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Yao back in U.S. and cheers on Rockets, but Houston still loses

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
by John

After arriving back in the U.S. from China on Friday the 22nd, Yao attended the Rockets-Hawks game on Monday night. He worked out at Toyota Center earlier in the day. Notice how Yao no longer needs crutches, but he’s still wearing his protective boot.

Click here for more photos from the game.

It’s clear the Rockets, who lost their second straight game at home and haven’t been playing very well lately, are really missing Yao these days. Some fans who thought the Rockets might not need Yao when they were hot earlier in the season are definitely thinking he would be a valuable asset to have now.

Rockets lose a heartbreaker to Hawks

Sunday, January 4th, 2009
by John

With Ron Artest‘s sprained ankle forcing him out of the lineup for Saturday’s game in Atlanta (like Tracy McGrady and Shane Battier), the team’s poor play lately, and it being the second game of a back-to-back, the Rockets had almost no chance of beating the Hawks in Atlanta where they are 14-2 at home this season.

Yao Ming reacts after the refs don’t cut him any slack in a frustrating second half against the Hawks. Click here for more photos of Yao during the game.

But like other times this season after losing games in embarrassing fashion, the Rockets’ role players showed up and played with hustle and guts and almost pulled out a miracle win, but they lost on a last-second 3-pointer from Mike Bibby with 1.5 seconds remaining.

Aaron Brooks had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the shot just rimmed out as time expired. Hawks 103, Rockets 100.

The Rockets have now lost 5 of their last 7 games, and their 21-14 record is not holding water in the ultra competitive West. With Saturday night’s loss, they are in a battle for 8th place: on the bubble for a playoff spot. Every loss like the ones they’ve had recently makes a big difference at the end of the season where one win or loss can make or break you.

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Video from 20th straight win

Thursday, March 13th, 2008
by John

I normally don’t embed too many YouTube videos on the site since the NBA is known to shut those videos down, thus leaving a gaping hole in this site. But here’s one from the end of the game against Atlanta on Wednesday night.

I love Bill Worrell’s commentary, from the ‘finest hour’ comment to McGrady’s 3-pointer. I guess enjoy it while it’s still up.

No ‘L’ in the ‘ATL’ for Rockets – win 20th straight

Thursday, March 13th, 2008
by John

It was a beautiful scene in Atlanta where the Rockets won their 20th straight game Wednesday night. The game was filled with anticipation as Houston had to make big plays in the fourth quarter to pull out the victory after a poor shooting night (33%).

Out of all the games we’ve watched since the Rockets’ incredible win streak began, the one in Atlanta on Wednesday night was one of the most impressive in which they overcame so many obstacles, like…

No Yao, sucky shooting (33%), their point guard hitting only 3 shots out of 18, missing athletic throw-down king Carl Landry for the 3rd straight game (huge), Luis Scola‘s early foul trouble, and Tracy McGrady shooting 20% by halftime, just to name a few.

After the game, Shane Battier felt the same:

“This is probably the best win out of the streak. We were down the whole night. We were in foul trouble. Couldn’t hit a shot. Everything was working against us.”

Yet they still pulled out a win when they needed it, incredibly winning their 20th straight game in an 83-75 gutcheck victory where they could care less about winning in double-digits again, and were just ecstatic to keep the streak alive and hit that magical ’20’ mark which gives ties them for the 2nd longest winning streak in NBA history.

With the victory, the Rockets are now the second seed in the West after San Antonio lost to New Orleans Wednesday night. Take a look at the image of beauty below, including that ‘20’ in the streak column. I don’t want it to end. Savor it while it lasts.

This was absolutely one of those games where the “Yao effect” was clearly evident. If Yao had been in this game, it would have been much, much easier to score when other Rockets’ shots kept missing.

Fortunately, McGrady put his team on his back when they REALLY needed it — I think even much more than what they got from him at Saturday’s home game against New Orleans when he scored 41 points in 48 minutes. This time around, no one was doing much damage offensively, and I felt watching this game that he was their last option.

