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Stoudemire and Suns toast Rockets

March 23rd, 2008
by John
Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire was too much to handle for the Rockets as he scored 38 points, grabbed 13 boards, made 20-of-20 free throws, and blocked 4 shots on the way to beating Houston 122-113.  This game continues to illustrate how much the Rockets are missing Yao Ming's presence in the middle.Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire was too much to handle for the Rockets as he scored 38 points, grabbed 13 boards, made 20-of-20 free throws, and blocked 4 shots on the way to beating Houston 122-113. This game continues to illustrate how much the Rockets are missing Yao Ming’s presence in the middle.

I did something I rarely do watching a Rockets game. They were stinking it up so bad in the first half in Phoenix Saturday night, I changed the channel.

I couldn’t take the massacre I was watching. As they fell behind by 17 points in the first quarter, they didn’t deserve any Rocket fan’s attention. Things got worse as they fell behind by 23 points in the second quarter. So instead, I watched a much better game between UCLA and Texas A&M, a hell of a game which the Bruins pulled out in the final minutes. That was the best decision I made all day.

For good measure, I decided to record the Rockets game just in case some fluke happened and they made a game of it. To my surprise, when I watched the recording I saw the Rockets end up closing the deficit to 8 or 9 points a couple of times in the second half. But the whole time I thought Phoenix was just toying with them. Anytime the Rockets got close, the Suns would turn it on and make the Rockets look like pretenders.

When I had earlier changed the channel away from the game, it was halftime and the Suns had shot an incredible 76% from the field, had 18 assists, and scored 30 points in the paint to lead 74-57. You’ve got to be kidding me — 74 points by halftime?

Amare Stoudemire was killing Luis Scola and anyone else trying to defend him. (I was tempted to make my headline above read, ‘Stoudemire schools Scola,’ but I didn’t want to blame it all on one guy), Stoudemire scored 26 points in the first half on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and 12-12 from the line

I can’t remember when I last saw one player dominate the Rockets in a first half. This is another game where the absence of Yao Ming down low really hurt since they didn’t have much of a chance to slow down Stoudemire and Shaq (13 points at halftime, 23 overall).

The Rockets scoring 57 points in the first half is fairly decent, but to make up for their inability to slow down the Suns’ attack, they needed more points. Unfortunately, Rafer Alston went to his old brick-laying ways, making only 1-of-7 shots in the first half.

Since Alston turned into Mr. Inconsistency again, Bobby Jackson got a lot of minutes starting in the second quarter to provide more scoring, and he contributed by scoring 5 points in the the second and 8 points in the fourth to finish with 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting.

And for some unknown reason, Dikembe Mutombo decided in the second quarter to put up 2 shots from a few feet past his range, which is typically only 2 or 3 feet. Both attempts were embarrassing air-balls. How can a 17-year veteran who knows his limitations fall into the trap of jacking up shots like that in Alston-esque fashion?

Down by so much, I would have loved to hear what Rick Adelman had to say in the locker room. Did he rip into his team?

When it came to the second-half game plan, I figured this was the perfect scenario for Adelman to let McGrady, who scored 18 in the first half, turn on the offense since all the pressure was off and they needed as much offense as they could get. So why not let him go crazy like the inner McGrady really wants to do? It couldn’t hurt.

So that’s what McGrady did. He put up 18 shots in the second half, but he only made 5. It wasn’t all his fault the entire team only shot 42% in the second half, BUT THE THING THAT REALLY BURNS ME UP IS THAT HE COULD HAVE CUT THE DEFICIT TO 9 POINTS WITH 4:19 REMAINING IN THE GAME, BUT HE MISSED TWO FREE THROWS THAT CONTRIBUTED TO A 7-FOR-12 NIGHT FROM THE FREE THROW LINE. OF ALL PEOPLE, SHAQ HAD A BETTER NIGHT FROM THE LINE, MAKING 7-OF-9! AND STOUDEMIRE MADE 20-OF-20!


I said right after the Rockets lost Yao for the season that a big part of the Rockets’ success this season was going to come down to other players making free throws since Yao was shooting an incredible 85% from the line. Since their 22-game winning streak ended on Monday, they have shot from the line in their 3 losses 61%, 65%, and 74% for a combined 68%. That’s not going to get it done.

After the Rockets decided to play defense in the second half and put together a few scoring runs, they had their chances to pull off a shocking comeback win, but whenever they needed a score to really put pressure on the Suns, they couldn’t come up with one. Not even superman Carl Landry who had a decent game shooting 4-of-8 from the field for 9 points.

