Since the Rockets-Nuggets game ended so early because it was a matinee on MLK Jr. Day, most of you already know what happened. So I’ll try to go “old school” on you and do some play-by-play on this huge victory the Rockets pulled off. They’ve now won their 5 of their last 6 games, defeated a Denver team that had won 9 of their last 12, and pulled within 1 game of the Nuggets in the Western Conference standings.
Yao Ming was outstanding with 31 points on 13-of-19 shooting. Over his past 2 games, he’s averaging 28.5 ppg and is 25-for-31 from the field. At this rate, Yao is in serious contention for Player of the Week Honors. He’s leading this team and seems to be back to the level he was playing last year before his bid to win league MVP was cut short because of his foot injury.
The refs had questionable calls against Yao most of the afternoon.
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The Rockets scored 36 points in the first quarter, a season-high. But they also gave up a season-high 36 points. The Rockets shot 57.7% while the Nuggets shot 57.1%
Von Wafer jetted fast down the court and scored on a layup to make it 25-24, Houston. Then a few minutes later, Von took an offensive rebound the length of the court coast-to-coast, took it strong to the hole, scored, and was fouled! I loved his reaction both times – a little leg kick combined with a fist pump. Von finished the quarter with 9 points on 3-of-7 shooting.
Wafer is kind of like Avery Johnson – a journeyman who finally landed with a team and became a force. You don’t see that very often. Hopefully the Rockets will keep Von as long as the Spurs kept Avery.
Rafer Alston hit his first three 3-pointers and was 5-for-6 in the first quarter for 13 points, including a sweet fake in the lane, then hoisting up a teardrop for the score.
At about the 1 minute mark, Yao grabbed an offensive rebound under the basket and threw down a one-handed reverse dunk over Chris Andersen. Yao finished the quarter with 8 points on 4-of-7 shooting.
– Brent Barry comes into the game and hits his first two 3-point attempts.
– The Rockets go about 4 minutes without scoring, miss 8 shot attempts, and only make 3-of-15 shots during one stretch. Their shooting percentage drops to 43% until Yao snaps the cold streak with two back-to-back buckets. With Yao, Wafer and Rafer back in the lineup, the Rockets hit 4-for-5 shots.
– Yao picks up his 3rd foul at the 3:12 mark when he fouls Nene, who scores on a one-handed jam.
– The Rockets’ defense is terrible in the second quarter with Denver scoring at will with penetrations into the lane, then dishes for layups or dunks. It was like the Philadelphia game all over again. Chauncey Billups has 8 assists by the end of the first quarter. Kenyon Martin and Nene have combined for 32 of the Nuggets’ 66 points. With 68 points by halftime, it looks like they are well on their way to scoring more than their 103 ppg average. Because of their porous defense, the Rockets allowed an incredible 76% shooting in the second quarter so that Denver finished the half at 66% shooting. While Yao is out, I’m wondering why Dikembe isn’t playing to clog up the middle a little bit.
Thankfully the Rockets’ offense is keeping them in the game by halftime, only trailing 68-65. Alston has 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting, Yao has 12 on 6-of-9 shots, Von Wafer has 11, Luis Scola has 8, and Barry has 8. Houston is shooting ‘only’ 51%. The good news is that they only had 3 turnovers in the first half.
– 9:55 – Referee Violet Palmer calls a loose ball foul on Yao as he goes straight up for a rebound without touching anyone. And she makes this terrible call from behind the play where she can’t see a thing! That’s Yao’s fourth foul.
– The Nuggets keep scoring with ease in the third as they take an 80-73 lead.
– Wafer hits a big three-pointer to cut the Denver lead to 87-86, with 1:40 remaining in the quarter. Then Aaron Brooks hits his first shot to make it 88-87, Houston.
– The Rockets finish the quarter on a 17-7 run to take a 90-87 lead. The Nuggets only score 19 points in the third.
– Adelman yells at Wafer for letting J.R. Smith hit his first of 2 back-to-back threes.
– 10:46 – Aaron hits a three, which ties the game at 93-93.
– Yao gets double-teamed, and Yao throws a pass to Shane Battier in the lane for a layup and an assist.
– J.R. Smith hits another shot, this time a runner in the lane. He now has 8 points in the quarter.
