If there was ever a chance for the Rockets to break an 8-year losing streak to the Pistons in Detroit, this was it. The Pistons had lost 6 of their last 8 games, and 3-of-4 in Detroit. They were also blown out by Dallas 112-91 Friday night, giving up 54.9% shooting in that game.
And although Yao Ming wouldn’t play so he could rest his knee in order to play against the Knicks Monday night in New York, the Rockets were getting Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady back, the first time they were to play on the court at the same time in 3 weeks.
Sidelined because of a knee bruise, Yao Ming signs autographs among respectful Detroit fans. Click here for more photos.
It was a back-and-forth game where you thought a couple of times the Rockets were going to pull away easily for a win, but the lack of defense without Yao in the middle to clog up the lane ended up really hurting them.
But luckily with some clutch rebounds and free throws by Ron Artest in the last couple of minutes of the game, the Rockets prevailed, won their 7th game out of their last 9, and finally exorcised some demons in Detroit.
Artest was fantastic. Although he missed a couple of key shots in the fourth quarter, that’s probably not too unexpected given he was out for a couple of weeks, and his conditioning was probably off. But he finished as the Rockets’ high scorer with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting, 4-of-9 from 3-point land (all 4 of them coming in the first half), bringing boos from Detroit fans anytime he did anything good. He also hit 3-of-4 free throws in the game’s final minute to just about seal it.
The Pistons had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but the Rockets’ defended the 3-point line well as two attempts missed badly, and the Rockets walked away with a 108-105 win.
Luis Scola was just as good as Artest, scoring 21 points on 9-of-12 shots. The Pistons may have thought it was going to be easy for them to defend the paint because Yao was out of the game, but it actually opened up spacing for Scola to hit jumpers or cut toward the basket for layups all game long.
Scola has definitely been coming through in Yao’s absence. He scored a career-high 25 in Indianapolis when they needed front line scoring after Yao left that game, and in this one he picked up right where he left off.
Rafer Alston continues to play the best of his career as a steadying force, dishing out 10 assists, ZERO turnovers, 14 points, and 5-of-11 from the field. Even defensively he’s being appreciated as seen when Aaron Brooks got exploited on defense by Rodney Stuckey in the fourth quarter on two consecutive possessions. When that happened, Rick Adelman immediately put Alston back into the game.
McGrady’s return was okay, scoring 15 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 4 assists. He mainly settled for jumpers, which was working for him early on, but as the game got close in the final quarter, I think he settled for way too many outside shots until finally he drove to the hoop and scored to make it 105-99 with 1:10 remaining.
Shane Battier had one of his best games in recent memory: 14 points on 4-of-5 three-pointers, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. He did well in front of his hometown crowd.
Last but not least, the 6th Rocket to score in double figures was Super Von Wafer, who scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shots, including a 3-pointer that contributed to 12-of-25 shooting (48%) from behind the arc for the team.
With the small lineup in place because Yao was out of the game, the way the game started out, it looked like it was going to be a blowout.
The Rockets came out and hit their first 4 shots to take a 10-2 lead. McGrady hit a 3, then Battier hit a three, them McGrady hit a long two around a Shane pick, then Scola made a layup after Rafer found him all alone. That’s when Detroit called timeout.
Houston would continue its hot shooting, making 8 of their first 10 shots on their way to a 20-9 lead. 7 of those field goals came from assists. The ball movement was excellent.
After the Rockets hit their fifth consecutive 3-pointer, it was 25-13 and it looked like the Rockets were going to blow the game wide open.
The Rockets ended up with the greatest stats at the end of the first quarter you could ever hope for: a season-high 39 points, 7-of-9 three-pointers made, and 79% shooting from the field.
On defense, the Rockets started out in a zone to force the Pistons to make outside jump shots. But soon Detroit was able to get cutters to the basket through a porous Rocket defense, and even though the Rockets were humming on offense, you knew they wouldn’t be able to keep that up and they would have to play some defense if they were going to win this one.
Here’s some more play-by-play highlights on what happened the rest of the way…
Artest hit a long 3 after an assist by McGrady to make it 13-4. Then Scola hits a wide-open jumper after a similar pass from Alston he received a couple of minutes earlier. 15-4 Houston
7:22 – Battier hits a 3 from the corner after a beautiful pass from Scola who drew the defense to him down low, their 4th trey of the game. 18-6. Great ball movement.
6:16 – Scola scores on a layup again after an Alston assist, receiving the ball all at the same point on the floor. 20-9 Houston. THEY’VE MADE 8 OF THEIR FIRST 10 SHOTS. 7 ASSISTS ON 8 FIELD GOALS. THEY ARE RUNNING A CLINIC.
5:41 – SCOLA scores on another assist from Rafer.
5:16 – Artest hits another after a great pass from a cutting Battier across the lane. That gets the whole bench up off their feet! 25-13. 5 consecutive 3s by the Rockets
Rockets defense is porous down low. Maxiell dunks it. 25-20
2:31 – Landry hits a fallaway jumper over Rsheed. 29-23
2:07 – Scola scores a jump hook over Rasheed. 31-23
1:28 – Artest hits another 3 after a beautiful assist from McGrady after he drove to the basket, got contested while he was in mid-air, then kicked it out to Artest for a three! Rockets are 6-of-8 from three. 34-25.
:42.6 – Wafer comes into the game and scores a three from the top of the key! 7-of-9 from behind the line. 37-25. The most number of points the Pistons have given up this season, and the Rockets’ highest point total for a first quarter this season.
Rockets scored 39 points and shot 79% in the first quarter. Amazing.
