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A few more quotes from Yao after Game 7

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
by John
Yao answers questions from reporters Monday at Toyota Center to close out the 2007 season.Yao answers questions from reporters Monday at Toyota Center to close out the 2007 season. Click here for more photos from the game. Click here for photos of other players being interviewed.

After Saturday’s Game 7 loss against the Jazz, I had recorded a few quotes from Yao that I haven’t read reported anywhere yet, so I thought I would post them now:

“Is this the worst feeling you’ve had after a basketball game?”

After a few seconds of thinking, Yao responded, “Yeah…..Yes.”

Regarding his knee injury in the 3rd quarter…

“That’s not a big problem because this knee I hurt in the middle of the season. So I just want to make sure it’s fine. (It got hurt) on the same spot. Almost like the same thing hitting it. I feel very sore when I stand up. I feel very sore. I came down wrong. I want to make sure it’s fine. And then (trainer) Keith (Jones) checked it, the doctor checked it. I feel it’s fine. I come back.”

For a report on what Yao, McGrady and Van Gundy had to say in the news conference on Monday, click here.

Game 7 dissected

Monday, May 7th, 2007
by John

After the devastating loss in Game 7 Saturday night, I felt compelled to watch the game on my DVR and dissect every possession to really find out why the Rockets lost other than the obvious reasons.

There are some overall themes that we already know about that are backed up by an analysis of all the possessions. Bad defense, great play by Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams, and Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko surprising with some big, 4th quarter threes.

But there are some other themes I noticed by looking at each possession closely that you may not have realized:

* Chuck Hayes played terrible defense on about 7 possessions, which killed them. Hayes gets a lot of credit for hustle, but I didn’t see it in this game. Also, his lack of offensive production obviously means the Rockets are going to have to find a stud power forward. Can Rashard Lewis come back to Houston now? Hayes would make a worthy backup.

* Tracy McGrady disappearing in the game’s final minutes.

* Lucky bounces in the game’s final minute coming off of missed long jump shots by Utah. Defensive rebounding could have been better on those possessions, but doesn’t guarantee they would have grabbed those boards.

You may find other themes by looking at all the plays below. Feel free to comment on them at the end of the post.

One thing I should note before you read them. The first digits (like ‘11:45’) are the time remaining on the clock when the play occurred or sequence of plays took place. The second digits (‘2-0’) represent the score after the play or sequence was finished, with the Utah score being the first one before the dash (since they led most of the game).

Finally, I have marked most of the plays with either “GOOD” or “BAD” or other keywords so you can skim and pick out the good plays or bad ones much easier. I have also provided some comments for some of the entries to explain further what happened.

1st quarter

11:45 - BAD: McGrady started with a baseline jumper that missed. Great way to start…NOT.

11:05 – 2-0 – GOOD: Yao scores on a fadeaway near the elbow after reposting. McGrady dished it back to him.

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Rockets’ season ends in heartbreaking Game 7

Sunday, May 6th, 2007
by John
Rather than try a hook shot or lower percentage shot, Yao take it strong to the hole with 58 seconds remaining in the game and is fouled by Matt Harpring.  Yao hit both free throws to cut the Jazz lead to 99-97, but the Rockets couldn't secure defensive rebounds in the game's final minute to beat the Jazz.  Yao scored 29 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the loss that eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs.Rather than try a hook shot or lower percentage shot, Yao take it strong to the hole with 58 seconds remaining in the game and is fouled by Matt Harpring. Yao hit both free throws to cut the Jazz lead to 99-97, but the Rockets couldn’t secure defensive rebounds in the game’s final minute to beat the Jazz. Yao scored 29 points and grabbed 6 rebounds in the loss that eliminated the Rockets from the playoffs. Click here for more photos from the game.

I know most of you all saw the gut-wrenching loss of the Rockets to the Jazz Saturday night in Game 7 that eliminated Houston, so I won’t go into details about their comeback attempt that wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I’ll do that when I get a chance to watch the game in its entirety on my DVR over the next day or two and dissect all the little things that were responsible for this crushing loss. This is probably similar to what the Rockets’ players will do after the sting from this loss wears off a bit.

Instead, I’ll describe what I saw in the locker room after the game, bring up a few key details from the game, and discuss a little bit about what I think the Rockets need to do next…

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The play that could win the series

Saturday, May 5th, 2007
by John

I can’t help but look back to the end of Game 6 and think of one play that could win Game 7 tonight. All of the Jazz players and coaches know Tracy McGrady will be intent to take it to the hole and not put up jump shots like he did late in the fourth quarter of Game 6. They know the pressure is “on him” to take on more of the scoring burden, and they will go after him to block his shot and hassle him as a result. All you have to do is look at Andrei Kirilenko following him to the hole on one late possession and contest his shot in Game 6.

I think the Jazz will continue to do that. But it’s going to give the Rockets a golden opportunity to exploit that collapsing defense on McGrady. So if the Rockets need a big shot to win this game, which I think it will, then I love the play where McGrady takes it to the hole and dishes to Yao for a dunk.

I believe that happened at least a couple of times in Game 6, and it’s almost indefensible the way the Jazz defenders come over to help out on McGrady, leaving Yao open.

I also like it when McGrady kicks out to other non-Yao teammates for open jumpers, and I think it’s great as a standard practice throughout all of Game 7. But when the chips are down and you need a high percentage shot to win it in Game 7, I like the McGrady-Yao connection.

