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Rockets’ barrage of treys buries Bulls for 12th win in a row

February 25th, 2008
by John
Yao Ming shoots a jump hook over Chicago rookie Joakim Noah on Sunday night to help the Rockets win their 12th game in a row, beating the Bulls 110-97.  Yao's firepower wasn't needed as much since 6 other Rocket players scored in double figures.  Yao would finish with 12 points and 6 boards.Yao Ming shoots a jump hook over Chicago rookie Joakim Noah on Sunday night to help the Rockets win their 12th game in a row, beating the Bulls 110-97. Yao’s firepower wasn’t needed as much since 6 other Rocket players scored in double figures. Yao would finish with 12 points and 6 boards. Click here for more photos from the game. Click here for photos from the team practice, press conference with Bobby Jackson and Gerald Green, and the pre-game shootaround.

When the Rockets were only leading 49-46 at halftime against a Chicago team that had young players in the starting lineup like Joakim Noah, Tyrus Thomas, and Thabo Sefolosha, and brand new veterans like Drew Gooden and Larry Hughes, the thought of the Rockets finally running out of gas after 11 straight wins had to enter one’s mind.

The Bulls were intent to make the Rockets run, and it was an effective strategy. The Rockets were playing well on the offensive end of the court, shooting 50% and scoring 49 points. But their defense gave up 53% shooting in the first half, 13 fast break points, and it didn’t help that the Rockets missed 7-of-14 free throws.

In the third quarter when the Rockets got close to putting the game away, the Bulls continued to fight and only trailed by 9 points entering the fourth quarter. Was this going to be another Philadelphia game debacle where the Rockets blow a fourth quarter lead to a young team that didn’t have much to lose?

Maybe the team from a couple of months ago might implode, but not this Rockets team that seems like a completely different crew playing with a new mindset. In the fourth quarter, the Rockets hit a barrage of 3-pointers that was “vintage Spurs” to blow the Bulls out in the final few minutes.

In that pivotal fourth quarter, new backup point guard Bobby Jackson quickly made his presence felt to make those fans who miss Bonzi Wells not feel as bad about his departure. Jackson hit a tough, leaning jumper (when’s the last time Mike James did that?) to make it 81-72, then on the next possession he took it all the way to the rack from the 3-point line for a twisting layup, and was fouled! After BJ hit the penalty free throw, the Rockets led 84-74 with 9:36 remaining.


Luther Head then hit a three (his third of the night) to make it 87-76, Tracy McGrady hit a long two-pointer, then the Rockets moved the ball around beautifully to Jackson, who hit another trey to make it 92-78 with 6:49 remaining to make Toyota Center rock like AT&T Center in San Antonio so many times over the past few years.

The Rockets weren’t done, though. McGrady kept applying the heat with 2 jumpers, followed by Shane Battier hitting two 3s in a row to make it 102-86 with 4:18 left.

So when you’ve got your brand new backup point guard like Jackson (who many people thought was too old) hitting 3-pointers, Shane Battier making a major contribution with 3-of-5 treys and 10 rebounds, Luther Head hitting 3-of-4 treys, Rafer Alston hitting 3-of-8 from behind the arc, and everyone else like Luis Scola, Carl Landry, McGrady, Rafer Alston, and Yao Ming doing their thing…well, the Rockets are virtually unbeatable.

To add more fuel to the Toyota Center euphoria, McGrady attacked the basket and scored to make it 104-88 with 3:46 left, and on the next possession attacked again, then dished to Jackson for a wide-open three! Unbelievable!

I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Bulls, who had the life sucked out of them seeing three-pointer after three-pointer hit the bottom of the net. It looked like they had been hit by a “Mac” truck.

That last pass by McGrady was emblematic of the “new” McGrady we’re seeing who is intent to attack the basket, pass, and/or both over the past few games. He would finish with 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting, attempted only 3 treys (I like that low number), made two of them, and dished 8 assists. He was awesome how he would drive into the teeth of the defense, then dish to Landry or Scola down low (he must have hit Luis with at least 4 perfect passes). McGrady’s 8 assists led the Rockets’ charge of 28 dimes on 40 field goals.

They have bought into the mantra I’ve been wanting them to follow for years: share the ball, and you’re probably going to win. Did you know that the Rockets have had 20 or more assists in all 12 of the wins in their streak? It seems like it would be so easy to develop a passing mentality, but I guess it’s easier said than done for whatever reason.

With all the great passing to find the open man, it helped that the Rockets made an amazing 13-of-24 three-pointers (54%), which was better than their entire FG% (50.6%).

Scola would finish as the second high-scorer (behind McGrady) with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting. I still can’t help but mention how big of a factor he has been to the win streak ever since he started in place of Chuck Hayes.