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Houston handles Hawks; Yao dominates with 28

Saturday, February 9th, 2008
by John
Yao Ming scores two of his 28 points (12-of-17 shooting) Saturday night in Houston against the Atlanta Hawks.  Houston beat the Hawks easily, at one time holding a 33-point lead.  The Rockets have won 6 in a row to get their record to 30-20 and are in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot.Yao Ming scores two of his 28 points (12-of-17 shooting) Saturday night in Houston against the Atlanta Hawks. Houston beat the Hawks easily, at one time holding a 33-point lead. The Rockets have won 6 in a row to get their record to 30-20 and are in the thick of the hunt for a playoff spot. Click here for more photos from the game.

Coming into Houston on Saturday, the Atlanta Hawks were on the second night of a back-to-back (losing at home to Cleveland the night before), and had lost 9 of their last 10 road games. But the Rockets showed no sympathy by playing one of their most complete games of the season, drilling the Hawks 108-89 to win their 6th game in a row and go 30-20 for the season. After the Rockets were a mediocre 13-15 just 7 weeks ago, it’s getting really interesting in Houston these days.

The Rockets had 29 assists against Cleveland on Thursday, and Saturday night they racked up a season-high 32 dimes while scoring 44 field goals and shooting 54.3% from the field. They shared the ball so well and had guys cutting to the basket for easy shot attempts, it reminded me a lot of the Sacramento Kings during their heyday under Rick Adelman. Or dare I say it, the Spurs during their championship runs.

It’s very rare when a team achieves that level of chemistry where the Rockets get as many assists as they’ve had the past two games. I remember back in 1994 and 1995 when the Rockets won their championships, a lot of it was the result of unselfish basketball like what we’re seeing now. It’s still early yet, but if the Rockets keep this up, it going to start getting really fun in H-town.

While everyone was passing the ball, Yao Ming was being his dominant self by scoring 28 points on 12-of-17 shooting (10 in a row at one point), 4-of-4 from the line, and blocking 2 shots. He also had 3 assists to join the passing party.

The Hawks had no answer to the Big Man, either down low where he scored multiple times with left-handed jump hooks off the glass (he seems to really have perfected that shot). And they could only watch in awe as he hit two long jumpers from the top of the key to finally break his shooting slump from out there.

And did you see that play where Yao got the ball behind the 3-point line, then dribbled it a couple of times toward the basket taking giants steps to get all the way to the basket for a layup attempt? Although he missed the shot, it showed yet another move in his arsenal that has to keep opposing defenses guessing.

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Yao practices in ATL. Rockets could have used him in loss to Hawks

Saturday, February 24th, 2007
by John
Accompanying the team to Atlanta, Yao practiced with the team before Friday night's game the Hawks.  Later, the Rockets lost a game they should have won.Accompanying the team to Atlanta, Yao practiced with the team before Friday night’s game the Hawks. Later, the Rockets lost a game they should have won. Click here for more photos from Yao’s practice.

Yao made the trip to Atlanta to join his teammates on their short 2-game road trip to Atlanta and Orlando. He jokingly said it was because he wanted the “road trip per diem,” but it was really to learn some of the new plays they have put into their playbook the past 8 weeks while he has been injured, and to get used to the pace of being on the road again and the intensity of the crowd, among other reasons. (You can check out a more extensive interview of Yao’s progress by reading this earlier blog post).

Yao practiced before the game and later worked out during the game itself. He said he hopes to be ready to play in a week to 10 days, although he admits he won’t be medically cleared to play until after that. You can read more about his thoughts on returning iback to the lineup in this short Houston Chronicle article.

Regarding the game that was played while Yao worked out, you would have thought the 21-33 Atlanta Hawks were the Phoenix Suns Friday night.

Houston’s league-leading defense couldn’t stop the league’s worst-shooting and lowest scoring offense in a 105-99 loss. The Hawks seemed to score at will most of the game, shooting 47.4% for the game. They gave up 19 second-chance points, second only to the 22 they gave up against Denver in another devastating defeat earlier this season.

When you see performances like this, it makes you think the success the Rockets have experienced without Yao playing could be a house of cards that could come tumbling down at any moment.

The game was fairly close all night long, and the Rockets had a chance to build a lead in the fourth quarter that probably would have been insurmountable for a young team that hasn’t “learned to win” yet, as they say. But the Rockets missed 5 free throws in the pivotal fourth quarter, with Bonzi Wells and T-Mac missing two FTs each. As bad as the defense was, those missed free throws were the a big ifference maker. Maddening.

