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Without Yao, Rockets whip Wiz

February 26th, 2008
by John
Yao Ming watches in street clothes while his teammates prepare for their matchup against the Washington Wizards.  Inspired to play well without Yao the rest of the season, the Rockets soundly beat the Wizards 94-69.

Yao Ming greets in street clothes his teammates as they prepare for their matchup against the Washington Wizards. Inspired to play well without Yao the rest of the season, the Rockets soundly beat the Wizards 94-69. For more photos from the day’s events, click here.

What a day. After all the drama from this afternoon regarding the shocking news about Yao, there was a game to play against the Washington Wizards Tuesday night. It was probably a good thing for Yao’s teammates to focus on a game right away rather than let any depression and/or doubt get a chance to fester over a day or two.

If there is one small consolation about the loss of Yao (and I do mean small), it probably gives the Rockets even more determination to prove their doubters wrong, like the talking heads on ESPN Tuesday afternoon who were saying the Rockets are now “done.”

I think the Rockets are the only team in history who have had a 12-game winning streak where people have said they have “no chance” to win a ring because of the loss of one player, no matter how great that player is. In essence, they have quickly become a “Rodney Dangerfield” – “no respect, no respect at all.”

Last time I checked, the Utah Jazz don’t have a dominating big man in the middle, and the Rockets have just as much talent as them, yet the Jazz get more respect (they probably don’t get enough IMHO). Almost the same situation with Dallas, too. They don’t have a dominant big man in the paint, and the Rockets roster is probably just as dangerous as theirs.

Another small consolation is that with the Rockets banding together in perhaps an “us against the world” mentality, it takes their mind off the distraction of their winning streak. Suddenly their win streak doesn’t seem as important as proving everyone wrong that they can win without Yao. It’s a slight distinction, with the difference being the streak is something you’re afraid to have end, whereas winning without Yao is something you can’t wait to prove to others you can do. Passive versus active.

Well, the Rockets came out Tuesday night as strong and determined as you could ever hope them to be in beating the Wizards 94-69. Dikembe Mutombo started at center, not Luis Scola or Carl Landry.


Not only did Dikembe score the game’s first basket on a nice spin move in the lane for a layup, but he got the first rebound and set the tone on defense by blocking shots. In the first quarter alone, he blocked 3 shots and energized his teammates to play strong defense and only allow the Wizards to score 12 points in the first quarter.

Deke also made two shots in that first quarter, including a shocking baseline jumper that got everyone off the bench, including Yao who was in street clothes (great to see him on the bench like I had hoped).

Very quickly Deke made Rocket fans feel a little bit better about the loss of Yao.

The one major concern was how Tracy McGrady decided to make his statement about what he’s going to do in Yao’s absence. I didn’t sweat the fact he didn’t take many shots in the first half compared to his normal self, but it was the TYPE of shots he took that really bothered me. Going against conventional wisdom, he decided to jack up 4 jumpers (all of them missed) rather than be aggressive and take it into the paint where there was more room to penetrate without Yao being there. WTF?

McGrady would finish 1-for-5 from the field in the first half, with the lone shot he made being a very long 3-pointer (not my first choice to get going offensively).

If it wasn’t for the great play of his teammates like Luis Scola hitting 5-for-5 in the first half for 10 points, Luther Head making 4-of-7 for 11, and Rafer Alston shooting 3-of-4 for 7 points to help build a 51-23 halftime lead, more scrutiny would have been applied toward McGrady. Like…why in the world does he continue to not understand that when Yao is out not clogging up the middle and you’re struggling offensively, to take it to the hole?

In the third quarter, the trend continued. On top of that, everyone else started cooling off (Alston also started settling for dumb jumpers), the team started losing its intensity, and the Wizards suddenly cut the Rockets lead to 19 points.

That’s when coach Rick Adelman saw enough and called a timeout, and I think he probably ripped into them because after the timeout, McGrady started attacking the basket. And whaddaya know…it worked! McGrady was fouled a couple of times, then continued to attack to score on a couple of dunks, and drove-and-dished to outside shooters. Amazing how that works. I just wish it didn’t take Adelman to remind him. McGrady would finish the game with 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting.

