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Jazz jolt Rockets again

March 25th, 2009
by John

There would be no amazing comeback victory in Salt Lake Tuesday night like there was in San Antonio on Sunday. The Rockets were discombobulated in so many facets of the game, they must have lost their composure somewhere between San Antonio, Houston and Utah.

First, Yao Ming and Ron Artest didn’t step up like you would expect your two best players to do in a game this big. They did against the Spurs, but not in the altitude of Salt Lake.

Artest was 5-for-22 for 13 points, taking it into the paint and putting up difficult shots or getting his shot blocked. The same goes for Yao, who not only missed 10-of-16 shots to score only 14 points, but seemed to have a hard time getting his shot off in the paint.

Utah’s Paul Millsap blocks Yao Ming’s shot.
Click here for more photos from the game.

I give Artest and Yao credit for attacking the basket for higher percentage shots or increasing the chances of getting fouled, but I can’t remember the last time the Rockets got blocked 12 times in a game before. I don’t know if that sets any kind of record, but when 13% of your 92 shots get blocked, it has to get in your head and make you rush your shots, thinking it’s going to get blocked again.

In my opinion, that’s clearly what happened as the Rockets shot only 35% from the floor, exceeded even by their 39% shooting from 3-point land where they had more breathing room against shot blockers like Mehmet Okur (4), Paul Milsap (3), and Andrei Kirilenko (2).

No one knows how much a difference Carl Landry and the way he attacks the basket would have made in a game like this, but because of some idiots in Houston with a gun, we won’t every really know. Side note: I hope they find those scumbags, lock them up, and throw away the key.

As much scrutiny Aaron Brooks may get for not being a ‘traditional’ point guard who passes first and shoots second, the fact is without his scoring punch (20 points on 8-of-17 shots), this game would have been a blowout much earlier on.

Keep in mind that Daryl Morey and the Rockets brass made the decision that they want that kind of player at the point rather than Rafer Alston, who was so inconsistent you didn’t know what kind of game you were going to get.

Brooks didn’t lobby for the starting guard position, nor demand it. He is still evolving as a player, but what he brings to this team now is still so much better than what JVG would have done by bringing in some old guy who couldn’t score and was way past their prime. Remember Mark Jackson? I’ll take a young player like Brooks any day, and his 16-5 record as a starter since the All-Star break speaks volumes.

I just wish Yao had kept shooting jumpers where he had some success, rather than trying to put it up among Utah’s shot blockers. People may wonder why he didn’t get the ball more, but I strongly believe if you have guys who can run on the break, and you’ve got a legitimate opportunity to do it, you do it because it increases your odds of scoring immensely. That’s been the key to their success since the All-Star break. And it worked pretty well for other teams who had big men who couldn’t run and keep up with the gazelles. Remember Kareem and the Showtime Lakers?

When a center like Yao is being double-teamed, and he’s having a hard time getting his shot off against a swarming defense or shot blockers, you don’t keep forcing it in there. You adapt. Your other players should attack the basket or kick it out to your perimeter shooters. If you don’t, you’re going to lose.

There were times when the Rockets had nice stretches of scoring and defensive stands, but many times their shooting went south for huge chunks of time (like when they missed 11 shots in a row), or they made egregious defensive lapses letting guys score easily on dunks and layups, with Yao, Artest and Von Wafer three of the culprits.

So much inconsistency in one game is not going to get it done. I’m happy that Yao got 4 blocks, but none of them were really game changers. It seemed every time the Rockets would get the ball after a block and went on a fast break, they would miss the shot, force up a shot in traffic, or turn it over.

Wafer and Kyle Lowry had an especially difficult night putting the ball in the hoop, shooting 2-for-7 and 0-for-6 respectively. Throw in Brent Barry’s 0-for-3 shooting, and you’ve got an uncharacteristic bad shooting night for a bench that has performed so well this season, getting outscored 34-11.

Amazingly the Rockets out-rebounded the Jazz 13-3 on the offensive boards, but they never really did anything with it. There were 2 possessions in a row where Yao really worked hard to grab O.R.’s, but I don’t think any score resulted from it. And 5 of those 13 boards came on ONE possession where Chuck Hayes eventually scored with a little baby hook.

On the bright side, Luis Scola shot decent (4-for-9 for 10 points). But the best player by far for the Rockets was Shane Battier, who was an offensive juggernaut who scored 18 points, including 4-of-7 three pointers, and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. I also loved how he stole the ball from former Duke teammate Carlos Boozer when Booz inbounded the ball, then took it strong to get fouled, and then proceeded to hit both free throws. That was complete hustle.

But Deron Williams (19 point), Boozer (13), Paul Milsap (15), Ronnie Brewer (17), and Okur (12) showed they will continue to be a tough matchup for the Rockets if they are to meet in the playoffs.

But now is not the time for the Rockets or their fans to hide in the corner hoping the Jazz won’t face them in the first round. It’s time for the Rockets to realize that although they have made tremendous strides this season, they still have lots of work to do if they’re going to get past the Jazz this time around. If they don’t, then this season will take a huge blow when it comes down to deciding if it was a success or not.

I for one wouldn’t mind them facing the Jazz because it will force everyone of them, from the head coach to the last guy on the bench, to prepare better and perform with more intensity.

12 Responses to “Jazz jolt Rockets again”

  1. airchina23 Says:

    I don't know man, John, I don't know. As much as I despise the Utah Jazz, I have to respect them for always playing hard and letting the Rockets know who's the better team. I know tonight's game was lost on a couple of missed shots and blown defensive assignments down the stretch, actually all of the games against Jazz are separated by one or two decisive plays. Maybe Carl's return will help the front line, maybe Shane will continue to find his touch, maybe Yao will never shoot this badly again, but I just can't bear another one and done for the Rockets.