Atlanta is clearly more athletic than the Rockets, with high-flyers like Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Josh Childress. When Houston doesn’t play good defense, like getting burned by Johnson multiple times coming around screens for open shots, or Chuck Hayes slacking off and not blocking out Johnson on the boards to prevent a follow-up dunk, that’s inexcusable.

The Rockets now go to Orlando and play a team that’s better than Atlanta. The Magic are 27-29 and have Dwight Howard, who is athletic and sure to wreak havoc on the boards against Houston. Howard is not only the Magic’s leading rebounder (12 per game), but also leads the team in scoring (18 ppg), field goal percentage (59.9%), and blocks (1.8 per game).

Let’s hope there is no ‘magic in the Rockets’ cards’ Sunday afternoon, and they can keep their house from crashing down against an inferior team

Rockets hit Hawks like a T-Mac truck

Saturday, December 30th, 2006
by John

I was on a plane during the Rockets’ 94-68 blowout of the Atlanta Hawks Friday night, so I haven’t been able to watch the game yet. However, I plan to watch it on my Tivo over the weekend, and maybe post a few observations that perhaps the Houston Chronicle didn’t already write about the game.

I am hardly believing my eyes seeing routs like this one — and the one in New Jersey on Wednesday night — with T-Mac back in the lineup so recently after coming off the inactive list with back spasms 3 games ago. He dominated by putting up 31 points, and probably could have put up even more if he hadn’t got his thumb whacked midway through the third quarter.

I know it’s only the woeful Hawks we’re talking about, but a win like this one is still impressive because it shows that T-Mac’s back may not be as bad as we thought it would be. It also shows the Rockets are not going to curl up in the fetal position now that Yao is out.

When Jeff Van Gundy compliments his players about playing with great passion, and Juwan Howard (17 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists) and Dikembe Mutombo (14 boards in just 22 minutes) turn back the clock ten years, you’ve got to give them lots of credit for giving fans hope that maybe they can still make the playoffs even with Yao’s absence over the next 6-8 weeks.

Rockets lose to team with the worst record

Monday, January 16th, 2006
by John

MONDAY, 1/16/06 – I have a dream that one day…the Rockets will have all their players back, make the playoffs this season, and shock the world by winning a couple of playoff series.

That dream is a stretch after seeing Houston lose 94-83 to Atlanta, a team that is now 10-26 with the worst record in the league. The Rockets aren’t too far behind with a 12-24 record.

If there was ever a game the Rockets could win without six players injured, this was going to be it. The Hawks were playing their fifth game in 7 days. They had lost four in a row. But unfortuntately, the Rockets were without T-Mac for the fourth game in a row, resulting in Houston losing its sixth straight. The Rockets are now 0-12 without T-Mac. To read more of the depressing details from the game, click here for the story.

The good news is that Yao, who has missed 13 games in a row because of the surgery he had on his big toe, may be back in action in about two weeks.


To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

T-Mac returns to lineup; Rockets break 7-game losing streak

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005
by John
'Reunited and it feels so good.'  Yao and T-Mac play in the same game on Tuesday night for the first time in five games.  Both Yao and T-Mac scored 25 points in beating Atlanta, 100-85, to snap their 7-game losing streak.‘Reunited and it feels so good.’ Yao and T-Mac play in the same game on Tuesday night for the first time in five games. Both Yao and T-Mac scored 25 points in beating Atlanta, 100-85, to snap their 7-game losing streak. For more photos from the game, click here.

by John

TUESDAY, 11/29/05 – I was ecstatic to hear before the Rockets game against Atlanta that T-Mac would play! It felt like Christmas 26 days early!

After watching McGrady’s impact on the team Tuesday night and seeing his team defeat the Hawks 100-85, it will be fun to watch the Rockets try to dig themselves out of their 3-11 hole (now 4-11). Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself since Atlanta (now 2-11) is not Detroit or San Antonio. It’s still not going to be easy.

It’s amazing the difference that T-Mac made right out of the gate, scoring Houston’s first six points. Since it had been 11 days since his last game action, he had to ask coach Jeff Van Gundy for a break at the 6:16 mark of the first quarter because he was so winded. However, he came back a few minutes later to finish the quarter with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting, and pushed Houston to a 26-22 lead heading into the second quarter. Can it get any more obvious how valuable he is to this team?

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