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Rockets hold off Portland for 5th straight win

February 25th, 2009
by John

I never thought I’d say an ugly win could be so beautiful as it was Tuesday night when the Rockets beat the Blazers 98-94.

Houston had blown a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter with less than 6 minutes remaining, a lead that got whittled down to 2. But rather than collapse like they did several times before the All-Star break, this time the Rockets found a way to win.

Rather than jump on them and lament how the team continues to struggle in putting teams away like they did so many times this season with McGrady and Alston, it’s hard to do that this time. That’s because we know they finally have a cancer off their team that will allow their healthier “cells” to grow over the time.

Also because they’ve got a starting point guard who can actually hit big shots and free throws down the stretch, like Aaron Brooks did by draining 2 big free throws to make it 94-90 with 21.5 remaining.

The rest of the way the Blazers fouled Ron Artest twice, and like a true superstar, he hit his free throws when the chips were down. Those 4 FTs were a majority of the points the Rockets would score (7) in the last six minutes, all coming from FTs.

Artest may not have had the best shooting night (5-of-13), but he made 9-of-10 free throws on his way to a team-high 20 points. He also had 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and only 1 turnover.

Two of my favorite plays from the night involved Artest when he did a pick-and-roll with Luis Scola in the lane, dumping it off to him for a layup. Then later, Artest grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled it coast-to-coast on a semi-fast break to the other end, and dumped it off to Scola for another layup! It’s rare to see a player this versatile: a burly small forward who can play power forward and post-up in the lane, or start in the backcourt with Brooks and be dishing dimes on fast breaks.

Scola would finish with 15 points on 5-of-9 shots, plus 11 rebounds, including 2 or 3 in the clutch that kept Houston possessions alive and staved off the Blazers’ comeback attempt.

Aaron was fantastic with 20 points on 8-of-20 shots, but it was the way he made those shots that was impressive. It just wasn’t off 3-pointers (2-of-5). He attacked the basket more than Rafer Alston did, blew by defenders, and scored on at least 4 layups Tuesday night because of that aggressiveness.

He also had some sweet dribble moves to get into the lane, then would elevate and pop a jumper over defenders who were backing up because they thought he was taking it to the rack. It’s a sweet move, and almost impossible to defend.

Yao had a so-so game. He ‘only’ scored 15 points on 6-of-15 shots. He missed his first 4 shots, which included 2 back-to-back dunk/layup attempts within a few seconds of each other in the first quarter. The first dunk attempt was a one-handed jam attempt over Joel Pryzbilla, who appeared to get a hand between the ball and the rim.

But Yao’s second miss was a flat-out blown layup from underneath the rim, and Yao had to slap his hands frustration that he had missed such an easy shot.

Yao’s night was even more frustrating because referee Scott Foster fell for two Pryzbilla flops by calling them as offensive fouls on Yao. They were absolutely ridiculous calls.


Pryzbilla flopped on Yao 4 times in the game, getting caught only once.
Click here for more photos from pre-game and the game itself.

But fortunately Foster would finally expose Przybilla for what he was when Pryz went to the well too often in the fourth quarter with 2 flops on Yao within a few seconds. The second flop is when Foster called him for a defensive foul, giving a little bit of payback for Yao.

The first half for Houston was incredible as they scored 60 points, and in the second quarter the reserves came in – like Von Wafer, Chuck Hayes, Kyle Lowry – who actually widened the lead after Yao went out, going on a 34-17 run without him. During that scoring outburst, I loved how the bench (including Yao) was on their feet cheering them on and pumping their fists!


The second unit’s offense was a juggernaut as it amped up the running game, like when Lowry started a break and dropped it off to Wafer for a sweet layup. Wafer would score 9 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and heated up fast like a microwave. I said it the other day when I made claim on the new nickname I’ve given him: Vonnie “The Microwave” Wafer. Man, it’s going to be fun watching Wafer, Lowry and Aaron the rest of this season tiring out the defense as they burn rubber on the court.

With this big win, as shaky as it looked in the game’s last few minutes, the Rockets moved slightly ahead of Portland for 4th place in the West. But there’s still lots of games ahead for everyone, including the big national TV game against Cleveland on Thursday night, and a schedule that gets much tougher in March.

Houston may not win Thursday because the Cavaliers are so good, but at least the Rockets showed maturity to hold on for a win Tuesday when things were looking grim. Houston has now won 5 games in a row, 2 against pretty decent teams (Dallas, Portland) and 8 games in a row at home. This is starting to feel a little bit like how last year’s win streak started.

20 Responses to “Rockets hold off Portland for 5th straight win”

  1. Luckyme Says:

    I hope you are wrong in saying that ” Houston may not win Thursday …”. The last time when Cleveland won was due to the fact that Yao was in foul trouble as a result of the blatantly- biased refs. With the new team make up now, I am certain the Rockets will win this time around. You can call me an “optimist” 😉

  2. Jeff Says:

    Defending the Opposing Point Guard

    If the opposing point guard can score, it is difficult to defend him, because you have to defend against his shooting, attacking the rim and passing to the open guys. But if he can only score scarcely, it is easy to suffocate the offensive of his team. The strategy is to focus in blocking his passing to open guys and encourage him to shoot or attack the rim, because when he tries to score, he is going to turn over the ball for most of the time.

