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A new era begins with a dramatic win over Dallas

February 21st, 2009
by John

I’m filing a late post here because I had to watch the Rockets-Mavs game twice to digest –- and enjoy — the 93-86 win all over again. After all, it’s a new team with McGrady and Rafer out of the picture, Aaron Brooks now the starter at point, and Kyle Lowry his backup. My verdict? I absolutely love this team more than ever.

Yao Ming led all Rockets in scoring with 22 points and 13 boards in a 93-86 victory over Dallas Friday night. Click here for more photos of Yao from the game.

I really think they are going to shock some people the rest of the season. They have so many weapons that play better as a TEAM now that you-know-who is out. They also have become more athletic, the ball doesn’t stop on offense, the defense is better, they play smarter, and the crowd is behind them more than ever now that the cancer and drama are gone from the headlines.

Thank you Mr. Morey. You have made watching the Rockets for the rest of the season something that every Rockets fan wants to check out now, and maybe even wipe the slate clean from all of those disappointing losses against bad teams earlier in the season.

With the “problem player” out of the locker room and off the court, it’s more obvious than ever the Rockets may be even better than the 13-6 record they have had this season when T-Lack doesn’t play.

They also didn’t fold when they fell behind by 16 points in the first quarter to Dallas, fighting hard to get back into the game late in the second quarter, and outscoring the Mavs 30-13 in the third quarter to build a nice lead. They also showed some fortitude by holding off a late charge by Dallas, something that we didn’t see very much in games before the All-Star break.

They may be less experienced without McGrady & Alston, but I say “who cares?” since they immediately upgraded their athleticism. Brooks and Lowry attack the basket more, you can already tell they’re probably better at finishing at the cup than McGrady-Alston, and for being young, you can tell they take smarter shots, especially Aaron.

Brooks finished with 19 points on 7-of-15 shots and hit a 3-pointer with less than 24 seconds remaining to put the game away. Actually, it was his 2nd three-pointer in a row, but who’s counting? He finished 3-of-5 from downtown.

Aaron Brooks reacts to a big 3-pointer he made late in the game against Dallas to seal a big victory. Click here for more photos of Brooks and other Rocket players from the game.

Although Brooks is no stranger to scoring in bunches, it’s got to help his confidence in becoming a go-to shooter in clutch time. Starting guards in this league who can score are also expected to make big shots late in games, and Big Shot Brooks delivered in front of an ESPN national TV audience Friday night.

A.B. also had 6 rebounds and 8 assists. I really think his passing ability is underrated. He can penetrate into the lane at will to draw the defense, then does a good job kicking it out accurately to a shooter.

And did you see that play in the first quarter when he blew by Jason Kidd and a couple of other Mavs for a layup? He may be at a slight disadvantage on defense because he’s small, but he makes his opponents have to play defense, too.

Lowry also proved what he can do after arriving in Houston so close leading up to gametime. He played 14 minutes, scored 6 points on 2-of-3 shots, showed he can take it to the hoop like Aaron, and also finish at the rim or in the lane, something Rafer had a hard time doing. Those extra made shots by K.L and A.B. can make the difference in a tight game like this one was.

Now that I’ve talked a little bit about the new guys, we can’t forget about the ‘old’ ones. Yao was very solid with a team-high 22 points on 8-of-16 shots, 13 rebounds and 2 blocks. He did have 6 turnovers, though. Still way too many.

And there was a little scare in the first quarter when Josh Howard came over to double-team Yao and they banged knees while Yao was pivoting with the ball. The pain s so intense, it made Yao turn the ball over as it was being stripped simultaneously, and Yao crumpled to the floor in pain. But he was able to shake it off and play again, thank God. I banged my knee the other day on a bus getting up and was in such excruciating pain, I fell into my seat and was paralyzed. So I know how you felt, Yao.

More balanced team scoring came with Ron Artest (17 points) playing a very smart game now that he knows he doesn’t have to defer to T-Lack. He also had 7 boards, 4 assists, 3 steals, and only two turnovers.

Man, I’m so happy Morey didn’t trade him on Thursday. I think that will turn into the biggest “non-move” Morey has had in his young GM career because Artest is such a competitor.

Last but not least was Luis Scola, who continues to keep playing at a high level – 15 points on 5-of-7 shots, and 15 boards.

And even though he only scored 3 points, you know Von Wafer – who will be getting more minutes because of McGrady being gone – will be lighting it up soon now that he’s unleashed!

There were some things the Rockets could have done better that they’ll need to work on. J.J. Barea had a field day scoring at will with 26 points in less than 24 minutes, both from 3-point range and penetrating into the lane.

The Rockets also had 22 turnovers overall. If they fix these issues, I think they could really do some damage in the playoffs.

If it doesn’t turn out as hoped, at least they will be fun to watch this year, and are well-positioned for years to come to be a force in the league.