11:22 – Chuck Hayes throws a perfect outlet pass to a streaking Von Wafer down the court, he’s fouled as he goes up for a layup, and scores! He hits the free throw, making it a 42-27 game.
9:56 – Landry hits a wide-open jumper. 44-31 Houston
8:52 – Brooks penetrates into the lane and scoops an underhanded shot to score! 46-33 Houston
7:43 – Brooks blows a layup underneath after a great bounce pass from Chuck Hayes.
Pistons go on a 13-4 run to cut it to 46-40.
7:12 – Rockets turn it over. Their 2nd unit isn’t doing very well giving up their big lead.
7:07 – Scola and Battier come back into the game, Rockets up 46-40.
6:26 – Artest and McGrady come back into the game. Rockets up 46-44.
Detroit is on an 11-0 run.
6:06 – Scola hits a long jumper from the elbow. 48-44. Scola is 6-for-6. Rockets are shooting 66%.
5:32 – Artest hits a long jumper. 50-46 Rockets.
4:22 – Alston hits a jumper. 52-46 Rockets.
3:34 – McGrady hits a turnaround jumper over Rip Hamilton. 54-46 Houston.
2:59 – Scola hits a jumper from the top of the key! 56-48. He’s 7-for-7 from the field.
2:25 – Scola hits 2 free throws. 58-50 Houston. In Yao’s absence, he’s coming through. He has 16 points.
1:03 – Artest hits another three! 61-54. His fourth three! They’re shooting 69%.
Taking us back to 1970s-style NBA games, the Rockets hold a 61-57 halftime lead.
10:43 – Rodney Stuckey hits a shot. 65-61. Houston
10:27 – McGrady hits a long jumper. 65-61 Houston
9:16 – Artest takes it strong to the hole and scores. 67-63 Houston
8:35 – Rasheed Wallace hits a three. 67-66 Houston
69-68 – Pistons take their first lead.
5:44 – Alley-oop to Wallace for a dunk after Amir Johnson blocked Artest’s shot. 71-70 Pistons
Shane hits a three-pointer to quiet the crowd. 73-71 Houston
4:28 – Artest hits a fallaway. 75-73 Houston
4:00 – Stuckey picks up his fourth foul. Hamilton checks in.
3:49 – Battier grabs an offensive rebound, pump fakes 3 times, and draws the foul on Wallace. Battier hits both FTs. 77-73 Houston
2:45 – Artest takes it strong to the hole, scores and is fouled! He makes the FT and has 21 points. Rafer hasn’t turned the ball over. 82-78 Houston.
1:39 – Landry is fouled and makes both FTs. 84-80 Houston.
1:16 – Alston hits a three! 87-80
:16 – Landry is fouled down low and he makes both free throws. 89-81 Houston.
End of 3rd quarter: the Rockets are still shooting 60.4%. They’re 10-of-17 from three.
The third quarter was a battle, with no more than 4 points separating the teams until Alston hit a three with 1:16 and Landry hit two free throw to make it 89-81. The Rockets have done a good job closing out quarters in this game: they went on a 14-7 run at the end of Q1, and 19-10 to close out Q3.
11:55 – Iverson misses 2 free throws!
11:29 – Alston hits another 3! Amazing! 12 points, 0 turnovers, 9 assists
10:59 – Alston shakes and bakes and scores on a little flip shot in the lane! 94-81. 7-0 run by Houston. 5 CONSECUTIVE POINTS BY RAFER.
10:23 – WAFER TAKES IT STRONG TO THE HOLE AND LAYS IT OFF THE GLASS WITH THE LEFT HAND! 96-81 HOUSTON. IN THE LINE-UP: ALSTON, BATTIER, WAFER, LANDRY, HAYES
9:25 – Hamilton hits a three. 96-86
9:01 – Wafer hits a stop-and-pop jumper. 98-86 Houston. Great ball movement. Everyone touched the ball on that possession.
8:34 – Alston misses two free throws. That hurts.
7:12 – Battier hits a three! 101-88 Houston.
6:22 – Aaron Brooks comes in and misses a three, then with 6:22 Stuckey scores down low over Brooks. 101-92
McGrady settles for a jumper
5:45 – Stuckey scores over Brooks. 101-94. Adelman is sending in Alston for defensive purposes.
5:15 – Landry called for charging
5:00 – STUCKEY IS KILLING THEM. HE SCORES OFF THE GLASS. 6 CONSECUTIVE POINTS FOR STUCKEY. 8-0 RUN FOR PISTONS. 101-96
SCOLA HITS A BIG JUMPER. 103-96
HAMILTON HITS A JUMPER. 10-2 RUN BY PISTONS. 103-98
Alston misses a three after Battier hits a three. They’re going cold now.
3:38 – Hamilton is fouled and goes to the line and makes 1-of-2 free throws. 103-99. When he misses the second one, McDyess gets the offensive rebound.
3:28 – Block by Battier down low! Then Battier saves an offensive rebound and taps it back to save the possession.
2:48 – Terrible shot by McGrady. Awful.
2:15 – Alston knocks the ball away for a steal!
2:00 – McGrady throws up a bad shot! Then Artest throws up a tough one. Scola gets the rebound! Artest throws up a terrible shot again, but he gets the offensive rebound!
1:10 – McGrady finally drives to the hole and scores. 105-99. That possession was huge.
Rasheed Wallace scores over Scola. 105-101.
Alston misses a floater in the lane with 9 seconds on the shot clock. Bad clock management.
:23.6 – Rip Hamilton scores. 105-103
:14.4 – Artest is fouled intentionally. He goes to the line and makes both FTs. 107-103
10.7 – Hamilton scores quickly. 107-105. Artest is fouled intentionally.