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Rockets shock Jazz in Game 3

April 25th, 2008
by John

Yao and his teammates react to an important play late in Game 3 of the Rockets-Jazz playoff series, a game the Rockets won 94-92, in part because of late game heroics by rookie Carl Landry. Click here for more photos from the game, which include some of Yao.

Carl Landry has returned! The man who proved to be so valuable during the Rockets’ 22-game winning streak, and who we thought could be the X-factor in the playoffs, finally made the impact we thought he could in the Houston-Utah playoff series.

Landry came up big with a block of a Deron Williams‘s drive into the lane and field goal attempt that could have won the game for the Jazz. Instead, it was the Rockets who won a game on a court where only 3 other teams had beaten the Jazz all season long.

Landry’s block coupled with him saving the ball as it headed out of bounds with less than a second remaining in the game helped the Rockets escape the night with the 94-92 victory. If Landry hadn’t blocked Williams’ shot, then chances are that Carlos Boozer would have tipped the ball in for the win. That would have absolutely sucked since the Rockets had blown a 7-point lead in about 40 seconds leading up to that possession where Landry blocked Williams’ shot.

Landry had been so effective earlier in the game hustling for rebounds and loose balls (he finished with 11 rebounds total, 7 offensive, 7 points on 3-of-4 shooting, and 2 blocks), the Rockets were loving the impact he was making on the game that had been missing during the first two games of the series.

But when Carlos Boozer threw a cheap shot at him during a blockout for a rebound a few minutes before halftime, Landry was rushed to the locker room holding his face and it looked like the energizer was going to be out for the rest of the game. Just the Rockets’ luck as they were making a series of it, right?

Fortunately, Landry was able to return to the game and continue to be effective even with a missing front tooth. And it’s a good thing for Boozer that Landry’s tooth had been knocked out by Dikembe Mutombo in a practice a couple of weeks earlier. If it had been all of Boozer’s doing, then if I were Landry I would have been pissed and probably would have been thrown out of the game for retaliating upon my return.

I thought for sure Dikembe was going to seek out Boozer and throw an elbow of his own toward Boozer’s face to send a message that kind of garbage wouldn’t be tolerated. But now I understand why Deke didn’t do it – because he was partly responsible for making Landry’s tooth loose in the first place.

Amazing that Landry came up with such a big block when he only had 7 blocks the entire season. What’s even more impressive was how he was the key to giving the Rockets an advantage on the offensive boards (7 of Houston’s 16 offensive) over the Jazz (13).

Now that Landry has seen he can be successful against the Jazz doing his thing that made us love him just a few weeks ago, you’ve got to think his confidence will be extremely high, realizing that he can hold his own against these foulers and floppers. So look for great things again from Landry the rest of the series.

* If Landry hadn’t gotten that block at the end of the game, you would be reading a very short post from me (kind of like the one after Monday night’s loss in Game 2) because it would be intolerable for me to write a summary for a team that had the game in the bag and let it slip away. One play (or ref’s call) can make such a big difference between joy and misery.

* Rafer Alston had an epic performance that will be remembered as one of the biggest returning games from an injury in Rocket history, considering all that was at stake. Having missed the past few games because of a strained hammy, the Rockets were almost dead in the water down 2-0 and having to play IN UTAH of all places to get back into the series.

But Alston came in and helped them overcome all the odds, providing a scoring boost (20 points, 4-of-8 from three-point land) that the Rockets had been missing in Games 1 & 2. Even Charles Barkley said after the game something like, “Not many guys can come off the street (after being injured) and score 20.”

Alston’s 3 treys in the first quarter to start the game were huge. For the game, he also had 5 assists and only 1 turnover. His performance was so huge, it could be one of those games that could change how people perceive Alston for a long time to come.

It’s also clear that with Yao Ming out, Alston is the true leader of this team, not Tracy McGrady. The offense was much more efficient with Alston leading the team (20 assists as a whole), assists numbers we hadn’t yet seen from Houston in this series.

Speaking of leadership, did you see when Alston was calling out McGrady as he returned to the bench, giving McGrady an earful? I’m not sure what it was about. There’s speculation that it might have been because McGrady hadn’t run back on defense after missing a layup. Whatever it was, McGrady wasn’t happy about Alston taking liberty like that. But I respected Alston for it more than ever. He wasn’t intimidated by the situation at all.

* Although Tracy McGrady scored 27 points (only 11-of-26 from the field), he was teetering on the edge in the fourth quarter from turning himself into a hero then returning to the role of goat.

McGrady scored 7 points in the fourth quarter on a couple of impressive jump shots. But right when you thought he had gotten the monkey off his back by propelling his team to a 7-point lead late in the fourth, you couldn’t help but look at what he did wrong: he missed a free throw, made poor shot selection decisions (jumpers clanging off the rim or not even hitting glass to hit only 2-of-8 shots in the quarter) and got caught up with Andre Kirilenko trying to break through his defense and having Kirilinko sell yet another flop to the refs. He should know better that Kirilenko is going to do that kind of crap late in the game.

That turnover gave the Jazz the opening they needed, and they responded with two straight almost-backbreaking 3-pointers to make the score 93-92 with 37 seconds remaining. McGrady could have widened the lead to 3 points on the next possession, but he threw up a terrible jumper that didn’t even hit the rim, giving the Jazz one last chance which led to Williams’ shot getting blocked by Landry.

