It had been a few weeks since any of us had seen Yao, maybe dating back to February 26th when he announced he’ll be having season-ending surgery. That’s due to the fact that Yao can’t really walk without crutches and has been resting at home.
He finally was seen Wednesday night to watch the honoring of Dikembe Mutombo at halftime of the Rockets game against Minnesota (injured Steve Francis was also there). It’s good to see the big fella’ back:
Francis did some guest commentating during the FSN telecast, and he had a couple of interesting things to say:
1) When Francis had his knee surgery, he said Yao was one of the first people who visited him at the hospital. Francis really appreciated the gesture. Obviously Yao and Steve still remain very close friends.
2) Francis said although he’ll become a free agent at the end of this season, he doesn’t want to leave Houston and wants to sign with the Rockets again. It could get awkward if the Rockets want to move forward without him.
As far as the game goes, the Rockets were prime for an upset from the Timberwolves because I think they’re alot better than people give them credit for. Al Jefferson is a stud of a player (he proved it with 21 points, 10 boards and 5 blocks) and former Rocket Kirk Snyder played very well (12 points on 5-of-7 shooting) by attacking the basket and getting several dunks.
On top of that, the Rockets were going to have more than 3 days before their next game against San Antonio on Sunday, which is almost an eternity in the NBA. So it would have been easier for the Timberwolves to catch the Rockets looking ahead to the break and their huge game against the Spurs.
Minnesota made a game of it by getting as close as 2 points in the fourth quarter, but Tracy McGrady finally got his shot going by scoring 10 points in the quarter (5-of-10 shooting) to finally give the Rockets a bigger cushion and eventually win it 97-86. Before McGrady started hitting shots in the fourth, he had missed 11-of-15 of them. He would finish with a game-high 23 points.
Although he only made 9-of-25 from the floor, McGrady almost had a triple-double with 11 rebounds and 9 assists. But the man who really did some damage was Luis Scola, who finished with 18 points and 18 boards. He was all over the place hustling as the rest of the team was lethargic in comparison. A couple of his baskets came off fast breaks as he made nifty moves approaching the rim to avoid getting his shot blocked.
Carl Landry also had a “quiet” 11 points in 16 minutes on 5-of-7 shots, and Rafer Alston also had a subdued 12 points. Although he only made 5-of-16 shots, it seemed liked the ones he did make came at important times.
Bobby Jackson also had a productive 16 minutes of action by scoring 8 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Luther Head also had a decent shooting night, hitting 3-of-6 from the field for 7 points in 13 minutes.
The one guy who had an unusally poor shooting night was Shane Battier, who made only 1-of-7 three-pointers and 3-of-12 overall for 8 points. But with how well Shane has been shooting over the past few weeks, I think all is forgiven.
Since it’s getting late, I’m going to stop here. I have a bunch of notes from the game that I might write about on Thursday if I feel it’s interesting.
But before closing, I think most of the excitement occurred elsewhere Wednesday night in Boston and in Los Angeles. The Celtics whipped the Suns, and Charlotte shocked the Lakers in L.A.
With 10 games remaining in their seasons, that gives Houston, LA and San Antonio the same record at 49-23, just one game behind New Orleans for first place in the West. Wow! That game on Sunday between the Rockets and Spurs is going to be HUGE!
With their loss to Boston, Phoenix is 2 1/2 games behind the Hornets. After whipping Houston badly last Saturday night, the Suns have now lost two in a row. Being 1 1/2 games behind Houston, San Antonio, and the Lakers seems like a huge hill to climb now.
Meanwhile, New Orleans has won 5 in a row and aren’t taking the dip that most people predicted would happen late in the season.