Saturday night’s Rockets win over Miami was the epitome of what all Houston fans thought they were going to get from Yao Ming when the Rockets drafted him as the #1 pick in the draft seven years ago. Accurate shooting, hard to defend in the post, good decision-making to kick the ball out when double or triple-teamed, etc.
Yao played one of his best, and most consistent, games of the season as he broke a 32-year old Rockets’ team record, hitting more shots without a miss by going 12-for-12 on his way to racking up 26 points.
He actually had secured the team record at 11-for-11, but obviously no one told him before he shot — and luckily made — a baseline jumper with the game in hand with less than a minute to play.
Yao Ming was unstoppable against Miami’s short front line as he shot a perfect 12-for-12 from the field, a franchise record for shots in one game without a miss. Click here for more photos from the game.
It wasn’t like he exploded in one quarter to make all his points. He was 5-for-5 in the first quarter, 2-for-2 in the second, 3-for-3 in the third, and 2-for-2 in the fourth. He also grabbed 10 rebounds and a couple of assists, choosing wisely when to shoot over his defender and when to pass to a cutter for an easy basket.
Ironically, Yao attempted a difficult offensive move where he probably wouldn’t have made the shot, but he was called for traveling even though both Yao and coach Rick Adelman complained he had been held by a defender who caused him to travel. If the refs had let that travel go and Yao had put up that difficult shot, then we might not be talking about the team record that Yao broke.
We all know what Yao is capable of doing. The guy who continues to exceed all expectations over the past 7 games, who received lots of attention during the Miami TV pregame coverage, was a big part of the Rockets’ offense in the first half Saturday night, is Von Wafer.
Quick as a cat, Wafer was aggressive going to the hole a couple of times for layups or dunks, and tied Yao for high score in the first half with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting, and played the most number of minutes by far for any Rocket in the first half – 22:46 of 24.
He would miss all 7 of his shot attempts in the second half, maybe because he plays “all out” when he’s in the game, and because he played so many minutes in the first half. He finished with 17 on 7-of-18 shooting. I love watching his game. His confidence is really skyrocketing, and if he continues playing like this, he will continue to get big minutes even after McGrady comes back (if he does).
The play of the game had to be Wafer hoisting up a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter with the shot clock about to expire, and Carl Landry grabbing the ball a couple of feet from the rim and throwing it down! I think Landry got Von’s attention by waving his arms to let him know he was open while Von tried to shake-and-bake for an open shot, and although it looked like Wafer shot the ball, I think it was an alley-oop reminiscent of the Steve Francis and Kelvin Cato days. That one brought the house down!
And you’ve got to give credit to Rafer Alston for picking up some of the scoring slack since McGrady and Ron Artest both sat out the game. Taking over in the third quarter where Wafer left off, Alston scored 14 points in the quarter – matching Dwyane Wade’s output in the quarter – and finished with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-17 shots, taking it to the hole numerous times and scoring on floaters and tear-drops since Miami didn’t really have a big man to intimidate shots in the lane.
Last but not least, Carl Landry came alive in the fourth quarter as the Rockets were able to get some breathing room from the pesky Heat who were within striking distance most of the second half. Landry scored all 9 of his points in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shots, including a long two-pointer just inside the 3-point line that was heavily contested that he swished at the buzzer! That gave the Rockets an 89-78 lead with 2:05 remaining and was essentially the ball game. He also hit a couple of other jumpers earlier in the quarter, so it’s nice to see his outside shot has improved from last season that can keep the defense honest.
The Rockets finished the game shooting 57%, which I believe is the first game any team has shot over 50% against the Heat in 34 games, the longest active streak in the NBA before Houston broke it. So give credit to Houston for being able to shoot for such a high percentage without Artest and McGrady in the line-up.
Actually, the Rockets’ ball movement on offense was spectacular without McGrady stopping ball momentum and shooting less than 50% himself. The Rockets assist-to-field goal ratio of 24 assists to 39 FGs is proof they don’t necessarily need the self-proclaimed “Facilitator” to get lots of assists.
And their defense was just as good in the first half, holding the Heat to 36 points in the first half. If they hadn’t done that, this game probably would have had a different outcome.
The only disappointment was the continuation of Aaron Brooks’ shooting struggles: 1-for-7 for 2 points. Luckily Alston was hitting his shots – if both of those guys had shot poorly at the point guard spot, the Rockets probably wouldn’t have won this game, even with Yao’s 12-for-12 shooting night.