Right after the All-Star break when the Rockets traded Rafer Alston, McGrady was going to be out for good, and many were uncertain about the Rockets’ future, I said the following after the win over Dallas: “I absolutely love this team more than ever.”
As confident as I was with that statement, I never thought they would make me so proud so soon.
The Rockets trounced Cleveland for probably their most impressive win of the season, firing on all cylinders and playing solid defense yet again for a 93-74 victory. I felt a whole bunch of Houstonians jump on a bandwagon Thursday night.
Without having to defer to, or tolerate, McGrady’s erratic shot taking, Yao Ming is clearly the #1 option on offense now (maybe for the rest of his career in Houston), and Thursday’s game in my mind was a statement game that has made it obvious that this is HIS team. There’s no more confusion among his teammates about who needs to get the ball. No more egos are distorting that view. It’s Yao time.
Yao throws one down from under the basket after a dish from Kyle Lowry.
Click here for more photos from the game.
He proved it by dominating a very good Cleveland team with 28 points on 13-of-15 shooting. His turnaround jumper from the post was automatic, and it’s clear it has become his patented move – a la Hakeem’s Dream Shake or Kareem’s Sky Hook – that can carry him into the Hall of Fame. It’s almost unstoppable because it really can’t be blocked.
Even though this shot isn’t Yao’s turnaround jumper, it’s another shot that’s almost just as unblockable.
And you have to love the throw-down that Yao had over Lebron in the third quarter. He almost posterized him. Love it! Here’s a video that Raymond found of it on Chinese TV. I love the reaction from the fans behind the basket…
Even Cleveland coach Mike Brown had to remark after the game, “Yao was awesome.”
Meanwhile, Lebron James was held by Shane Battier (4 blocks, drew a couple of charges) and Ron Artest to one of his most blah games of the season: 21 points on 7-of-21 shots. And in 40 minutes, he also failed to get an assist for the first time in his NBA career, and only had 1 REBOUND. I think Hell just froze over.
I said a few games ago that the Rockets should not have been toying with the idea of trading Artest before the All-Star break, and that they should do everything in their power to sign him to a longer term deal before he gets tempted in free agency to leave. The guy lives up to his self-proclaimed warrior reputation. With him manning up Lebron, you actually have to feel even more confident that a guy with a body as close to Lebron’s build can actually hold his own against him. That can’t be said very often for whoever is assigned to defend the King.
And did you see the crossover that Ron-Ron threw on Lebron to fake him out of his jock, followed by blowing past him into the lane, then dishing off to Yao for a dunk? That got the Houston crowd to ooh-and-aah. And how about that one-handed tomahawk jam with his left hand with about 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter. That got the bench and fans up off their feet after that one. The man is fun to watch.
Under the radar who gave Cleveland’s defense fits, especially Ben Wallace, was Luis Scola in the lane faking out the former Defensive Player of the Year to score on whirling dirvish moves a couple of times. That’s impressive. I didn’t think Scola could play so well in the lane against a real physical defender like Big Ben. Luis never ceases to amaze me. He finished with 14 points on 5-of-7 shots and led the team in rebounds with 9.
Vonnie “the Microwave” Wafer scored 19 points, with 14 coming in the fourth quarter alone as Houston held off a late push by the Cavs, only to see Von finish ‘em off. It was kind of a coming-out party for Wafer to a national TNT audience, many who had never seen him play before. He made a great first impression to casual NBA fans by hitting 4-of-6 three-pointers.
As great as they played on offense, their defense was even better. They held the Cavs to the lowest number of points in the first and third quarters, 11 and 10 points respectively. Oh my goodness! I’ve heard of one low scoring quarter like this for an NBA team in the same game, but for two of them to occur in the same game is unheard of. And 33.8% shooting for an NBA champion contender? Houston’s defense is baaaaack.
It’s unbelievable that Charles Barkley said after the game that he doesn’t think Houston is a contender, even after this big victory. And before the game, I don’t know why he and Kenny Smith kept saying that trading Rafer Alston was going to mean a big drop-off in production for Houston’s offense. And that they didn’t think Brooks was ready to run a team because he’s too inexperienced. Have they been watching their former team at all this season?
Barkley must still be in a DUI state when he said before the game, “What the Rockets were doing, they were packing it in (after trading Alston). They know they are not going to win now. Any success they have is like icing on the cake. When they traded Rafer Alston, and Tracy got hurt, let’s just bag it for the rest of the season. Aaron Brooks is a good backup. He’s not a starter in the NBA. No disrespect. He’s a good player, but he’s not a starter in the NBA. He’s a “score first” point guard.”
Those are fighting words, Charles. Won’t you ever learn? Remember when you said Yao would never score 19 or more points in his career? Don’t you remember having to kiss that donkey’s butt on national TV after losing that bet? I guess it’s time for Aaron to make Charles kiss Donkey Butt #2. Let’s prove him wrong, Aaron, because it’s time for Big Butt to shut his trap again (although I still like the guy).
And I guess these so-called experts on TNT don’t remember young point guards named Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo leading their teams to great seasons in their first couple of years in the league.
Also, TNT announcers Marv Albert and Mike Fratello were talking about how Rick Adelman had told them before the game that with McGrady out, he doesn’t know who is going to take the big shots at the end of games. What’s concerning is that Adelman would even be worried about not having McGrady around because he was a LIABILITY. I can’t recall any big shots that McGrady hit late in the fourth quarter over the past season or two.
Looking forward to the rest of the season, I know there will be players who will step up to take big shots, like Brooks did against Dallas to hit two 3-pointers late in that game to win it.
There’s so much more about this game that I can expound upon, but it’s late, so I’m out for now.