    Rafa had problem in scoing. That was why the opposing teams found it easy to sufffocate the offensive of the Rockets.

    Dallas is having the same problem. That is why Dirk is finding life more and more difficult.

    A point guard who cannot score, no matter how good he is in other aspects, can only be a bench player for at most 10 or 15 minutes in each game. If you expect a low-scoring point guard to carry your team, do not complain for struggling. JK was, in name, the starting PG for the US Olympic Team. But in terms of minutes, he was in fact a back-up for CP3. Otherwise, it would have been a different story.

    The opposing teams now find it diffficult to defend the offensive of the Rockets mainly for one reason which is – A. I. Brooks can score. Finally, the Rockets found the Answer.

  3. James Says:

    John, thanks for another great write-up. Your work is always appreciated.
    I like Aaron Brooks for his penetration and ability to make shots, which are a huge improvement over Rafer. However, I am concerned about his ability to pass to Yao. A couple of times Yao had deep position in the paint where he is almost guaranteed 2 points but AB or whoever was handling the ball at the time was not even looking for him. I know over time he AB will learn to look for Yao more, but frankly, I have never felt he looks to make that pass nearly as much as Rafer did. what do you think?

  4. YaoMingMania Says:

    Thanks for the kind words. Regarding your question about Brooks, I've actually been impressed with how he gets Yao the ball in the post in a way that I never saw Rafer do — via a bounce pass, and they have been accurate, too. Rafer tended to pass over his defender, which was more risky of it getting stolen by Yao's defender who may be fronting him.

    I wouldn't be surprised AB isn't passing to Yao as much as Rafer because he's a triple-threat himself: he can blow by his defender and go to the rack, he can shoot from outside better than Rafer, and he can drive and dish to a teammate in the paint who has better hands than Yao: Landry, Scola, and Artest. With those kinds of skills, I wouldn't mind if he uses them when appropriate, but definitely getting it into Yao when he's open.

  5. Andy Says:

    “Pryzbilla flopped on Yao 4 times”

    He actually flopped 5 times, and was 2 for 5. However, Luis Scola flopped EIGHT times in this game, and was 4 for 8. Some other players flopped here and there as well, but none approach Scola

  6. YaoMingMania Says:

    Scola flopping 8 times is completely incorrect. He did it once to give
    Portland a dose of their own medicine.

  7. Andy Says:

    Good job. When proven wrong, suppress.

  8. YaoMingMania Says:

    You need to get a clue. I filter all content for spam, and unfortunately for
    you, I don't live my life waiting by my computer waiting for you to post
    comments.

  9. YaoMingMania Says:

    You can’t be serious. To humor you, I looked at the tape as you suggested to judge for myself if Scola is a blatant flopper like Pryzbilla:

    1Q

    11:38 – Pryzbilla puts an elbow into Scola’s chest. That’s a foul. If Scola had “flopped” he would have fallen to the floor like Pryzbilla did blatantly at least 4 times in the game.

    7:19 – That’s the flop where I previously wrote Scola had flopped as payback on Pryzbilla, and I’m glad he did.

    2:47 – Scola comes around the baseline to establish position in the post while Channing Frye has his arm extended. As he comes from behind Frye to get position, he runs into his Frye's extended arm. The ref calls a foul on Frye. The ref probably shouldn’t have called a foul because it was incidental contact. Scola didn’t flop. He lowered his head so it wouldn’t get hit from Channing’s extended arm while he was trying to post up Frye. But Scola is entitled to get to that spot in the floor. Should have been a “no call.”

    2:24 – Scola goes up for a shot and no contact is made.

    2Q – 10:40 – The guy Scola is defending (S. Randolph) backs into him and Scola takes a step back. If he was trying to flop, he would have fallen to the floor or at least fall backwards in between the ball handler and the basket so Randolph wouldn’t have an open lane to the bucket. Floppers are smart in that when they flop, they don’t make it easier for the ball handler to score just in case the ref doesn’t call it. Since Scola fell out of the play after the ballhandler backed into him, it was legit.

    10:35 – It’s unbelievable you slowed the tape down to watch a ½ second worth of video from the overhead camera to look at the contact on the rebound of a missed free throw! This is sad. Scola didn’t do anything remotely close to flopping. I think you have something against Scola’s hair waving when his body is naturally jarred when contact is made. I do know if you’re watching so closely to slow the video down to analyze this, you must have something against him. I thought I was a little whacked when I analyzed all of Yao’s shots and blocks in his first 2 seasons, but this ‘analysis’ is kind of weird.

    With all due respect, you’ve lost credibility and since I’ve got a life to lead, I’m stopping here. You must be a disgruntled Blazer fan with not much else to do to have logged all of these. You need to get out more. Oh, and use a real Yahoo email address so you don’t fake your identity.