The fact that McGrady finished with 11 points and the Rockets still opened up a 31-point lead in the second quarter is a testament to the Rockets’ “role” players and their defense, even with the Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas and Caron Butler out because of injuries

Luis Scola and Carl Landry were everything I wanted them to be with Yao now out, as I posted here before the game. Scola stepped up, making an array of shots and finishing 7-of-7 from the field for 14 points. Incredible. If he keeps playing like this with the basketball world now watching the Rockets closely on how the Rockets fare without Yao, Scola could become a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate…

…or maybe even his teammate Carl Landry, who was all over the place hustling after rebounds. A couple of times Landry grabbed the ball in traffic and elevated quickly to throw down some dunks, but the refs on each occasion blew the whistle to call a jump ball to negate his spectacular effort. Landry would finish with 8 boards and make 5-of-6 shots for 12 points in just 21 minutes.

One of those buckets came off a missed layup from Bobby Jackson on a fast break. Landry hustled down the court to grab the ball off the rim out of nowhere to startle the Wizards around him, then elevated quickly to throw it down! Wow! Later he would take it strong to the hole for a two-handed throw-down where he double-pumped in mid-air for some pizzazz. Wow!

Bobby Jackson had an off night going 0-for-7 from the field, including missing a couple of layups, but his points weren’t really needed, and he did rack up 7 assists in 20 minutes with no turnovers.

Rafer Alston also had 0 turnovers and made 6-of-11 shots for 13 points, which included a Skip-to-my-Lou kind of play in the second half where he penetrated into the lane, faked the defense out by quickly turning his head like he was going to dish a pass, elevated and scooped the ball underhanded with his left hand for a swisher of a bucket!

Luther Head would have a good night by hitting lots of shots, making 4-of-7 by halftime to lead all scorers with 11 points. He would only made 3-of-9 shots in the second half to finish with 18 points. It was a little concerning that he had such a big drop-off like that, including two 3-pointers that were airballs or barely grazed the rim. He also would miss an easy layup. As much as I like Luther, I wouldn’t mind if the Rockets were somehow able to sign Brent Barry who would probably be more consistent from behind the arc where Luther was only 3-of-9 Tuesday night.

Almost every Rocket would have racked up bigger stats if the game had been closer and they were required to play serious minutes. But I’m not complaining. Getting more rest during a blowout is a good thing, too.

You’ve got to hand it to the Rockets’ defense for holding the Wizards to 23 points in the first half, which ties an NBA season low. They don’t really have a point guard who can create problems off-the-dribble and take it to the hole, so that worked in the Rockets’ favor. Arenas and Butler being out also hurts big-time. But this same team beat the Hornets Monday night in New Orleans, so they can’t be all that bad.

Houston’s defense was stifling in the first half with the Rockets blocking 6 shots, out-rebounding them on the defensive glass 27-15, and holding them to 21.3% shooting. It was more of the same in the second half.

Give a lot of credit to Shane Battier for impressively and emphatically blocking 3 shots in the first half and grabbing 9 boards overall. He would finish with 9 points on 3-of-7 shooting. But the plays that impressed me the most and showed how intelligent he is occurred in the third quarter when he realized he and his teammates needed to be aggressive by taking it to the hole, even though it’s really not his game. That’s what Battier did on two straight possessions, faking out his man from behind the 3-point line on the baseline, penetrating into the paint, and dishing to a man for an open shot and score! If only another guard on the team was that wise without having to be reminded.

All in all, I am pleased that the key guys on the front line who will have a lot of pressure on them in Yao’s absence — Scola, Landry and Dikembe — passed the test with flying colors. With the win, I’m not even thinking how it was their 13th straight, but more of a statement that the Rockets can still be a force without Yao.

22 Responses to “Without Yao, Rockets whip Wiz”

  1. AirChina23 Says:

    I’m going to keep visiting this site for great recaps like this one. Even though I have league pass and that I watch every game, it is still a requirement for me to read John’s input.

