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Rockets finish strong to pound Portland

February 12th, 2008
by John
Yao gets a hand on Portland's Lamarcus Aldridge's shot Monday night in Houston.  Yao would lead all scorers with 25 points as Houston won its 7th game in a row, 95-83.Yao gets a hand on Portland’s Lamarcus Aldridge’s shot Monday night in Houston. Yao would lead all scorers with 25 points as Houston won its 7th game in a row, 95-83. Click here for more photos from the game.

Although the Rockets won their 7th game in a row Monday night against a team they are battling for a playoff spot, there are still enough issues the Rockets need to correct considering how they played in a 95-83 win in Houston.

Not to be a spoil sport, let’s first talk about the things they did well Monday night. Yao was the force in the middle we expect him to be against a smaller front line of Joel Pryzbilla and Lamarcus Aldridge, leading all scorers with 25 points on 7-of-11 shooting, 11-of-13 from the line, and grabbing 7 boards. Just another day at the office for Big Yao.

Houston’s defense was great in the second half, holding the Blazers to 15-of-34 shooting. Shane Battier really put the clamps on All-Star guard Brandon Roy, holding him only to 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting (it didn’t hurt that Roy missed 5-of-10 free throws).

The parts I didn’t like about this game, even in victory, were the following:


In the first half, the Rockets turned the ball over 8 times, including two steals of Yao when smaller Blazer defenders came around his blindside and stripped the ball away from him. I can understand one strip, but another one just a very short time after the first one made you think they were slow in adjusting. They ultimately addressed that vulnerability the rest of the game by having Yao get closer to the baseline on many shots so it would be more difficult for a defender to come around his blindside to steal the ball away from him.

Rafer Alston and Tracy McGrady were terrible offensively in the first half. Alston was 1-for-4 shooting from the field and McGrady was 1-for-6, with both settling for way too many jumpers (what else is new?). I just couldn’t understand after all the quotes over the past few days from both players about how great the team was passing and sharing the ball and attacking the basket…then they totally ignore those approaches and settle for jumpers! Where’s the basketball IQ? As a result, the Rockets missed 7 of their last 8 shots at the end of the first quarter.

Part of the Rockets’ problem was that I didn’t see anyone cutting into the lane to catch passes for easy baskets, especially in the first quarter.

But then Coach Rick Adelman did something about it by putting Bonzi Wells and Carl Landry into the game near the end of the first quarter to get more active bodies into the lineup. Then he put Chuck Hayes and Aaron Brooks in at the start of the second quarter.

Brooks made an immediate contribution, throwing a pass underneath the basket to Chuck Hayes for a layup to make it 24-20, Portland. Then Brooks hit a 3-pointer to bring the Rockets within 3 points at 30-27.

The Rockets grinded it out the remainder of the quarter to hold a 44-43 halftime lead, but the stat sheet was awful for McGrady, who was only 1-for-6 from the field settling for all those perplexing jumpers. Where was his head? Why did he have to make it so hard on the offense by not dishing it more (he only had 2 assists at halftime)?

Rafer Alston’s 1-for-4 shooting in the first half included a 3-point attempt at the halftime buzzer that hit the top of the backboard. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a 3-point shot miss that badly.

Even with McGrady and Alston shooting a collective 2-for-10 in the first half, it was incredible the Rockets were shooting 50% from the field. Yao’s 5-of-7 shooting (12 points), Luis Scola’s 3-for-6, and Bonzi & Battier both shooting 2-for-3 for 5 points made up for the starting backcourt’s offensive woes.

The Rockets finally got things rolling in the 3rd quarter to take a lead, but the way they did it was kind of gimmicky if you ask me. For example, in the second half Alston was 5-of-7 from the field, and 3-of-3 from three-point land. As much as I applaud Alston’s shooting, that’s not typical for him and he kind of bailed the Rockets out. We learned long ago you can’t rely on getting those kinds of numbers from Rafer.

McGrady was 3-fo-6 in the quarter, but I think most of those buckets came from low-percentage jump shots and not by attacking the basket.

Not to be forgotten, the Blazers were only 11-of-21 from the free throw line. If they had shot better from the line, this game would have been much tougher for the Rockets.

The performance that did happen that isn’t unusual is Yao scoring 7 points in the fourth quarter, including a basket made after Bonzi threw a long pass to Yao, who then pump-faked his man a few feet away from the basket, dribbled once to the basket, elevated, then hooked a shot in over his defender, and was fouled! After Yao made the free throw with 4:45 remaining, the Rockets led 86-68 and the game was basically over.

The Rockets have now won 7 in a row – their longest streak in 3 years — and they are starting to get the attention of the press, as seen by the screenshot below from Yahoo! Sports’ NBA home page late Monday night after the Rockets won.

What sucks for the Rockets is that they could have gotten more separation from Golden State Monday night if it weren’t for the Warriors coming back from a 23-point deficit against the Washington Wizards to pull that game out.

Now all the Rockets have to do is win one more game before taking almost a week off for the All-Star break. If they can beat an improved Sacramento team on Wednesday night, the Rockets can feel good about themselves that they have won 8 games in a row.

But it’s not going to be easy. Sacramento almost beat Golden State in Oakland Saturday night, and they beat Utah handily the night before. That should get the Rockets attention. Hopefully they won’t pay attention to the fact the Kings will be playing the second night of a back-to-back when they come to Houston Wednesday night.