Rockets could be Golden after losing a winnable game in Utah

Saturday, May 5th, 2007
by John

I am getting the same feeling about Game 7 that Golden State must have felt after they blew Game 6 in Dallas when the Mavericks ended that game on a 15-0 run.

Golden State had that game in the bag, but they blew it by letting the Mavericks come back from a 9-point deficit with 3 minutes remaining to win it.

The same can be said for the Rockets. They knew they had a chance to steal one on Utah’s court Thursday night, didn’t get it done, but they knew the extra boost they could get from their home crowd could put them over the top. I get the same feeling about the Rockets tonight.

If they had been blown out in Game 6, I think the feeling would be much different tonight.

Live commentary from Game 7 tonight

Saturday, May 5th, 2007
by John

I will be commenting in the YaoMania! forum tonight from Toyota Center. I’ll be on a plane most of Saturday on my way to Houston, so I won’t be able to post any of your blog comments (at the end of each one of my posts) or approve new registrations for the forum until about game time.

Yao’s 8 turnovers in Game 6 weren’t all that bad

Saturday, May 5th, 2007
by John

I reviewed all 8 of the turnovers that Yao had on Thursday night and broke down each one below. The facts shows that Yao didn’t really have that many “traditional” turnovers you would think, like mishandling the ball in the paint or traveling. He actually handled the ball very well, and when he didn’t (which was only a couple times), you’ve got to give credit to Utah for playing good defense.

Since many of these turnovers by Yao were ‘unusual,’ it really wasn’t as bad as you might think, which bodes well for Game 7.

Here’s each ‘turnover’ broken down:

1st quarter

11:41 – Yao tipped in a missed shot from another Rockets’ player, but it was ruled that the ball was still in the cylinder, so it was called goaltending. Replays showed that there was no way that ball was going to go in. Regardless, when you think of a traditional turnover, you don’t think of goaltending.

6:20 – Yao set a screen that Derek Fisher ran into, so Yao was called for the block, which was a very debatable call. Perhaps they thought Yao didn’t give Fisher enough room once he was passed the ball. One thing is for sure: there was no way that was a moving screen. Yao was set. They are calling it tight on Yao tonight!

4:47 – Yao was trying to throw a 4-foot pass over his defender to T-Mac for a layup, but the ball might have been deflected and resulted in a lost possession. If Yao is trying to throw a short pass to another player for a layup, a defender makes a good play on it, and it results in a turnover, I can live with that.

4:13 – Yao was making a move into the lane and was going to shoot a jumper over Mehmet Okur, but Andrei Kirilenko came over to help out and block his shot, and forced Yao to shuffle his feet as he was going up for a shot that was surely going to be blocked. That was good defense by Kirilenko.

3rd quarter

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Rockets fall apart in closing minutes of Game 6

Friday, May 4th, 2007
by John
Yao reacts to an offensive foul called against him in the fourth quarter Thursday night in a disappointing 94-82 loss in Utah.  With the loss in Game 6, the Rockets and Jazz will play Game 7 Saturday night in Toyota Center.Yao reacts to an offensive foul called against him in the fourth quarter Thursday night in a disappointing 94-82 loss in Utah. With the loss in Game 6, the Rockets and Jazz will play Game 7 Saturday night in Toyota Center. Click here for more photos from the game.

This is starting to get old and predictable. The Rockets were close to pulling off an improbable victory in Game 6 on Thursday night in Utah, but down the stretch they folded like a cheap suit.

Let’s forget about the first 3 quarters. The most important part of the game started after Shane Battier’s three-pointer pulled the Rockets within one point, 75-74, with 8:15 remaining in the game.

From that point, the Rockets failed to close the deal, making just 2-of-9 shots and turning the ball over an incredible 5 times.

This is not your 1994 or 1995 Houston Rockets.

I was so disgusted, it took me forever to get motivated to write this entry. Instead, right after the game I had to watch the Golden State-Dallas game to get a dose of fun, exciting basketball from the Warriors.

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Who’s the ‘Big Shot’ Rocket?

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
by John

After seeing the Spurs’ Robert Horry hit another big 3-pointer in his illustrious playoff career in the waning moments of Game 4 Monday night to seal a win over the Nuggets, I ask myself, “Who on the Rockets is capable of being the role player on the Rockets who could be the next ‘Big Shot Bob’ or ‘Big Shot Rob’ as they say?”

My vote is for Shane Battier. The guy seems to have the knack to knock ‘em down in clutch situations, which he did in Game 5 making 5-of-7 treys.

Plus, I love the sound of “Big Shot Shane” or “Big Shot Battier.” His name – and his game — was built for making big shots. Now let’s see him do it in Game 6 for the series win. If he does, remember you heard here first my nickname for him.

Thoughts about Game 6 tonight

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007
by John

Remember this scene?

It was taken during the 1997 playoffs. Utah-Houston. Game 6 in Houston. It was right after John Stockton hit a shot — with the help of a Karl Malone bearhug on Clyde Drexler that the refs missed — to eliminate the Rockets in Houston.

Ten years later, we’re in the same situation, but this time the Rockets are in Utah and can eliminate the Jazz in 6 games. It’s never too late for payback time. I would love to see Yao and Tracy McGrady celebrating at mid-court in Utah tonight. They say these things tend to even out in the long run, don’t they?

I’m optimistic about the Rockets’ chances because…

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