    I like what I saw today and hopefully they can keep this up. Before Yao was hurt, I cheered for Yao and his teammates. But now, I’m cheering for the underdogs, even though they are still the hottest team in the league. The last time I got this excited was when my Indiana Pacers were marred by suspensions in 2005 and ended up going to the second round of the playoffs by playing mostly reserves. They started that run with only 7 players on the roster the night after the brawl.

    I honestly believe the Rockets, with the combination of experience and youth, will make a deep run into the playoffs.

    I really appreciate the compliment. I’m hoping with Yao out that people will still come back to the site. Otherwise, it will be difficult for me to stay motivated spending as much time as I do digesting all this information (especially for no $). I guess the page views over the next few days will tell me how people react. Thanks, John.

  2. Wendy Says:

    Well, I´ll keep reading too! My heart still beats for the Rockets, I still have hope!
    Although, after The News, I couldn´t read anything, just sick in my stomach. I went to bed, hoped that everything was just a bad dream:)

    BTW, hope the Rockets will keep this up, do it for Yao!

  3. H-town Says:

    Yao: I’m throwed

  4. Joseph Says:

    Gerald Green with the cupcake dunk!

    He’s going to be something! Hopefully he gets more minutes.

  5. John Teng Says:

    admittedly the wind have been taken outta my sails, but I too will check back on this site. as a NYCer I’ve been a devout Rox fan now, too!

  6. ugnivek Says:

    John,
    Keep up the good work! I really like your writing and have been faithfully read your blog since last year. I feel the big difference between you and the Chronicle columnists are your passion.

    Thanks for the compliment. I appreciate it! — John

  7. ?? Says:

    ??,???????????,????,????????????.????????????????????,??????????.???????,????????????????????.????:
    ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“?”??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????1?2?????????????????????
    ????????,????????,??????????.????????????????,??????????,???????,?????????????,???????????,????. ????????????,?????????????,???????.??????,???????,?????????,?????????????. ?????????,??????????(?????????),????????????,???????,??????????.

    Would it be possible for you to provide this in English? Short of that, I am trying to get this translated. — John

  8. J Wang Says:

    Yao should consult with Kobe Bryant about Dr. Philip Kwong who is an foot/ankle surgery. Dr. Kwong has done surgery for Kobe Bryant last summer.

  9. micahel.liu Says:

    today,i saw a great game. even though they did not have yao, they did their best to win the game.actually.they did it . i think it is not only a victory,but also it is a spirit or a passion that we were always looking for..
    hope the Rockets will keep this up, keep moving ,keep fighting without big yao..

  10. Simon Says:

    ????
    ???????
    ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“?”???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????1?2?????????????????????

    Would it be possible for you to provide this in English? Short of that, I am trying to get this translated. — John

  11. Wilson Says:

    OK! I think I feel better today after all the anger and disbelieve from yesterday’s bad news about Yao!

    Although all the news and people saying that the Rockets are “done” for the season, I still believe the Rockets are not only going into the playoffs without Yao this season, but pass the first round, and all the way to the Western Championship series!!!

    The only good news and compliment about all this is that…Yao will get his needed rest since he has been playing non-stop basketball almost every year since he came into the NBA in 2002.

    Hopefully, Yao can get stronger, healed 100%, rested, and ready to go for the NBA 2008-2009 season!!!

    I strongly believe that the 2000-2009 Rockets are the team to beat after next season and beyond!!!

    Yao and the Rockets are going to win the NBA Championship in the near future!!!

    GO YAO!!! I KNOW YOU WILL BE BACK STRONGER AND HEALTHIER NEXT SEASON!!!

  12. Derek Says:

    John, your blog is one of my must-reads after a Rockets game. Please keep up the good work.

    The game vs Wiz is really a statement game, showing that the team did not give up, and more importantly, the team has the ability to win. It is probably too much to ask Luis and Carl to compete with Duncan, Nowitzki, Boozer, Gasol, Stoudemire, but I really think that the energy they showed may really surprise us. Depending on the matchups, I think we have a decent chance to advance to 2nd round.