For some reason, Adelman decided to play Luther Head in this game, including the crucial fourth quarter. Luther was absolutely awful (again) hitting only 1-of-5 shots in the game and turning the ball over twice on terrible passes in the fourth trying to make plays, something he’s not equipped to do.

I like Luther, but his inconsistency isn’t going to get it done, either. There are too better good shooting guards around the league looking for playing time, and I have a feeling if Head doesn’t start playing better this season, he probably won’t make the team next season. He’s in his third season now, and by that time, you pretty much know what you’ve got in a player. On top of struggling as a shooter, he’s not that great of a defensive player, either.

There were a couple of plays involving Mutombo that really sucked. Early in the fourth quarter, Shaq grabbed a rebound with Deke in between him and the rim, and Shaq elevated and threw it down on Mutombo without Deke even lifting a finger to try to provide some resistance. I’m not used to seeing that kind of passiveness in Deke’s defense as he watches someone dunk on him in his vicinity without putting up a fight.

Late in the fourth with the Suns only up by 9 points, Shaq grabbed another offensive rebound and shoved Deke out of the way with a blatant elbow as he went up for a put-back, AND THE FRICKIN’ REF DIDN’T CALL A FOUL ON SHAQ! Instead, Shaq was supposedly fouled by Scola. Shaq would go to the line and make both free throws, pushing the Suns’ lead to 11 points with 3:28 remaining, which was huge. NOT CALLING AN OFFENSIVE FOUL ON SHAQ WAS AN ABSOLUTE TRAVESTY!

The only positive I saw come from this game is that Landry, who I think could be a budding superstar, saw firsthand how incredible of a player Amare Stoudemire has become (38 points, 20-of-20 from the line, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks). Landry has some of the same athletic gifts that Stoudemire has: explosive, powerful, can jump, nice shooting touch.

Perhaps Stoudemire set the bar for how good Landry can become in the years to come. Can you imagine if Landry averages 20+ points a game to go along with Yao on the front line, and Scola continues to do his thing? The Rockets will be unstoppable for years. If the result of seeing Stoudemire dominate in tonight’s game ended up showing Landry how good he can become some day, then I’ll take it.

Looking at the short-term, though, the Rockets will have no chance against the Suns if they face them in this year’s playoffs. After seeing Phoenix play tonight, I think it’s going to be Suns vs. Celtics in the Finals.

14 Responses to “Stoudemire and Suns toast Rockets”

  1. Wesley Says:

    If Yao played tonight, Rockets would win.

  2. Luckyme Says:

    What a let-down – another one! The Rockets were so intimidated and played so timidly as if they did not want to get hurt or upset the Suns. I was so disgusted- like you, John, I changed the channel. Although I am a Yao fan first, but I switched to the Bucks-Cavaliers game in which Yi and his fellow Bucks beat the Cavaliers and won the game. At least it was not a total loss of a lousy night.

  3. Wilson Says:

    Do I still hear…the Rockets play better without Yao??? or the Rockets don’t need Yao???

  4. Allen Says:

    I like Landry, but he is no Amare. Don’t think he ever will be.

    There are lots of players and GMs who are extremely impressed with Landry’s potential, and will make a run at signing him in the off-season. He definitely has potential to be a stud. Why not be more encouraging, Rocket fan, rather than poo-pooing dreams?

    Saying he won’t turn out to be anything is probably similar to what other pundits said about other 2nd round draft picks like Carlos Boozer and Sam Cassell who blossomed into something special, or Michael Jordan when he didn’t make his varsity high school team as a sophomore, or Houston when they started their 22-game winning streak, etc. It’s more fun to encourage a player’s progress than to say, “I was right. That guy never amounted to superstar status.” Otherwise, sports would be predictable and boring. — John

  5. AirChina23 Says:

    John, what do you think about Landry’s future development? He’s currently an undersized power forward/center, like Barkley was. Do you see him keep playing in this position? I know he’s very athletic and he’s getting stronger. But do you ever think he might be shifting to the small forward position? The Landry I know has a good shot and also pretty decent ball-handling skills. I’m not saying he should be competing with Shane for the job, which is a no-brainer given Battier’s contributions and experience. I just don’t know if he’ll continue to have an advantage among the trees in the 4 and 5 positions in the years to come.

    Landry is very unique and is unlike most power forwards. I don’t think he’ll be a small forward. He’s got too much power to be relegated to the outside like most small forwards, and doesn’t good enough ball-handling skills for that. I think Shane’s playing time at SF is very safe. Landry is the same height as Carlos Boozer, 6′ 9″, but I think he attacks the rim more than Boozer. On the boards and on defense, maybe he could get close to Rodman, who was about the same size. If he ends up being like Boozer or better, or like Barkley as you brought up (which is a good comparison, too), then I think he’ll be able to handle his own among the trees.

