Before the All-Star break, Rocket fans were wondering if their team would ever get to a point where they’d consistently beat the bad teams after so many disappointing losses to sub-.500 teams.
Boy, isn’t it nice to see them take care of teams they should easily beat, now that McGrady and Alston’s inconsistency are out of the line-up.
The Rockets took care of the 20-49 Minnesota Timberwolves Friday night, setting up a huge game Sunday afternoon in San Antonio, who are only 1/2 game ahead of the Rockets after the Spurs lost to Boston, thanks to 6 missed free throws in a row down the stretch, including 4 from Tony Parker! It happens to the best of them, but on this night, the Rockets did what they were expected to do, beating Minnesota to go 46-25 on the season.
Yao gets some good hang time in contesting the shot
of Minnesota’s Craig Smith. Click here for more photos from the game.
As great as the Rockets’ offense was in opening up a 22-point lead in a 35-point third quarter, their highest scoring quarter of the season, Yao didn’t exactly light it up. He only hit 2-of-10 shots in the first half, and finished with 14 points on 6-of-16 shots and 8 boards in a little under 30 minutes of play. BUT he did only commit 2 turnovers.
My favorite bucket of Yao’s came in the third quarter when Ron Artest grabbed a defensive rebound, pushed it up the court on a fast break, Yao was running ahead of him, then Artest threw a quick underhand shuttle pass ahead to Yao who caught it on the dead run, bounced it once, and laid it in off the glass!
That score gave the Rockets a 22-point lead, 71-49. Just before that, Artest responded to a 9-0 run by the T-wolves, which cut the Rockets lead down to 13, by hitting a 3-pointer, a long 2-pointer, and 2 free throws to push the Rockets’ lead to 20 points. A few minutes after Artest rewarded Yao for running the floor with that sweet assist, Yao would leave the game for good, and the Rockets would cruise on to their victory.
Artest would finish the game with a game-high 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 blocked shots and a steal.
The point guards also chipped in with a solid performance: Aaron Brooks had 13 points on 4-of-9 shots, including 4 assists and 0 turnovers. Kyle Lowry scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shots, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers. Rafer who?
Von Wafer was an absolute blur, taking it strong to the hole and igniting the crowd with his God-given athleticism, scoring all 10 points of his points in the 4th quarter. My goodness, Vonnie “the Microwave” is still so much fun to watch!
Shane Battier “EXPLODED” with 11 points on 4-of-5 shots, had 6 rebounds and 2 assists. My, oh my. If Battier scores 10+ points a game the rest of the season, I think Houston could win 2 or 3 playoff series. But like we’ve seen so many times before, Battier will probably retreat back into his scoring hole.
But that may be okay if James White ends up getting some playing time. White played for the first time this season late in the fourth quarter, and he showed what he can do in a very short amount of time by blocking a shot, getting a steal, hitting a long two-pointer, and a three to finish with 5 points. We got glimpses of why he averaged 25 points a game in the D-League and was that league’s MVP. His lanky physique reminds me a little of Kevin Durant‘s. If he plays half as good as K.D., he’ll have a nice career in Houston.
Looking ahead to Sunday’s game, you can bet the Spurs will be really fired up for Houston after losing in such heartbreaking fashion because of those 6 missed free throws in a row. I’m not a big Tony Parker fan, but I feel sorry for any player who loses a game because of so many missed free throws in a row. Everyone probably still remembers the agony of Orlando’s Nick Anderson in 1995 missing those free throws against the Rockets in the NBA Finals.