  10. Andy Says:

    No it isn’t. Review the game tape at the following times:

    1st quarter:

    11:38
    07:19
    02:47
    02:24

    2nd quarter:

    10:40
    10:35

    3rd quarter:

    07:18

    4th quarter:

    08:17

    All of these were cases of Scola flailing and flopping about, trying to draw unwarranted foul calls, and half of them were successful.

  11. Andy Says:

    Well then, post the times. I didn’t make up that flop count.

  12. airchina23 Says:

    I think Andy needs to create ScolaFlops.com.

    Gotta give it to him for going through the tape. Even though I don't think that he knows what flopping means.

  13. Andy Says:

    I think you are reading too much into it. All I did was note the times as I watched the game. I might have been off on a couple, but at a minimum, Scola did 2 textbook flops, and a minimum of 4 times he deliberately flailed backward, throwing his head and arms back in reaction to contact.

    This is flopping. An exaggerated overreaction in an attempt to sway officials into making a foul call they otherwise would not make is a flop. You don't have to make a slapstick fall to the ground.

    Flopping has become so commonplace that only the over the top examples even bother people. The play you are talking about on the missed free throw I remember, because it was right after another flop where he didn't get the call, and you could see him sprawl to the side and yell for a foul on the missed shot.

    That behavior has no place in the game. Pryzbilla, Varejao, Kirilenko, Scola, no matter who it is, it's crap. I just find it very hypocritical for all the whining about Pryzbilla to be the discussion here, and by the play by play guys, when all they did was laugh and call Scola's flops “good defense.”

    To quote Rasheed:

    “You saw them calls. The cats are flopping all over the floor and they’re calling that (bleep). That (bleep) ain’t basketball out there.”

    The league claimed they were going to clean that up this year. I haven't seen it.

    I'll definitely check that out, airchina! Scola is regularly listed (along with Pryzbilla) among the most egregious floppers in the NBA.

    Oh, and that email is not fake. Email me and I'll respond.

  14. YaoMingMania Says:

    I still disagree.

  15. airchina23 Says:

    I'm going to jump to another subject but a related one.

    In soccer, players get a yellow for flopping, I think the NBA needs to take a look at issuing techs for flopping.

    What do you think?

  16. YaoMingMania Says:

    I absolutely agree! Or at least call a normal personal foul on them. —
    John

  17. Andy Says:

    They need to do what they said they were going to do. Review the game tapes, and issue fines and (eventually) suspensions for flopping, and do it with some transparency, as opposed to the normal NBA secrecy.

    In game solutions are unworkable. The refs are already falling for the flops.

    If you review the game tape and punish anyone who is yelling and wildly overreacting to contact, flailing around faking seizures (ala Karl Malone), or deliberately falling down, it might actually stop. Especially if you include suspensions. I'd start by fining every player that deliberately fell down a game check after a couple warnings. This would stop it in its tracks.

    Calling a personal foul on the flopper is totally wrong, though. An unsportsmanlike technical I'd be fine with; a personal foul as retribution though, no way. It should be a tech or after game fine.

  18. YaoMingMania Says:

    I believe fining is happening now. It's just not publicly done. And it's not working. Doing it in-game or providing transparency like you mentioned has got to be better than the current situation. Or maybe not. Some people are more sensitive to it than others (cough).

    When Pryzbilla flopped the other night and the refs didn't buy it, they called a foul on him even though he was one on the floor and Yao was standing. It sent the message to Pryz because he didn't do it any more after that. Calling a technical slows down the game because it requires that a free throw be shot. That may subliminally deter the refs from calling it so they don't have to go through that hassle.

  19. Andy Says:

    They need to do what they said they were going to do. Review the game tapes, and issue fines and (eventually) suspensions for flopping, and do it with some transparency, as opposed to the normal NBA secrecy.

    In game solutions are unworkable. The refs are already falling for the flops.

    If you review the game tape and punish anyone who is yelling and wildly overreacting to contact, flailing around faking seizures (ala Karl Malone), or deliberately falling down, it might actually stop. Especially if you include suspensions. I'd start by fining every player that deliberately fell down a game check after a couple warnings. This would stop it in its tracks.

    Calling a personal foul on the flopper is totally wrong, though. An unsportsmanlike technical I'd be fine with; a personal foul as retribution though, no way. It should be a tech or after game fine.

  20. YaoMingMania Says:

    I believe fining is happening now. It's just not publicly done. And it's not working. Doing it in-game or providing transparency like you mentioned has got to be better than the current situation. Or maybe not. Some people are more sensitive to it than others (cough).

    When Pryzbilla flopped the other night and the refs didn't buy it, they called a foul on him even though he was the one on the floor and Yao was standing. It sent the message to Pryz because he didn't do it any more after that. Calling a technical slows down the game because it requires that a free throw be shot. That may subliminally deter the refs from calling it so they don't have to go through that hassle.

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