You knew it was going to be a good night for Yao and the Rockets when Yao started off his game against Chicago by blocking 2 shots in the Bulls’ first two possessions. Then 2 minutes into the game, Yao was able to send Joakim Noah to the bench with his 2nd foul.
But Yao would get into foul trouble himself by picking up his second foul with 7:06 in the first quarter, and went to the bench because of a gash he suffered on his arm during that play.
Saddled with foul trouble, Yao had 11 points in the first half, and really got it going in the fourth quarter with 11 more points, scoring 9 points during a 4 1/2 minute stretch that gave the Rockets the cushion they needed to squeeze out a 107-100 win.
Yao would finish with 28 points on an outstanding 9-of-12 shooting from the field and 10-of-10 from the line. He would also grab 8 boards and 4 blocks. And he fouled out Noah in just 18 minutes, leaving the pony-tailed one with only 2 points and 1 rebound. Yao pretty much dominated.
Yao Ming shoots a hook shot over Tyrus Thomas on his way to 28 points.
Click here for more photos from the game.
After the game, Yao’s words were reminiscent of Dream’s from yesteryear…
“They don’t have any guy that really matches up against us inside. They always come with those double teams. They always come with those smalls. I just work on my game. I have the confidence. It’s very simple. When I came back into the game, it’s the fourth quarter. We know how important it is. We did this a lot before, early in this game, early in this season. I just want to have the ball deep and draw the defense, the double team and see if I can do something in there or kick it out.
“It’s working. It’s always working.”
There were moments in the fourth quarter when it looked like the Rockets might squander another lead, but Yao was the stabilizing force they needed. Rick Adelman said after the game of Yao, “We know that’s something we can go to every time down. Right now, without him in the lineup, we’re still kind of disjointed in what we’re going to do. With him, we know he’s going to be the emphasis and the other team is worried about him, and then you can run some other thing, you can get some other things because of his presence on the court.”
After getting off to a slow start with that horrific game against Philadelphia when he only scored 13 points and had 5 turnovers, Yao has come back with great games against the Warriors (25 points and 11 boards) and now tonight’s 28 and 8. As we’ve seen throughout his career, it may be hard for to Yao get it going after being absent a few games because of injury, but once he gets in a rhythm, he’s the force we know he can be.
And it’s not like the Bulls are pushovers. They are very athletic, like the 76ers, and heading into this game had a 3-game winning streak over the Clippers, Sacramento, and Phoenix, all on the road.
But in this game from the free throw line, they only shot 17-of-28 (60.7%) in this game. If they had matched the Rockets’ 27-of-30 (90%), it might have been a different game. Especially considering the Rockets had their normal brain dead moments late in the fourth quarter when they had a 16-point lead, only to exercise poor clock management with dumb shots and mistakes, letting the Bulls back in the game 101-96 with 43 seconds remaining.
But Yao and Aaron Brooks would hit 2 free throws each the rest of the way to ice the game.
You have to really be proud how Aaron Brooks is turning it around. After a great game against the Warriors on Saturday night, he came through with another great one: 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and 3-of-6 from downtown in 24 minutes. He outplayed Rafer Alston, who was only 1-of-7 from the floor with 7 points in about the same number of minutes.
Before Saturday night, Aaron struggled for weeks after starting the season off as a pleasant surprise with his scoring ability. Now that he’s starting to emerge again as witnessed from these past two games, he’s not a liability as he was just a week or two ago when he couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn.
Probably the most exciting play had to come from the most unexpected player — yes, Tracy McGrady. He was his old vintage self when with about 4 minutes remaining in the first quarter, he took it strong to the rack and posterized Tyrus Thomas with a one-handed tomahawk jam! That throw-down got the entire Rockets’ bench off their feet smilin’ and struttin’. Gotta love it.
McGrady would finish with a pretty good game by attacking the basket more than usual: 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting, 6 assists, and only 1 turnover. And his popular backup Von Wafer got decent minutes (20) and scored 7 points. If McGrady can be this efficient and Wafer+ can get 20 minutes, I’m happy. I’m just a little disappointed that Brent Barry is getting DNPs all of a sudden.
We just all have to wonder when the inconsistent McGrady will come back with a stinker of a game to ruin the honeymoon. Maybe Wednesday in the second night of a back-to-back in Memphis? Okay, I’ll stop being a party pooper now.
Before closing this one out, I’ve got to recognize the quiet assassin — Luis Scola — for another consistent game: 13 points and an amazing 18 rebounds. Who said Luis couldn’t rebound?
And get this: mostly everyone played so well, the last of the Big 3 is getting the final mention here. Not that Ron Artest was bad. He scored 10 points on 5-of-9 shots and had 6 assists. He just wasn’t needed as much because the Rockets’ depth is starting to show what it’s capable of doing.