9 Responses to “Rockets finish strong to pound Portland”

  1. jeff Says:

    The Celtics got the Big Three. The Nuggets got AI without offering Melo. The Lakers got Gasol while keeping Bobe. What are the Rockets going to do? The organization must show that it is really serious about winning. It must show its determination by improving the roster to match other teams. Do not say politically that you want to win a title; whereas what you are planning at heart is to go for the lottery. The fans will find out the true picture at the end of the day and turn away from you.

  2. curtis Says:

    not to be too concerned here, the rocket is doing good, there are always going to be a few things here and there we can point out that they can improve but I think everyone did their job here, rafer and tmac (being point and shooting guard) must get their shots when open, even if they miss more than they makes, as long as they keep the game in control and feed enough ball to yao and scola for high percentage shot, then they can win any game.
    Its tough conference, and they may win lots of games and still not get in the playoff, so got give them a break for their effort.

  3. Brian Says:

    shane deserves so much credit man
    we need that guy

  4. Glenn Fayard Says:

    You guys are hosers. The Rockets can’t remember how to lose and yet there’s nothing on this site but nitpickin’ and naysayin’. That’s the coaching staff’s job! When did this site become so fershlugginer pessimistic? So the Rockets haven’t played a game recently where everything went perfectly. That’s because they haven’t played the Knicks! Loosen up!

    I think the diehard fans are tired of ‘fool’s gold’ where games are won in the regular season, but the way they win won’t hold up in the playoffs. It has been 10 years since the Rockets have won a playoff series, so they want this current roster to have a style of play that will finally win them a playoff series or two. — John

  5. Allen Says:

    While this may be fool’s gold, you can’t argue with the winning ways of the past few weeks. It was always going to take time for the Rox to gel, and it seems they have now.

    I do think you overstate Brooks’ contributions to this game. Frankly, he has been nonexistent these past few weeks, and has had little to do with the winning streak. This streak is much more about the play of Scola, Bonzi, Alston, and Battier. They are the key contributors who weren’t doing anything early on, and who have come in to really help.

    I think that the biggest positive to take away from this is that on any given night, it is not the same person who is stepping up. One night its Bonzi, another its Shane, another, and more frequently, its Alston. You have to love that, bc the Rox strongest point is their bench. We have a lot of players to throw at people.

    I also like that Adelman has settled into a rotation. It is clear who is going to play now, and while we aren’t going to win anything big, we all have to remember that it took Sac town three years to get good under Adelman. He has us rolling along in one half of a year? I will take that anyday.

    It is sad that we aren’t in the East though. There we would be championship contenders every single year.

    Only though Brooks scored 5 points, his insertion into the game came at the right time to get them out of their scoring funk. But clearly, Scola and Bonzi’s impact off the bench was much stronger. I do love the diversity on the bench as you mentioned. That is the biggest difference this year compared to previous years. I just wish Adelman had figured that out earlier when everyone knew Scola and Brooks were the real deal — if he had, the Rockets might be 37-14 and wouldn’t be fighting for their playoff lives. — John

  6. Esteban From CA Says:

    Rox have a somewhat favorable schedule this month with the exception of CLE and WAS. They should end Feb with only a loss or maybe two. This is a great time for the “softer” schedule. They need this time to make up ground in the Western Standings, because it will be getting tougher soon.

    Yes, Battier is a champ, imho the MVP of the team. Again, not the best player on the team, Yao is…

    Let the good times roll!

  7. Hocus Says:

    the rockets are playing a bunch of marshmallow teams this month, the good news is that they are doing what they are supposed to do and that’s win against them. the bad news is they haven’t had a good gauge of where they are at since they don’t play LA or Utah, or SA until next month. The funny thing is that San antonio has had a fairly easy schedule and are only 4 games up out of the eighth seed. If you look at their schedule in april, they have a murderous 10 games where 9 of their last teams are teams with >.600 average. if the spurs lose half those games they could potentially tumble out of the west. Crazy!

  8. Tom Says:

    To be fair, Alston has been a force in recent winning streak.

    And here is a good article about the Rockets, hope you all like it:
    http://msn.foxsports.com/nba/story/7787256/Win-streak-proves-Rockets-firing-on-all-cylinders

    Tom, thanks for the article. This author really lit into McGrady, similar to what I had done. — John

  9. Michael Jordon Says:

    Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer,
    Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer,
    Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer, Rafer,
    ALSTON !!!

    Just as we thought he is going to pass, cut and dish the ball, he is starting his old habit, thinking he is a POINT guard, which means PG has to score points, ALSTON, scoring is not your 1st priority, setting up your team mate and make they scored easy point is your JOB, that is what a point guard does.

    Good or great point guard, never shoot a single shots, unless his team mates are totally shut down, or clock is running down, or you get a high % zone and wide open, we all know that you can not shoot, so stop shooting and give those scoring job to Yao, TMac, Scola, Landry, brooks and Wells. When can you learn how to play the game by giving up your poor shooting skill to other high % team mates?

    And TMac, try to shoot 10 shots per game, the more you pass, the better chanve Rox is going to win, stop trying to be a hero, you are not, your team mates can win the game without you jacking up 20 ill-advised shots, look at your %, 3-12, 4-18, 5-22, this is not a productive status.

    LEARN TO SHARE the ball, otherwise, you will stay at home and watch playoffs just like us.

    MJ

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