to the players from the JVG era and remembering how defense should be played. Not to say Adelman doesn’t emphasize defense, but his teams don’t have a history of playing great D. I would think over time as these players move on to other teams in the upcoming years, there will be a drop-off in defensive intensity.

    Yeah, about the left-handed layups, I think Yao shooting with his left hand used to be one of his greatest weaknesses (not that I expect players to be ambidextrous, but Yao has never been afraid to shoot with both hands). I like how he’s shooting those closer to the basket and using the glass rather than trying to shoot long hook shots like he had done earlier in his career.

    I haven’t heard any rumors about possible trades. If the Rockets continue playing like this, they will probably stick with what they have. But something tells me Rafer won’t keep playing this well. He’s so streaky. So we’ll see.


  3. Allen Says:

    Great winning streak we are on, but I’m sad to say that this is all probably a moot point now. The West has simply gotten too good, and that’s without Kidd being traded (which it looks like he will). I have never seen the West this good. SA will hit their stride soon like they always do, Utah is the hottest team in the NBA right now, GS is dangerous, Dallas is easily one of the best teams, and the Lakers-wow. Are you kidding me? Gasol, Bynum, Kobe and Odom on the same team? There is a reason that gm’s are raising hell all over the NBA. That trade was straight up unfair. With Phil Jax as the coach? I want someone to honestly tell me that they are not the championship favorites once they learn to play together. Seriously? We all remember the last time that Kobe had a low post threat, BUT NOW HE HAS TWO!!! That trade was highway robbery.

    With these moves, and with the current West talent level and team play, I simply don’t see Houston competing with those other teams come playoff time, now or anytime in the future. Even if you look to the future, Portland has a far better outlook than we do. But it is irrelevant, we have to win now based on Tmac and Yao’s ages, but noone in their right mind is going to tell you we have a legitimate non-fluke shot. If we were in the East it would be different, but I just don’t see it happening. Its very depressing if you ask me. Yao is such a great player, but we simply don’t have the stuff to compete with those other guys. Do you see something different than I do?

  4. Hocus Says:

    I agree with dallas but New Orleans is way too good for Houston. Remember Houston plays poorly with teams with exceptional point guards and Chris Paul is top 5 PG material right now. I think Houston’s best bet would be san antonio cause it’s just time for SA to lose and Yao always has good games against them. The rockets have a marshmallow february in terms of games. The toughest opponent they face is cleveland and they already whoomped that fool’s gold team. I think for the first 2 months the rockets played teams with a collective .600 average and now in the last 3 months they play a much more negotiable .450 average and not to mention they are only 5 games out of the top spot in the west. Any team stumbles and they could be out of it, Hell, if tim duncan gets a foot injury they could probably not even make the playoffs, same with every other contender in the west. The rockets need a tough minded veteran like Mario Ellie to get them over the hump. Someone who nips at the heels and barks like mad to instill a sense of urgency. TMAC and Yao are way too laidback.

  5. Wilson Says:


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  7. monster Says:

    Finally got to see the starting line up I was asking for at 20 game mark. Took way too long though. Exiting team to watch. RA system started to shine. I am just glad that the defensive system JVG put in is still evident.

    This is the first game I saw Tmac really fit into the system/flow. I hope he will keep it up and his teammates will look for him a little more to get Tmac some open looks.

    At this point I am confident they will make the playoff and make some noise. unlike last year I really don’t care who they match up. I see them having success against both small ball team and traditional teams.

  8. adrian Says:

    Yah…..I really do not care who we play, we are capable of beating anyone in the playoffs..Scola and Yao are both very skilled and Scola is now getting comfortable, remember, he won the MVP at the FIBAS last summer, this guy is capable of averaging 20 and 10. By next year we should have the best frontcourt in the NBA..If t-mac continues to look to distribute, Yao and the rockets should be fine.. But Yao and Scola are really really good together, adelman finally implemented the cutting style instead of floating around the three when yao is doubled/fronted…The rockets are understanding it….This offense is superb, but the addition of scola in the starting lineup should push us past the first round against anyone we play..

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