– 9:34 – Yao is fouled, but misses the first of two free throws. Rockets lead 96-95.
– 9:02 – Aaron shakes-and-bakes Anthony Carter from behind the 3-point line, then drills a three! Aaron missed his first 5 shots, but now he is starting to heat up. Rockets lead 99-95.
– 8:23 – Yao posts up Andersen on the block, and elevates and hits a hook shot. The Rockets are on an 11-2 run. They lead 101-95, their largest lead of the game.
– The Nuggets go on an 8-0 run to take a 103-101 lead. The last bucket was a result of Chris Andersen flopping on Yao down in the block, forcing Yao to have to jump over him as he leaps toward the basket to lay it in, but Yao misses it. Both Yao and Adelman thought Anderson should have been called for a tripping foul.
– 6:38 – Yao hits a baseline jumper over Anderson to tie the game. Yao now has 23 points.
– 6:23 – Billups hits a three to make it 106-103.
– 6:09 – ONE OF THE WORST REF CALLS IN THE WORLD! CHRIS ANDERSEN IS PULLING DOWN ON YAO’S RIGHT ARM AS HE’S GOING UP FOR A SHOT UNDERNEATH THE RIM, AND THE REF CALLS TRAVELING ON YAO! YAO GOES BALLISTIC ON THE REF AND GETS CALLED FOR A TECH! The Nuggets hit the technical free throw to take a 107-103 lead.
– 5:31 – YAO IS STILL PISSED AT ANDERSEN, POSTS HIM UP, ANDERSEN GOES FOR A STEAL, THEN YAO EXPLODES TO THE HOLE AND THROWS IT DOWN WITH ONE HAND! Yao has 25 points in the game. 107-105 Nuggets.
– 4:48 – Yao is triple-teamed down in the post, Yao kicks it out to Brent Barry behind the 3-point line, AND BARRY DRAINS IT TO GIVE THE ROCKETS A 108-107 LEAD! That’s Brent’s 3rd three of the game.
– 4:31 – Billups turns the ball over out of bounds after Alston plays good defense to make him lose the ball.
– 3:43 – Yao blocks J.R. Smith’s shot as he goes strong to the hole, but again, another bullshit call against Yao! That’s his 5th foul. Smith makes 1-of-2 free throws, his 14th point in the quarter, to tie the game at 108-108.
– 3:32 – Finally the refs call a foul in Yao’s favor against Kenyon Martin as he fouls him. A couple of seconds later, Martin fouls him again.
– 2:52 – Kenyon Martin pulls Yao down for his 3rd foul against Yao in less than 40 seconds, and the foul was so blatant, a technical is also called. Yao goes to the line and makes 2-of-3 free throws to make it 110-108 Rockets.
– 2:12 – Yao hits a jumper in the lane! 112-108 Houston!
– 1:55 – Nene wheels around Yao for a dunk. 112-110 Houston.
– 1:41 – Yao makes a strong move in the lane and hits a right-handed hook shot over Nene! They can’t stop him!
– 1:27 – Yao makes Martin miss a layup in front of the rim. Great intimidation by Yao.
– 1:12 – Yao is stripped by Dante Jones, which leads to J.R. Smith hitting a three on the other end. Houston leads 114-113. That’s Smith’s fourth trey.
– :50.2 – Yao is fouled on the arm by Anthony Carter as he’s making a strong move to the basket, AND NO FOUL IS CALLED! The ball pops loose and Yao is livid at the refs!
– :43 – J.R. Smith misses a three, and Nene misses the tip-in, and Battier grabs the rebound. The Rockets got lucky on that one!
– :20 – Yao misses a turnaround jumper. Nuggets rebound the ball, call timeout, and have a chance to win the game on the next possession.
– :7.4 – The refs make the right call as Chuck Hayes slides over to draw a charge on Linas Kleiza as he passes off to Nene for a dunk.
– :6.5 – Aaron Brooks is fouled intentionally on the inbounds pass. With the Rockets leading 114-113, he misses the first free throw, but makes the second. The Rockets lead 115-113.
– :2.6 – Kenyon Martin is fouled intentionally by Brent Barry on a layup attempt that he misses. Martin goes to the line misses the first free throw. He misses the second free throw intentionally, there’s a scramble for the rebound, and Yao grabs the ball for the steal to win the game!