Note: I just changed the headline to the above for my post from last night. It’s so appropriate considering O.J. Mayo went off on them, the loss was pathetic, and both Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming had a stomach flu…
Let’s face it. Everyone is sick of the inconsistency of the Rockets. All the fans, the players, the coach, the front office, the media, you name it. After the Rockets lost their second game this season to the woeful Memphis Grizzlies, one of the worst teams in the league, the Rockets have reached a new low with a 104-93 loss Wednesday night.
Houston has now lost 7 games this season to teams that have had some of the worst records in the league: Memphis (2), Indiana, the Clippers, Washington, and Philadelphia (2).
They are also only a pathetic 14-13 against teams with losing records, and 14-7 with winning records.
Yao Ming tries to defend against O.J. Mayo who constantly blew by Rocket defenders on his way to scoring 32 points. Click here for more photos from the game.
Entering Wednesday night, The Grizzlies were a 12-35 team that had lost 7 consecutive HOME games, and had lost 12 in a row before winning Monday night on the road against a terrible Washington team. They are so bad, hardly anyone in Memphis is showing up for their games. There were tons of empty seats in the lower bowl the whole game, drawing only about 10,000 fans.
The radio talk show lines are burning up in Houston, and the natives are restless. I’ve seen it before, and I can just about guarantee that “change is coming,” to borrow a phrase used often over the past few months.
There is no way that Daryl Morey, Leslie Alexander, and the front office are going to stand pat before the trading deadline, especially when one of your highest paid players admits something is wrong. Tracy McGrady said this after the game in which he scored 21, but didn’t score in the fourth quarter:
“It is very frustrating to know there is so much talent on this team, yet we’re not really showing how good we are. We’re not putting it together. We’re doing it in spurts, but as far as consistency, that doesn’t exist with our team.”
At this rate, I have no doubt in my mind there will be a major trade before the February 19th trading deadline. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something happen in the next week, but typically trades don’t happen until closer to the deadline.
Just look at what a little shaking up can do in Memphis. After Marc Iavoroni was fired on January 22nd, under Lionel Hollins, they are 2-3 and have now won 2 games in a row for only the second time this season. Also, their points per game are up 7 per game, rebounds are up, 3 point field goal percentage is up, and assists are up 3 per game.
They are much more aggressive, and the Rockets’ defense was terrible defending against them, even with the Big 3 playing together. The Rockets gave up 53.3% shooting to a team that averages 44.9%. They shot 62% in the first quarter, and Yao’s man, Darko Milicic, was 4-for-4 in the first, including a dunk where Yao left him wide open in the lane for a dunk to help out a teammate who had let a penetrator into the lane. Milicic averages only 6.3 ppg this season.
The Griz also scored 48 points in the paint. And not one Rocket player had a positive +/- differential in the boxscore. I think that’s almost unheard of.
It was a sad moment when in the game’s first 3 minutes, Rudy Gay torched Shane Battier with 2 consecutive buckets. The trade that the Rockets made for Battier in return for Gay looks like it has swung wildly in Memphis’ favor. Gay would finish with 18 points on 8-of-18 shooting.
But the biggest damage inflicted on the Rockets was rookie O.J. Mayo’s 32 points on 13-of-22 shooting. It reminded me of Kobe Bryant’s rookie season when he took the Rockets to school. They could not stop him either of them whatsoever.
McGrady would finish with 21 points on 9-of-21 shooting, but he took too many 3-pointers (5), missing all of them. He also missed 3-of-6 free throws.
Yao Ming, suffering from a stomach flu, still managed to score 20 points on 7-of-11 shots, grabbed 9 boards, and blocked 3 shots. He also made 6-of-6 free throws.
But the Rockets should have gotten the ball into Yao much more often, especially in the fourth quarter as they were making a run, but opted to jack up too many 3 pointers in their final possessions. Before this game, the Rockets were 18-1 when Yao scores 20 points or more. Now they’re 18-2.
The Rockets were out of sync with Yao even at the free throw line.
In the first quarter after Yao hit the first of two free throws, he stepped into the lane to get some ‘fives’ from some teammates like you see in every player get when shooting free throws at the line. But not other Rocket extended their hand out to him, and he was just left standing there awkwardly in the lane. It’s not that big of a deal, but I think it symbolizes how much the Rockets take him for granted, like we saw without him getting enough touches in the fourth quarter.
Ron Artest was terrible. After hitting his first shot attempt late in the second quarter, he would go on to miss all 9 of his remaining shot attempts to finish 1-for-10 with 5 points.
I like Ron-Ron, but that’s not going to get it done, and I’m afraid that he’s perilously putting himself at risk to be the one who might get traded instead of you-know-who.
But the Rockets’ main drop-off in defensive intensity this season has been a big part of their problem this season, and it cannot be blamed on all the injuries. It’s a mentality that has to be changed, and it has to be changed soon. Change we need! Yes we can!
As we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, though, it’s easy to say those catch phrases and “hope” for the best. But pulling it off for real, long-lasting change is much more difficult to achieve.