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Another great translation of a Yao interview

Tuesday, May 6th, 2008
by John

Raymond has done another translation (4 hours of work) of a Titan Sports article that was written after the loss in Game 6 to the Jazz. In the article, we learn about the things done different this season compared to the previous 4 years under the Jeff Van Gundy regime, what his goal is for the upcoming season, and much more.

Interview of Yao after Game 6 loss

Sunday, May 4th, 2008
by John

Raymond has translated a Chinese article of an interview with Yao after the loss in Utah in Game 6 Friday night. You can just feel the pain inside Yao when reading the interview. Thanks for the translation, Raymond.

Did Rockets trade of Bonzi for Bobby backfire?

Sunday, May 4th, 2008
by John

I watched Game 1 of the New Orleans – San Antonio game earlier tonight, and former Rocket Bonzi Wells played very well (no pun intended), scoring 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 18 minutes and getting significant time in the always important fourth quarter.

That made me start wondering if the Rockets could have used Bonzi more than Bobby Jackson. As much as I like Bobby Jack, my answer is…”absolutely.” After all, what was the main problem we heard about the Rockets during the Utah series? It was that Tracy McGrady had to take on so much of the scoring load and he didn’t have much helped. That’s because their backup shooting guard — Luther Head — played so poorly (not that big of a surprise), he probably won’t be with the team next year, and they really didn’t get much from anyone else other than Luis Scola. Jackson did have a nice Game 2 with 18 points, and Game 5 with 9 points. But that was about it.

When the trade happened on February 20th, I wasn’t that big of a fan of it, and I wrote this:

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Ankle injury to Rafer too much to overcome. Rockets season ends in Game 6.

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008
by John

A picture is worth a thousand words. By the looks of it, Yao wants a playoff rematch against Utah in 2009 when the Rockets will be playing with a full deck. Wouldn’t we all.

In a playoff series where the Rockets had gone so far pushing the series to 6 games by overcoming many obstacles, like:

Yao’s injury
Andrei Kirilenko‘s late-game flop the refs bought involving Luis Scola, as well as others
– Terrible officiating in general
Tracy McGrady‘s disappearing act in the fourth quarter in Games 1 & 2
Rafer Alston missing Games 1 & 2 because of a hamstring injury
– a bad shot by Utah off the side of the backboard in the closing minute that got a lucky bounce and resulted in a game-winning shot for them

…the Rockets couldn’t overcome the final blow Friday night – Alston severely spraining his ankle in the second quarter and missing the rest of the game. That injury would be the final straw that broke the camel’s back, leading to a 113-91 loss. At least this loss was only about half as bad as the 40-point loss the Rockets suffered in 2005 in Game 7 against Dallas.

Although the Rockets showed heart by cutting a 19-point deficit in the first half down to 1 point late in the second quarter, the loss of their floor general was so devastating, it really showed in the 3rd quarter when they only made 4-of-22 shots.

To make matters worse, without Alston in the game on defense, his absence helped his counterpart Deron Williams go off in the 3rd with 13 points, including 4-of-5 three-pointers, opening the Jazz lead up again to 20 points entering the 4th quarter.

The 4th quarter was merely a formality as the Rockets were visibly deflated and played out their final game of the season.

If you’re bummed about this loss and the fact the Rockets still haven’t won in the first round yet again, you’ve got to look at more than what happened Friday night or even over the past couple of weeks in this series for why they didn’t advance.

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Keys to Game 6

Friday, May 2nd, 2008
by John

As confident as the Rockets are heading into Friday night’s Game 6 in Utah, it’s almost impossible to predict what’s going to happen. So many times the Rockets have entered this same kind of situation with confidence, only to have their dreams shattered very quickly.

The most notable example was 3 years ago in early May 2005. That’s when they played a Game 7 in Dallas after having blown out the Mavs in Game 6 at home, just like the Rockets did Tuesday night in Game 5 against the Jazz in Houston. We all know what happened in that Game 7 when the Rockets got blown out by 40 points. I was at that game, and it was one of the most disappointing performances you could ever sit through. I guess after that experience I’m scarred for life and will always expect the worst in a similar situation.

If I were to envision what’s going to happen in Utah Friday night, I think the Rockets will play much better because they learned much about playing under pressure during the 22-game winning streak this season. Also, Tracy McGrady‘s experience in these situations multiple times in his career has got to start paying off.

I also think that Luis Scola has figured out how to play more effectively in this series. In Game 1, he seemed to be getting blocked all over the place, but in Game 5 he showed an improved ability to get his shot off around the rim without getting rejected. It figures that the smart and crafty Argentinian would make adjustments within the series. Carl Landry is also back to his old self.

These two guys being the lineup gives the Rockets a much better chance that last season when all they had was Chuck Hayes. So the Rockets are solid at the power forward position. Here are the factors where you’re not sure, and to me are the key factors in this game in no particular order:

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Rockets show the right stuff in Game 5

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
by John

Yao Ming & Steve Francis cheer on the Rockets Tuesday night as the Rockets blew out the Utah Jazz to force a Game 6 in Salt Lake City on Friday night. Click here for more photos of Yao and Steve at the game.

Now THIS is the way it should be. Down 3-1 in their series to Utah and facing elimination with one more loss, the Rockets manhandled the Jazz in Game 5 Tuesday night 95-69, extending their playoff series to at least one more game that will be played in Utah Friday night.

Finally everything came together like we knew this team was capable of doing. We just wonder why it took four games for it to happen. Sure, they won Game 3 in Utah thanks to a Carl Landry block at the end of the game. But this game was different. Unlike that Game 3 win, the Rockets built a double-digit lead in the first half, and every time the Jazz made a run to make it look like they would rip the heart out of their Rockets and fans with a comeback win to win the series, the Rockets would respond and hold them off.