* No surprise that the officiating was pretty bad once again, sending the Jazz to the line for 33 attempts compared to 22 for the Rockets. There were just too many bad calls to list them all here. But the Jazz got Rocket-itis at the free throw line and missed 13 of those 33 for only 60.6% shooting.

* Entering the fourth quarter down by 6 points, I wrote a note to myself that it would take a miracle for the Rockets to win. They had no momentum at all and were being outclassed by a superior team with everything going for them.

But then the Jazz hit a stretch early in the fourth quarter when they racked up 5 fouls in a little over a minute. Finally the refs were exposing them for the foulers and floppers they are!

Those quick fouls would be key because it put the Jazz in the penalty early in the quarter, and the Rockets ended up going to the line 13 times in the fourth quarter alone (and they made 10 of them). Those fouls and Luis Scola‘s 8 points and Shane Battier‘s 4 points in the fourth quarter made it a brand new ballgame.

* Can the Rockets turn the tables on Utah and do what the Jazz did last year against the Rockets: lose the first 2 games then come back to win the series? Wouldn’t that be sweet? You can just feel the momentum turn like it did last season when the Jazz won Game 3 and entered game 4 of that series with more confidence and a swagger. Incredible what one block at the end of the game can do.

There were so many other keys to this game, but it’s getting late and I’ve got to hit the sack. But I will try to write some more of my thoughts by late Friday to give this victory justice before we look to Game 4.

9 Responses to “Rockets shock Jazz in Game 3”

  1. AirChina23 Says:

    Carl Landry wanted to get back at Deron Williams for the pounding of his Purdue Boilermakers when the two met in 2005. Of course, I am just making that up because this argument makes no sense as Luther Head was a star player on that same Illinois team.

    Anyway, last night’s game was definitely encouraging as Rockets proved that they can win against the best home team in the league on their turf. Let’s hope they steal Game 4 and really put the pressure on Utah! It is great to see big Yao traveling to SLC to be with the guys. Of course, I think that’s his duty as well. Just like Pat Ewing did in ’99 and Amare Stoudemire did two seasons ago when he was out.

  2. andrew Says:

    It is goog that “Lose Her Head” did not play today and the Rockets won.

  3. Allen Says:

    As much as I love Landry, the difference in this game was CLEARLY Rafer Alston. The offense, like I have said ALL year, clearly clearly functions better with him in it. Brooks isn’t ready, and Bobby Jax is not a point guard.

  4. Vince Says:

    Excellent post John, hit all the topics of this game right on. Would love to see the expression of the guy holding that “Not In Our House” sign after they lost. =)

    Thanks, Vince! I love it when the Rockets shut up idiot fans in opposing arenas. And how about that lady who gave McGrady an emphatic thumbs down sign with both hands as he walked off the court after his interview with TNT. Get a life, lady! She was pathetic (and pathetic looking). — John

  5. Jim From Hollywood! Says:

    Very exciting game. A total Team effort. I really like the way the Dikembe Is getting on the glass. Its tough to see Yao on the bench-He must feel like he let the team down. JOHN-If The rockets make it to the second round….I know one game at a time….Is there any hope that Yao will be in? Ive been reading a lot of different story lines about that possible scenario. Thanks- Jim

    Jim, I am told there’s no way Yao will make the playoffs even if every series goes 7 games and the Finals extend the farthest amount of time they can go. — John

  6. Wilson Says:

    Wow! At least the Rockets are not the only NBA team to win 22 streak regular season games and been swept in the first round of the Playoffs!!!

    How about doing the same thing that the Mavericks did to the Rockets in the 2004 NBA Playoffs…losing the first 2 games at home and winning the series in 7 games?

  7. calyp Says:

    John, you’ve jumped too deep into the rafer bandwagon ….. funny just how much you wanted him gone only a few months ago but now you’ve mixed your own rafer cool-aid……..

    TMAC IS the leader w/o a doubt. of course no one, including him can be expected to be a point guard and playmaker and top scorer for his team while facing lasered defense beamed at him at the same time. just imagine how effective rafer would be if he was doubled and still be expected to provide assists & the bulk of the scoring ??? rafer just did his job well and rightfully took away the excessive duties from tmac, that;s all. his yelling at tmac is fine, everyone is accountable, but sure does not make him a leader.

    I was listening to Matt Jackson on Sports Radio 610 today and he was saying the same thing about Alston that I have been saying– how much he has improved this year. Remember, they brought in alot of people to replace him because he wasn’t good enough: Brooks, Francis, and James. Even during media day he was going around to the media saying, “Nice knowing you. My time is limited here.” Even at the start of the year, he wasn’t really that good. But then starting in January, he started improving, and I even said on this blog that he should nominated for Most Improved Player of the year within the same season. So I’m glad to say that me, Matt Jackson and other critics of Alston got Rafer motivated to improve. The checks can be sent through the mail.

    McGrady is not effective when he’s double-teamed. No player is.

    Getting in McGrady’s face is a huge step toward being a leader. No one has ever done that, other than JVG who Yao said was last year’s team leader. Rafer’s got balls to do that. Oh, and he runs the offense, too. That’s good enough for me to qualify him as a leader.

    — John

  8. Hobo Junction Says:

    Tracy McLazy still hasn’t grown up judging by his reaction to Rafer’s talking to. McLazy is just doing what his always does in playoff series –have one or two good games where he carries the team, but then ultimately not having enough heart to win the series.

  9. Sean Says:

    Demeanor on the court from Tracy M. shows he can’t lead Houston to championship with Yao. Yao once said when asked why Houston won 22 straight games, that Tracy the same old, but other players stepped up.

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