Rafer Alston had a pretty good game with 13 points. I think he took too many three-pointers (8) but he made 3 of them, right when the Rockets seemed to need them in those first 3 quarters while they were trying to create some distance from the Bulls. He also had 6 turnovers, but he shot 5-of-10 overall and had 4 steals.

Next in scoring was Yao with 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting. 10 of Yao’s points came in the first 3 quarters when the Rockets needed every point they got. He also posterized with a baseline dunk one of the most hated players in the league – Joakim Noah! Yao did his patented spin move on the baseline, barreled over Noah while elevating for the dunk, then threw it down on his mug right after! Man, I enjoyed that one!

Here are a few other random thoughts I have from the game:

* When Carl Landry entered the game near the end of the first quarter, he made a quick impact. He blocked Ben Gordon, then on the next possession he hustled for an offensive rebound after a missed free throw! He seems to have a knack for that. It’s a joy to watch him going after offensive boards to throwing down dunks. The only thing that wasn’t fun to watch was his missing 4 free throws in a row. CL is going to have to step it up at the line since you know he’s going to get fouled a lot in the coming weeks. Otherwise, he’s going to have plenty of Bonzi moments at the charity stripe.

* One of my favorite plays occurred at the end of the first quarter when McGrady lost the ball and there was a mad scramble for it as the shot clock was winding down. Jackson dove for the ball and punched it to Luther Head near the half-court line, then Luther passed it to a wide-open McGrady behind the 3-point line, who launched it right before the shot clock went off…and McGrady swished it to make Toyota Center erupt!

* At the beginning of the second quarter, Jackson quickly showed how comfortable he is with the offense by cutting behind the defense for a layup, then a couple minutes later throwing an awesome pass to Scola, who unfortunately missed. It was like BJ had been playing in the lineup for weeks.

* Landry hit one of his longest jumpers of the season at the 7:23 mark of the second quarter when he faked like he was going to pass, which made his defender bite and gave him the wide-open shot opportunity.

* At the 5:24 mark in the second quarter, Luther took it strong to the hole, elevated, was bumped in mid-air by a defender, so double-clutched the ball, then shot it off the glass for a layup! That shot made everyone in the house drop their jaw! No one thought Luther had that kind of acrobatic play in him, and McGrady even jumped off the bench, screaming and waving his towel not believing what he just saw!

* In the 3rd quarter with 8 minutes remaining, Scola was blocked down low, but grabbed the blocked shot underneath the rim, then saw Alston was wide open behind the 3-point line, threw it out to him wisely, and Alston drilled it to make it 59-54.

* On the next possession, Scola took it strong to the hole along the baseline for a beautiful layup! He is fearless going to the rack, just like Landry!

* With his high knee-length socks, quick first step and the ability to hit the three, Jackson has a little bit of Jason Terry in him, which is fine with me since the Mavericks’ Terry always gives the Rockets headaches. It would be nice to give them a taste of their own medicine under this new look Rocket team.

12 Responses to “Rockets’ barrage of treys buries Bulls for 12th win in a row”

  1. AR Says:

    John,

    Do you think we need a real backup center for Yao? Mutumbo didn’t even get onto the court tonight. Losing height in Yao’s absence put Rockets in disadvantage in rebounding at least. Yao lost many pounds since the start of th e season and this make him less POWERFUL in the pushing and banging, right? Some report said his fat is too low given his size.

    I heard some candidate from Nets. Is it true?

    Definitely Rockets backcourt needs to size UP when matched up with top teams. If not Brent Barry, can it be anyone else?

    Is increased reliance on T-back like this game a concern in long run?

    AR

    Do you think Yao really enjoyed the game?

  2. AR Says:

    I see you point on Mutombo as sub for Yao. But he can’t score……

    AR

    Please read my responses more carefully (this is the second time this has happend). I’ll repeat…when Landry or Scola are on the front line with Mutombo, I said I think they should be fine from a scoring perspective. If I’m going to take time to respond, I would hope you would read my responses more carefully. Thanks. — John

  3. jeff Says:

    I would reserve my comments until the Rockets play the Jazz, Suns, Mavericks and Lakers.

    That would take too long, probably April by the time all that happens. In the meantime, I think after 24 games (in which they’ve won 21), it’s okay to be a little optimistic. Otherwise, there’s no fun in sports.– John

  4. Wendy Says:

    Tell me that I´m not dreaming… and if I am, don´t wake me up!

    Hopefully, they can keep their businesslike attitude and don´t get too high on themselves. But did you guys notice how little attention we got from the national media? Media it will be like 1995 again, when the underestimated Rockets win it all!

  5. Joseph Says:

    Yao should not contest a dunk if there’s no chance of blocking it. Drew Gooden’s dunk on Yao tonight was an example of that.

    If there’s no chance of blocking it, then just move away instead of being posterized, so those stupid ESPN morons don’t get over excited about it.

