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Rockets almost lose to worst team in league, but grind out a win

January 10th, 2009
by John

The Rockets did just about everything they could to give a league-worst 5-31 Oklahoma City team a victory Friday night. Not able to put them away after holding a 15-point lead in the second half, Houston committed numerous blunders and almost experienced what would have been their most humiliating loss of the season. That’s saying something for a team that has lost to Memphis, the Clippers, Washington, Toronto and Philadelphia, all teams with bad records.

Oklahoma City had their chances late to pull off one of their few wins of the season, but they couldn’t make big shots at the end of the game, and the Rockets escaped disaster, winning 98-96.


Yao Ming had about as ugly of a game as
Robert Swift’s tattoos. Click here for more game photos.

When the score was 83-83 entering the 4th quarter, I couldn’t believe the Rockets were in that kind of position against the league’s worst team. I understand that Ron Artest and Shane Battier weren’t playing, that Brent Barry had to skip the game because of a personal emergency that popped up, and the Rockets were probably tired playing their 5th game in a row on a grueling road trip.

But this is the Thunder we’re talking about, a team the Rockets should be streamrolling like almost every other team, take for example a 9-25 Minnesota team that beat them by 42 points on Wednesday night.


By the time the 4th quarter rolled around, Yao Ming was having a terrible game (3-of-10 for 14 points, 6 turnovers). It was hard to believe after he had such a wonderful game against Boston (26 points on 10-of-13 shooting) two nights before.

Starting about midway through the third quarter, I started documenting some of the Rockets’ mistakes that resulted in them blowing a 15-point second half lead and almost led to them giving the game away. Check some of these out (there were probably more):

– Holding a 63-54 lead, Yao misses a dunk at the 7-minute mark, then he misses another dunk about a minute later!

– Yao lets go of a sure defensive rebound that results in an OKC basket with about 3:21 remaining in the third.

– At the end of the third quarter, Luis Scola misses 2 free throws, then Joe Smith responds with a 3-pointer to cut the Rockets lead to 77-72. That was only Smith’s second trey of the season.

– With about 7 minutes remaining in the game, Yao appeared to be wide open deep in the paint after his defender flopped and fell to the floor, but Tracy “the Ballstopper” McGrady didn’t pass it to him for what would have been an easy basket, and he appeared to be looking right at Yao.

– McGrady blows an easy pass inbounds from the sideline, and OKC’s Russell Westbrook steals it and takes it the other way for a ferocious dunk, tying the game at 91-91 with 3:10 remaining.

– From the baseline with 1:01 remaining and Houston up 95-93, Yao puts up a weak shot and gets blocked by Joe Smith, who is 8 inches shorter than him. It appears Yao had lost almost all lift in his legs.

– With a minute remaining, Rafer Alston inbounds the ball from the baseline and throws a stupid pass to Von Wafer in the quarter that goes out of bounds for the turnover.

– The Rockets fail to grab two big defensive rebounds in a row with 43 seconds remaining, giving the Thunder a chance to tie the game at 95-95.

– With the Rockets still only up 95-93, for some stupid reason, THE ROCKETS GO AWAY FROM ANY KIND OF OFFENSE WITH BALL MOVEMENT AS MCGRADY WAVES EVERYONE OFF AND DECIDES TO GO 1-ON-1 ON AN ISOLATION PLAY, THEN JACKS UP A LOW-PERCENTAGE 3-POINTER FROM THE TOP OF THE ARC AND MISSES IT!!! Now why in the hell are they going with a tired JVG-like play like that with McGrady who was 1-for-8 in the second half? HAVEN’T THEY LEARNED ANYTHING? YOU HAVE A BETTER CHANCE OF SCORING WITH BALL MOVEMENT.

Luckily McGrady would have a chance to atone for his selfishness a few seconds later after he got fouled on a defensive rebound with 8 seconds remaining, and hit both free throws to ice the game at 97-93.

I’ll give credit where credit is due: McGrady’s free throw shooting has been much better this season (9-of-10 Friday night, and 82% this season compared to a career 75%).

He also had a pretty good game in the first half, scoring 19 points (26 overall). But I thought he was now the self-proclaimed “facilitator?” It’s beyond me what kind of role he has with the team now. He’s only playing the first night of back-to-backs to save his knee, he’s supposedly taking on more of a role to get everyone else involved (he only had 3 assists Friday night), then he ends up taking 20 shots in this game. That variability and his inconsistency has got to wreak havoc on team chemistry on the court. Will the real McGrady please come forward?

Like the Rockets, it was a long week for me at work and I’m pretty exhausted; I was able to gut out this report like the Rockets squeezed out their win Friday night, so I’ll end it here. But I might try to watch this game again on my DVR and provide more comments a little later after I get some rest.

Since it’s the second night of a back-to-back, Ren will be writing up a summary of Saturday night’s game against the Knicks, and he’ll even be at the game in Houston. That’s all part of my deal this year to try to “save my legs” this season, along with getting Raymond’s help with photos and various reports in the forum.

8 Responses to “Rockets almost lose to worst team in league, but grind out a win”

  1. YaoMingMania Says:

    I agree. Some of the apologists want to blame the injuries to key players,
    but even with their subs playing, they should have easily handled the
    Thunder. — John

  2. Luckyme Says:

    Thank you, John for the effort and this great report. You sure deserve some rest.

    About the game, boy, what a night! They went from defeating a team with one of the best records one night to almost lose to another team which won only 5 times so far this year the next night. As I said a few times before, if they play like this, they are not going to get out of the first round if they get there at all. The chemistry just does not seem to be there.

  3. Ralyks Says:

    John.. I freakin love you, I can't catch many rockets games anymore and these recaps are exactly what I need!

    Now about the game… what the hell is with the rockets playin like crap against the bad teams… Grizzlies, Clippers, Wizards, Raptors, Sixers and now the Thunder. These games could end up killing us, I mean we're only 7th place in the west and Utah and Portland are right on our arses.

  4. YaoMingMania Says:

    Thanks, man. I think it's a combo of mental weakness and injuries. —
    John

  5. YaoMingMania Says:

    I agree. Some of the apologists want to blame the injuries to key players,
    but even with their subs playing, they should have easily handled the
    Thunder. — John

  6. Luckyme Says:

    Thank you, John for the effort and this great report. You sure deserve some rest.

    About the game, boy, what a night! They went from defeating a team with one of the best records one night to almost lose to another team which won only 5 times so far this year the next night. As I said a few times before, if they play like this, they are not going to get out of the first round if they get there at all. The chemistry just does not seem to be there.

  7. Ralyks Says:

    John.. I freakin love you, I can't catch many rockets games anymore and these recaps are exactly what I need!

    Now about the game… what the hell is with the rockets playin like crap against the bad teams… Grizzlies, Clippers, Wizards, Raptors, Sixers and now the Thunder. These games could end up killing us, I mean we're only 7th place in the west and Utah and Portland are right on our arses.

  8. YaoMingMania Says:

    Thanks, man. I think it's a combo of mental weakness and injuries. —
    John

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