I know it’s only the first game of the season, but the Rockets should have beaten the Lakers at Staples Center Tuesday night.
The Rockets looked awesome in the first half, scoring 62 points and leading by 12 points at halftime, and they even held a 15-point lead in the second half. I thought they were on their way to dominating with guys like K-Mart, Aaron Brooks, Courtney Lee, and Chase Budinger scoring in bunches.
But then the young guns went cold in the second half, and Laker reserve Shannon Brown killed them with four 3-pointers in the 4th quarter to save the Lakers from losing on the same night they got their championship rings. It also didn’t help that Brooks left Steve Blake wide open with a 3-pointer to give the Lakers a 2-point lead with 18.8 remaining.
Houston should have won this game, but they couldn’t seal the deal. Even the usually eliable Luis Scola was missing shots he would normally make, making only 4-of-14 shots and keeping the Rockets in a hole before redeeming himself by making 3 of his last 4 shots to give them a chance to tie or win it.
But then with 2.4 seconds remaining and down by two points, the Rockets ran a pretty dumb play when Shane Battier inbounded the ball to Brooks who had no chance of getting a shot off with Blake and Lamar Odom there to collapse on him. Maybe A.B. should have put up a shot earlier by banking a runner off the glass, but he opted to go underneath the rim, and there was no chance — it was blocked. Game over.
Yao looked good at times in his first regular season game back since May 2009, but he missed a few shots he normally would make. That will improve over time. He finished with 9 points on 4-of-11 shooting, 11 boards, 2 blocks, and 4 turnovers in 23 minutes and 21 seconds before fouling out, just 39 seconds before reaching his 24-minute limit.
But like what you’d expect from a young team, they collapsed down the stretch and let the Lakers steal one in their own gym they had no business winning the way the Rockets were dominating offensively through most of 3 quarters.
Battier was awful offensively, making only 1-of-5 shots as a STARTER. And he didn’t do that great of a job on Kobe Bryant, who scored 27 points on 8-of-20 shooting. Meanwhile, Chase finished with 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting in just 21:41. Does Shane deserve to remain a starter if he keeps repeating disappearing acts like years’ past?
Here’s some notes I took of Yao’s actions during the game. It’s not comprehensive, but enough to give you an idea of how he did:
9:55 – Yao looks good shooting over Gasol from the baseline
8:53 – Yao misses a short chip shot. He got the rebound, but couldn’t convert then, either.
7:30 – Yao was called for a foul inside on the offensive boards.
6:50 – Yao intimidates Artest in the lane to alter Ron-Ron’s shot and make it come up short.
4:56 – Yao loses control of a rebound to Artest underneath he basket, but he holds his position well and Artest does his normal thing by trying to force up a shot with Yao hovering over him. The ball goes out of bounds off Yao. Yao checks out of the game for Brad Miller.
7:25 – Yao grabs an offensive board and lays it in.
5:39 – Odom grabs an offensive board over Yao and scores over him.
11:14 – Good D by Yao on Gasol
10:39 – Yao misses badly on a fadeaway jumper
10:15 – Yao scores on a nice jump hook in the lane
6:56 – Yao grabs an offensive rebound and tries to throw it down over Gasol, but Gasol fouls him.
6:23 – Yao is called for a foul on Gasol
9:35 – Yao makes a nice move to the basket but misses a layup. I’m surprised he would try a move like that so early in the season being so rusty.
The Rockets’ guards throw up two consecutive jumpers when Yao’s minutes were running out. Why not use him while they can?
7:54 – Yao is stripped on a post move
7:33 – Yao throws one down over Gasol
6:30 – Yao fouls out right close to his 24-minute threshold