  6. Wesley Says:

    Amare was getting a lot of “superstar” phantom foul calls last night. 20 times to the line?! What a joke!

    And it’s a pleasure to see the Rockets lose without Yao. Keep it coming!

    I agree with the Amare statement. The statement for the Rockets to continue to lose with Yao is….well, I won’t respond to that one. Instead, I’ll let others do that for me. — John

  7. arthurko from LA Says:

    Yes! as a Yao first fan and rockets 2nd, I like the fact that teams like the suns are able to exploit that big absence in the middle without Yao on their way to a victory. People disagree with my views because I say I want the Rockets to lose without Yao, but that is also because I am looking in the long term. I would rather the Rockets get another solid draft pick than lose in the first round of the playoffs again. I think the Rockets used up too much fuel in their amazing 22 game run.
    Think about it, at the rate the Rockets are playing right now, I think they might realistically be at a 6th, 7th, or 8th seed and that would mean facing Lakers, Hornets, Suns right now.
    Anyway, I support the Rockets but for the long term. This year just isn’t the time, that is without without Yao in the mix. With Yao being their franchise player

  8. Wesley Says:

    Rockets losing without Yao shows everyone that Yao is the most important player on this team. And he’s also the best center in the NBA. That’s the truth.

    So, it’s a pleasure to watch the Rockets lose without Yao. I’m sure majority of the people here are Yao only fans, and don’t really care about the Rockets much.

  9. wang ming Says:

    Wesley you are a disgrace
    John cares about the Rockets just as much as the Yao
    I don’t see him enjoying Rockets losing at all

  10. Jebb Says:

    People, stop those silly opinion about wanting Rockets losing games just to prove that Yao is the best player on the team!

    Yao is the biggest and the most important piece of Rockets, period! Yao can help ANY team ( Ya, all 30 teams ) in the NBA and ALL of them would love to have Yao, this is true and only epople without much basketball knowledge would disagree with me.

    Rockets is a dominant team with a healthy Yao, Yao commands a constant double team whenever he steps into the paint, and it is that much easy for Tracy, Scola ( or Landry ), Battier & Alston to beat the other 3 opposing players ( actually they play 4 on 3 when Yao has the ball! )!

    Few people think that Rockets is a better team without Yao, they are dead wrong and they don’t know much about basketball!

    However, Rockets need all their pieces to contribute in different ways for them to go far in the playoff next season as outlined below:-

    Yao – Keep turnover down, get more rebounds and more touches at the low block!

    Tmac – Should go the rack more often, less long range shots!, play better defense and getting his team mates involved more! Practice free throw at least 500 shots per day! I can shoot 85% free throw if i am paid 19 Millions a year! ( No excuse!! )

    Scola – Better defensive efforts & to improve free throw percentage too!

    Landry – Play more minutes and expand his shooting ranges! He will be unguardable if he shoots a higher percentage shots with range!

    Alston – Play smarter and drive to the rack more, get higher percentage shots! Need to improve his 3-points shooting percentage and make it a weapon!

  11. D Says:

    Since Yao went down, if you listen to th media, most of of them already acknowledge that Yao is the best player on this team. So it is pointless now to wish the Rockets to lose in order to show Yao’s importance. You might have a debate of whether Yao is the best center in the NBA, but there is no denying of his importance and his contribution on and off the court to this team.

  12. AirChina23 Says:

    Wesley, it just shows that you’re not a true Yao fan when you don’t even care about the very team he plays for!

  13. W Says:

    I can understand people being a Yao fan first, and a Rocket fan second. But to now piss on Rockets. That’s simply bad form, especially on a board, which author has pour his heart and soul since Yao can on the Rockets 6 years ago. arthurko, wesley – you’re embarrassing yourselves.

  14. floyd Says:

    lol at john
    i read from above that you wouldn’t comment on whether you enjoyed rockets losing while yao’s out… well, YOU are the biggest yao only fan in here
    why pretend, just say you do. you absolutely love it.
    oh are your comments regarding yao being booed printed yet from the washington post?
    what a joke

    Haha, you have no idea how wrong you are. I guess you don’t read this site all that much. And I bet you’re email address is not skippy@hotmail.com. If you’re going to post something to diss someone, be a man and own up to you’re real identity, ‘floyd.’ — John

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