  2. YaoMingMania Says:

    I can't either. If they go one and done to the Jazz again, it will be

  3. Glenn Fayard Says:

    To me, this game was lost by the bench. Not so much Barry – iffy shooting nights happen all the time. But Wafer and Lowry acted like gibbering morons. It seemed like there was one stretch where we actually managed to hold the Jazz scoreless, played excellent defense – and those two idiots just ran up and down the floor looking for layups. Every attempt was a pathetic, miserable failure and doing something else apparently never entered their heads.

    And let's get some things straight at the point guard position – we didn't trade Alston for Brooks, we traded Alston for Lowry, effectively, and gave up a guy who ran our offense well for a guy who supposedly was a great dribble penetrator and defender. And that trade was not about Alston's “inconsistencies.” Just about every player on the Rockets is inconsistent. Morey decided the team needed to be running up and down the court more, despite the fact that we're better running plays, despite the fact that we've got Yao, Scola, and other such “fast break” guys.

    Pointless trade, panic trade, idiocy. If we don't get out of the first round, it won't be because of no T-Mac (sorry, Chuckster, but it's not still 2007), it'll be because of no Alston. Just like it was last year, when he missed the first two games of the Utah series. Funny how that works out.

  4. Luckyme Says:

    Personally, I hope they won't meet Utah in the playoffs, at least not in the first round. The rockets don't seem to have a solution for the combination of Carlos and Okur. The high altitute of the city also plays havoc on the rockets players.

  5. NYCBOBBY Says:

    I thought the Rockets did a good job of hanging in there until midway through the 4th quarter when they cut the lead down to 4 points. But they just couldn’t break through. They didn’t find that resiliency at that particular juncture of the game. Everytime they had a defensive stop, Lowry or Wafer couldn’t finish. When the Jazz missed two free throws, Yao couldn’t handle the rebound (which don’t surprise me anymore). He just don’t have good hands like the media hyped up so much about earlier in his career. I had no problem with Artest, Lowry and Wafer going in strong but whiffed out because that’s just being aggressive. Of course they could have been smart aggressive but no one’s perfect. What I had a slight irritation with is Yao being too passive. I have heard enough talk about Yao not getting the ball enough. Truth is he gets the ball period. The problem is if a double team comes he passes it out too quick. He needs to patiently attack regardless of the doubles. If he passes out everytime that is just as easily read by the defense, making the kick out and 3 pointer less effective. Then when he gets it supprisingly so close to the basket he hurries the shot too quick and of course he misses or gets blocked. The bottom line is he needs to be more resilient, more patient, do a pump fake then flush it down. However I am beginning to love his rebounding. I find that he is starting to rebound with some tenacity now. Instead of just going straight up with arms extended rebound, he is actually snatching it with his right and securing it with his left hand with a little more vengeance. Do you know if someone is actually showing him something? In any way, I thought it was a good effort of crawling back from double digits down several times but in the end they were just missing an element, resiliency. But that happens from time to time. Hopefully it’ll be back the next game.

  6. YaoMingMania Says:

    I agree they got rid of Alston because they wanted to run more, but I think they also hated how streaky he was as a shooter, going into slumps for weeks at a time. That's what I mean by 'inconsistent' — inconsistent shooting in a position where they felt they needed more point production. It was a gutsy move with very high risk, and time will tell if they bungled it, or the addition of Lowry and promotion of Brooks to starter was worth it.

  7. kaolin Says:

    I always felt that for the Rockets to beat the Jazz, the Rockets have to be able to match the the Jazz in physical plays. With Artest, they are a little better, however it seems it is still not enough. I wonder whether with Carl Landry things would be a little different.

  8. NYCBOBBY Says:

    I think the absense of Landry was a big hit for us. He couldve provided us toughness and tenacity to match Brewer and Milsap's. Artest definately added some spice to the mix since from last year. That Okur. I hate it when he always shoots from outside especially since he is like 7 ft. Shame on him but he gets the freaking job done. I really think if Landry was there we couldve won. But lets go ahead and take them straight on in the playoffs. What better way to rid yourself of the nightmare then to come face to face with it. We are more loaded this year so lets go!

  9. Jeff Says:

    When a team depends too much on long range shootings, it is just like a gambler finding his living in a casino. You never know whether he eats in a luxurious restaurant or picks up leftovers in a fast food place.

    The guy who decides to gamble or not for a team is the Head Coach. Building a team includes the hiring of the coach.

  10. YaoMingMania Says:

    I completely agree with everything you said. Here here! If we end up facing them in the playoffs, let's take the Jazz out with a vengeance! We eventually overcame the Sonics in the late 90's (it took bringing in Barkley), but I think we're young and determined enough to play smarter and harder against them to win in a 7-game series.

  11. Luckyme Says:

    I hear you – and John. Unfortunately, I think Landry played at the last game in Houston, and we know the rox lost that game.
    After watching Ice hockey, football and other sports for many years, I realize there are times when a team just can not overcome a certain team – ie. a nemesis. There could be all kinds of reasons – coaches' abilities, players' mental touchness, confidence level, skills match-up etc. I think the Jazz is that type of team to the rox. I just hope they ( Houston) don't meet them in the first round.

  12. Luckyme Says:

    I hear you – and John. Unfortunately, I think Landry played at the last game in Houston, and we know the rox lost that game.
    After watching Ice hockey, football and other sports for many years, I realize there are times when a team just can not overcome a certain team – ie. a nemesis. There could be all kinds of reasons – coaches' abilities, players' mental touchness, confidence level, skills match-up etc. I think the Jazz is that type of team to the rox. I just hope they ( Houston) don't meet them in the first round.

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