    Yesterday was really a difficult day for everyone who cares about Rockets and Yao Ming. Watching him at the news conference really broke my heart. But I am really glad to see Yao at the game. Yao looks even more handsome in the suit, doesn’t he?

    Derek, thanks for the compliment about my blog being a must-read. Regarding Yao, he looked pretty dapper in that suit. — John

  13. Shawn Says:

    The guy above posted an Chinese article. a doctor from China expressed concern over Yao’s injury and suggested Yao use Chinese medicines instead of western surgery, to heal the “root”, and he’ll be healthy again in about a month. he has no way of contacting Yao and can only post an article on sohu.com and reaches yao.

  14. AirChina23 Says:

    The two Chinese posters above would recommend Yao to undergo Chinese traditional medical treatment. As a son of a doctor who is both an acupuncturist and herbalist as well as a western physician, I feel the same way. I’m sure Yao will get the best treatment possible on this planet for his injuries, but a lot of times surgeries are not the way to go and they just delay the inevitable. Like Shawn said, the Chinese medicine treats the “root” of diseases/injuries, while western medicine treat the symptoms. Those two posters suggested that China sends a few of its best doctors to take a look at Yao.

    Anyway, I was just relaying the message and adding in my own opinion 🙂

    I posted it but I didn’t know what it said. Can someone translate word-for-word for me and send to me? Then I’ll forward it on because the only people I have contact info on Yao’s team only read English. Thanks, John – john@yaomingfanclub.com

  15. reader Says:

    Dear John,

    This is my first time posting and it is because I share the earnest emotion of the poster who wrote in Chinese. Could you somehow make sure that Yao gets to read the post? He might have read it already from other sources, but we don’t want to take a chance. What’s at stake here is that Yao knows all the options available to him when considering what to do about his injury. From my personal knowledge and experience I know that Chinese medicine can do amazing things, almost like miracles for those who don’t understand how it works. I truly believe in the possibility that there is a better alternative treatment in Chinese medicine, which eradicates the root cause of his injury, than the conventional surgery.

    Please relay the post to Yao. It is everybody’s hope that Yao recovers asap.

    A concerned occasional reader

  16. reader Says:

    I would love to translate it, but there are some medical terminologies that I am not familiar with. Can anyone else give it a try? I think part of the reason that Chinese medical theories are not known to the west is because of the problem with translation and even translating the short passage is quite challenging. But Yao will be able to understand it if he reads it.

  17. AirChina23 Says:

    John, I will give it a try. There are some terms that I will need to consult my mother, who is a med. professional. Hell, I should even consult her about this injury as well. The poster above said in Chinese that Yao’s injury might even be recovered in one month, while I don’t know how believable that is but we definitely should let Yao know.

  18. IMLIU Says:

    I still don’t know how you find the time John to do all this, but your dedication is appreciated. I will also still be checking this website for updates on the Rockets and Yao as it’s the best 1 stop shop for Yao\Rockets related info. Although Chinese herbs can be very powerful, I say do the surgery and then take the herbs to heal faster and for strengthening the root of the problem. From my personal experience with herbs from being sick in the past, it takes longer to have an impact (more for preventive medicine) than western medicine that will have an immediate impact, but it doesn’t hurt to look into all options for Yao. I really think Adleman should have played Yao less minutes and rotated Mutumbo in more games. Van Gundy seemed to monitor Yao’s minutes more back then. As for the Rockets, I’m still rooting for them to go strong and deep into the playoffs, but it would have been great to have them at full strength with Yao at center.

    I really appreciate your kind words. That’s a great compliment: “best 1 stop shop for Yao/Rockets related info.” — John

  19. sturbbon stone Says:

    Hello, John,
    I try to translate it word by word, the translation follows the chinese text. As bad as I have been feeling about Yao’s injury, this is the least I can do. I am sure Yao will have all the resources to make the best decision.
    ??,???????????,????,????????????.????????????????????,??????????.???????,????????????????????.????:
    ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????“?”??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? ????????1?2?????????????????????
    ????????,????????,??????????.????????????????,??????????,???????,?????????????,???????????,????. ????????????,?????????????,???????.??????,???????,?????????,?????????????. ?????????,??????????(?????????),????????????,???????,??????????.