  6. Allen Says:

    Well, I love this streak and the addition of B. Jax, but where does Brooks fit in now with Head coming back? I don’t think we’ll be seeing him get off the bench, which I guess is ok since he had gone from being a spark to being wildly inconsistent (which is why average rookies like Brooks don’t get too much PT out of the gate).

    Got to love the overall contributions, but I was disappointed in Yao’s inability to get going, needed or not. In my opinion, we need him every night. Can’t live by the three, bc eventually you will die by the three.

  7. Josh Says:

    I believe Jackson really filled in the hole for the Rockets. He can shoot, he can defend, he knows the system inside out, and he can punch through the dead air during the 3rd quarter.
    As it is evident with the Bulls team. When they overplayed on defense, and tried to contain Yao, Jackson slipped in through backdoor and showed the rest of the team how to make them pay.
    That is the difference!
    And I believe that by the time O’Neil had adjusted with the Suns (If he even manages to adjust), Suns may haves dropped too far down to catch up. So good news all around!
    I will take Jackson over Wells or even O’Neil any time of the day.
    What do you think, John?

    over Wells, probably. over O’Neal, probably not. He’d be a good backup to Yao. — John

  8. calyp Says:

    sorry could you explain why noah is hated? i know he made a public complaint about the bulls but that is it. thanks.

    It goes back to his days at Florida. He was obnoxiously animated when he played there, and was very gangsta after they won their championships. Not classy at all. I’m sure there are probably lots of articles out there about how much he annoys people. Here’s a few:

    http://lioninoil.blogspot.com/2007/03/this-just-in-joakim-noah-is-douche.html
    http://forums.sohh.com/showthread.php?t=827831
    http://sports.aol.com/fanhouse/category/ncaabasketball/2007/02/12/pom-pom-gate-did-joakim-noah-swipe-at-a-uk-cheerleader/
    http://thehowevafiles.blogspot.com/2008/01/bulls-team-to-noah-we-dont-like-you.html

    There’s plenty on the ‘Net if you google “hate Joakim Noah” — John

  9. Wilson Says:

    Man! That was a great win for the Rockets…but what I didn’t like was the fact that Yao got an facial dunk by Gooden!!!
    After that facial, Yao didn’t play well the rest of the game!!!
    I HATE WHEN PLAYERS DO THAT TO YAO!!! THEY HAVE NO CLASS!!!
    I read an interesting article on SI.com about NBA players asked which player they wouldn’t want to dunk on…and almost all said Shaq!!!
    Come on!!! This is the NBA!!! You don’t want to dunk on players like Yao, Manute Bol, or Bradley because they are all over 7 feet or so!!! It’s no secret that every NBA player dunk on them!!!
    I will really respect or admire a NBA player if they dunk on Shaq!!! That’s really a Macho Man!!!
    Not a loser dunking on Yao!!! Dunk on Shaq and you will get my respect and admiration!!!

  10. Wilson Says:

    A message to Yao!
    I am your fan, but man…that was a nasty facial dunk from a loser player!!!

    Hey, Yao…don’t lay the ball in the basket…dunk the damn ball every time you are close to the basket!!!

    And…if a player is coming to dunk on you the next time like yesterday’s game…use you body and knock him down to the floor as hard as you can!!!Don’t worry about the ref calling you a flagrant foul…since they will call a foul on you anyways!!! At least intimidate the other players!!! (Like Shaq hit the Pistons player and got a flagrant foul in Phoenix’s game)!!!

  11. AirChina23 Says:

    Wilson, relax man. Yao got dunked on, big deal. Which big man hasn’t other than Shaq? Hakeem was dunked on by 6 foot Kevin Johnson twice. Mutombo, the king of blocks, was probably the most dunked-on player other than Shawn Bradley. Then there is Alonzo Mourning, Patrick Ewing, David Robinson….etc etc, get my point? That’s an elite list. At least Yao contests them, like the rest of great centers on the list (minus Bradley, even though he was a decent shot blocker) Many players (if you think Gooden is a loser player, then what about Darvin Ham?) have dunked on Yao, in the fashion much worse than Gooden. And I believe as Yao ages, many more will. I’m not gonna be bothered by it, it’s part of the game. As long as he gets his 25 and 10 and the Rox keeps winning, I could careless.

    Another thing, you know why players don’t want to dunk on Shaq? You mentioned it yourself, look what happened to Amir Johnson! Also, Shaq runs away when a dunker is already in the air, KG does that as well.

  12. Wilson Says:

    I HEARD THAT YAO IS OUT FOR THE SEASON…IS THAT TRUE???

    I KNEW SOMETHING WAS WRONG WITH YAO…BUT DIDN’T KNOW THAT IT WAS SO SERIOUS THAT WOULD BE OUT FOR THE SEASON!!!

    yes, it’s true. More to follow. — John

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