When they could have just laid down and died against the big, bad Jazz, and head into the off-season with a sour taste in their mouths, the Rockets were like an animal backed into a corner and they came out fighting. And they never let up.

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Rockets-Jazz Game 5 relegated to 2nd-tier status

Monday, April 28th, 2008
by John

Don’t know if you saw it, but tonight the league announced the schedule for Tuesday night’s games. And guess what — the Rockets game against the Jazz will NOT be on ESPN or TNT. It’s going to be on NBA TV! I get the NBA TV channel, but something tells me there are a lot of folks out there who don’t get that channel and also don’t live in Houston where they can watch the local broadcast. So they may be out of luck.

I’d be curious to see if any of you out there are not going to be able to see it at home, or if NBA TV is part of your basic cable package.

And get this: the game will go head-to-head against Game 5 of the Phoenix-San Antonio series on TNT that also starts at 8:30pm Central like the Utah-Houston game. To me, that’s a slap in the face to fans in both Houston and Utah. Both series are at 3-1, so how did they go about choosing what game would go on each network? You would have thought they would have just spread out the games over different days so that basketball fans wouldn’t have to make such a difficult choice.

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Mistakes in Game 4 mean big changes could be 1 loss away

Sunday, April 27th, 2008
by John
Yao has continued to stay with his teammates in Utah leading up to Game 4 on Saturday night.  With the Rockets 86-82 loss to go down 3-1 in the series, it's not over yet, but Rocket fans can't wait until next year when they will hopefully play against Utah in the 2009 playoffs where they will have to contend against one of the best players in the league.Yao has continued to stay with his teammates in Utah leading up to Game 4 on Saturday night. With the Rockets 86-82 loss to go down 3-1 in the series, it’s not over yet, but Rocket fans can’t wait until next year when they will hopefully play against Utah in the 2009 playoffs where they will have to contend against one of the best players in the league. Click here for more photos from the game.

The Rockets lost Game 4 Saturday night because of stupid mistakes and terrible execution down the stretch. Bad officiating (as always) didn’t help them either.

Through Houston’s 86-82 loss on Saturday night and on the brink of elimination in yet another first round playoff series, I think many things became clear about what the Rockets need to do in the off-season with their personnel. I’ll save that for the end of this post.

But back to their performance in Game 4. They were stinking up the place in 3 different stretches of the game, but timely 3-pointers got them back into the game very quickly each time. However, every time they got close, they went brain dead and as a result, they didn’t deserve to win.

I’m sure you all saw it, but for those of you who didn’t…the final chance they had was when the Rockets were down by 82-80 and fouled Deron Williams intentionally with 7.3 seconds remaining to put him at the line. Unbelievably, Williams missed both free throws to give the Rockets a chance to win the game, BUT 3 ROCKETS FAILED TO REBOUND THE SECOND MISSED FREE THROW, LETTING MEHMET OKUR GET THE BOARD, FOULING HIM, AND SENDING HIM TO THE LINE!

Of course, Okur made sure the Jazz didn’t blow a golden opportunity like the Rockets had just done. He stepped to the line and both free throws, and now the Rockets are only 1 game away from their season ending once again in the first round of the playoffs.

What an embarrassing way to lose this game. That play is going to be played on Sportscenter over and over. It’s Jeff Van Gundy‘s most hated play in basketball – failing to get the rebound after a missed free throw. If there was ever one play that showed the Rockets miss Yao Ming, this was it! But my question – as well as everyone else’s question — is this: why wasn’t Dikembe Mutombo in the game to try to grab a potential missed free throw? That’s one of several questionable personnel decisions by Rick Adelman in this game.

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Rockets shock Jazz in Game 3

Friday, April 25th, 2008
by John

Yao and his teammates react to an important play late in Game 3 of the Rockets-Jazz playoff series, a game the Rockets won 94-92, in part because of late game heroics by rookie Carl Landry. Click here for more photos from the game, which include some of Yao.

Carl Landry has returned! The man who proved to be so valuable during the Rockets’ 22-game winning streak, and who we thought could be the X-factor in the playoffs, finally made the impact we thought he could in the Houston-Utah playoff series.

Landry came up big with a block of a Deron Williams‘s drive into the lane and field goal attempt that could have won the game for the Jazz. Instead, it was the Rockets who won a game on a court where only 3 other teams had beaten the Jazz all season long.

Landry’s block coupled with him saving the ball as it headed out of bounds with less than a second remaining in the game helped the Rockets escape the night with the 94-92 victory. If Landry hadn’t blocked Williams’ shot, then chances are that Carlos Boozer would have tipped the ball in for the win. That would have absolutely sucked since the Rockets had blown a 7-point lead in about 40 seconds leading up to that possession where Landry blocked Williams’ shot.

Landry had been so effective earlier in the game hustling for rebounds and loose balls (he finished with 11 rebounds total, 7 offensive, 7 points on 3-of-4 shooting, and 2 blocks), the Rockets were loving the impact he was making on the game that had been missing during the first two games of the series.

But when Carlos Boozer threw a cheap shot at him during a blockout for a rebound a few minutes before halftime, Landry was rushed to the locker room holding his face and it looked like the energizer was going to be out for the rest of the game. Just the Rockets’ luck as they were making a series of it, right?

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Yao makes trip to Utah

Thursday, April 24th, 2008
by John

I’m surprised to see that Yao made the trip to Salt Lake City for Game 3. Of course, he won’t play, but I guess he decided to go to provide his moral support in this do-or-die game since the Rockets are down 2-0 in the series.

Click here to see more photos from Yao’s shootaround on Thursday morning. Thanks always to Raymond for posting the pics.

As always, I’ll be providing a report after the game.