    Yao, this is from a conerned fan. since there is no way I am able to contact you directly, I am posting this message on this Sohu website, hoping somebody will get it through to you. I know you’re about to undergo surgery for your injury, but I am afraid it might not be the better treatment compared to the traditional Chinese medicine.
    Stress fracture is a non-infectious bone membrance inflamtion resulted from inapprotriate exercise (including overburden). Western medicine, especially surgery , is not the best way to approach it. Instead, traditional chinese osteology emphasize on “invigorating the blood circulation, and diffusing the stasis of blood”(to prevent extravasation), there are some established receipts can heal and strengthen the bones by taking them orally combined applying ectopically. This way, the injury can be cured in a relatively short period (about a month), the most advantage is that it revitilizes the bones , and makes them stronger essentially, therefore prevent recurrent injuries (including those related to tendons, and muscles) in the long term. There are some experts and great treatments in China. Please tell Yao not to rush for the surgery, maybe the Chinese National Basketball council can help by sending a couple of chinese best traditional osteologists to Houston, or have Yao back to China for the treatment.
    I, myself have experienced and witnessed the wonderful healing power of traditional treatment. I am from SiChuan province, where there are some great hands in treating those kinds of injuries. I broke my ulna and radius, but was cured in one month using the forementioned treatment, and back playing basketball after two monthes. There is a woman suffered a comminuted fracture in her foot, but fully recovered after the treatment, she has no problem carrying stuff up to 300 pounds . The legacy is that the bone acturally becomes even stronger after the treatment. In Yao’s case, the simpler and better way might be go with the traditional chinese medicine rather than surgery , to me, the former has a better outlook.

    THANKS SO MUCH FOR THAT TRANSLATION — I APPRECIATE IT! I WILL FORWARD THIS ON TO YAO’S PEOPLE. — JOHN

  20. reader Says:

    Awesome, awesome, translation! Can’t do better than that. Thanks!

  21. Wendy Says:

    Anyway, this link: http://www.ohio.com/sports/cavs/16065082.html
    tells Ilgaukas’ (the Cavs Center) take on this issue. He hd the same problem 7 seasons ago, and consulted for the surgery, with Tom Clanton, Rockets Team Doctor, who he said is one of the best experts in the country.

    Anyway, hoe Yao makes the best decision fr his career. Although I stil dream of him returning in the playoffs, or, maybe, i the FINALS ala Willie Reed form the Knicks 🙂

    I love it how the media is writing us off – The yforget, the Rockets excel trough team play, with a lot contributors. They will someway compensate Yaos absence, as difficult it is. Keep the faith!

  22. AirChina23 Says:

    That translation was perfection and I’m a member of American Translators Association (but not specialized in medicine unfortunately). John, I did consult with my mother tonight about Yao’s stress fracture. She said while Chinese medicine can be applied but there would no way Yao can come back and finish the season. She said that she agrees that the injury CAN be cured in less than six weeks, but given Yao’s size and the competitive nature of his sport, it would take a long time for Yao’s foot to be able to sustain the wears and tears of the NBA. She said she would recommend an athlete with such injury to take some Chinese medicinal supplements for bone strengthening (such as turtle shell) and also to incorporate a lot of bone-strengthening food elements in the meals. Prevention is more important in Yao’s case. My mother is not much of a sports fan but she always stays updated with the latest Yao and Rockets info. She tells me that she reads your site occasionally and just found out today from me that you’re doing this as a volunteer. She was marveled at the fact and tells you to keep up the good work. We’re sure Yao has the best medical experts from both worlds to help him recover.

    Anyway, keep up the good work and it is very encouraging to see a lot of fans here trying their best to help out Yao and the Rockets!

    Thanks for the compliment. Although it’s alot of work for no profit, writing what I’ve been doing the past 5 1/2 years is a passion of mine. I just think it would be a shame if arguably the world’s most popular athlete didn’t have a site that had this kind of analysis and news updates. I’ll pass on your mother’s suggestion. — John

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