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Yao dominates again to put Rockets back on track

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006
by John
Yao challenges the Clippers' Elton Brand Wednesday night at Toyota Center.  The Rockets handed the Clippers their fifth loss in a row, winning 106-102.  Yao dominated with 29 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks.Yao challenges the Clippers’ Elton Brand Wednesday night at Toyota Center. The Rockets handed the Clippers their fifth loss in a row, winning 106-102. Yao dominated with 29 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks. To see more photos from the game, click here.

by John

WEDNESDAY, 2/22/06 – After losing their worst game of the season against the Phoenix Suns right before the All-Star break, it was going to be interesting to see if the Rockets could put that debacle behind them leading up to their game against the LA Clippers on Wednesday night. It could have been very easy to let that loss affect all of the confidence they had built up winning 7 of their previous 8 games.

Give the Rockets credit for not only coming back with a nice win against the Clippers, but having the strength to fend off a very motivated team that was probably very angry they got blown out 128-97 in their own gym just eight days prior, and had lost four in a row.

The Rockets blew some leads in this game, but I’m not complaining. The Clippers are a very talented team, and they are going to make runs. I’ll take a 106-102 win against them anytime. The Rockets need as many wins as they can get over the remaining 28 games if they are going to hunt down that final playoff spot, which is currently 4 1/2 games above them.

Yao had a monster game, scoring 29 points and grabbing 15 boards. His teammate Tracy McGrady remarked after the game, “Yao has been playing out of his mind lately. Since the guy’s been back, he’s been extremely aggressive, he’s playing with a great deal of confidence.”

T-Mac got himself out of his recent funk, at least for now, scoring 26 points and dishing 5 dimes. He did only hit 9-of-23 from the field, however. Hopefully he meant it after the game when he said about his recent personal problems off the court, “That’s over with. It’s time to move on. We’re not even mentioning that. I’m not going to talk about it.”

The main surprise in the game was the offensive production from David Wesley, who shot an amazing 8-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-6 three-pointers, to score 21 points. Combine Yao, T-Mac, and Wesley’s points, and they scored almost 75% of Houston’s points. Reminds me of “The Big 3” days of Hakeem, Clyde and Barkley. If this Rockets team goes as far as that team did — the Western Conference championship round — I’ll be extremely happy (and shocked).

Last but not least, Rafer Alston continues to play well, scoring 9 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and doling out 11 assists. No wonder Wesley is playing better these days — Rafer has taken alot of those point guard responsibilities off his shoulders to make him very refreshed.

The Rockets next play on Friday a Golden State team that has been really struggling lately, so that game should be a win for the Rockets (it better be) and their fourth win at home. If they don’t win that game, you can just about write off the rest of this season because there is not much room for error over the remaining 28 games. They have to win every game they are expected to win, and pull off a few upsets to grab that final playoff spot.

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

To read the Houston Chronicle’s article about the game, click here.

Yao records 15th double-double in Rockets blowout of Clippers

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006
by John
Yao throws one down after hustling down the floor for an uncontested dunk in a rare blowout victory Tuesday night, shelling the Clippers in LA 128-97.  Yao had 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and 12 rebounds to record his fifteenth double-double of the season.Yao throws one down after hustling down the floor for an uncontested dunk in a rare blowout victory Tuesday night, shelling the Clippers in LA 128-97. Yao had 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting, and 12 rebounds to record his fifteenth double-double of the season. To see more photos from the game, click here.

by John

TUESDAY, 2/14/06 – The Rockets have been playing well lately, but no one expected the kind of performance they put on Tuesday night against the 30-19 LA Clippers. Making a statement to the rest of the league that they are not going away this season, the Rockets dominated the Western Conference’s fourth-best team 128-97, and have now won 7 of their last 8 games.

The Rockets had their high scoring first quarter (30) first half (61) and final score (128) all season long. And the boxscore from this game is amazing. They shot 58% overall and 54% from 3-point territory. They made 82% of their free throws. They out-rebounded LA 47-26. They had 32 assists and 11 steals (five by Rafer Alston). They pushed the ball all night, getting 15 fast break points, to look like a much different team than earlier this season.

The game is a virtual highlight reel, including lots of dunks by Yao coming off assists from his teammates. Yao scored 17 points on 8-of-13 shooting and grabbed 12 boards. After shooting only 15% on Sunday against the Knicks, T-Mac was back as his usual self, shooting 10-of-21 for 28 points and doling out 5 dimes. And Alston looked liked John Stockton with his 13 assists and 17 points (on 5-of-7 shooting). When these 3 guys play like that, they are going to win almost every time.

Everyone played well in this game, so there’s no need for me to go through the boxscore; you can take a look at it yourself to see all the player totals. But notable performances came from Stromile Swift, who hustled his way to lots of rebounds and tip-ins, and Keith Bogans, who surprised everyone and scored 18 points in just 25 minutes of action, including 4-of-5 three-pointers! Wow!

It’s too bad the Rockets couldn’t go into the All-Star break off this tremendous high — they may be brought back down to earth when they play the high-powered Suns in Phoenix on Thursday night. But at least for now, the Rockets are creating some fear and drawing more respect from the teams on their schedule. I can envision the announcers during the NBA All-Star game also giving props to Yao and T-Mac for bringing their team back from the dead, which was unimaginable just a few weeks ago.

Now at 22-30, it should be an interesting remainder of the season for Houston. If they can go 20-10 the rest of the way, they might just have a shot to grab the final playoff spot. And anything can happen in a first round match-up between either the Spurs or Mavericks, long-term rivals they know very well. They face those teams five more times collectively the rest of the regular season, so if they do make the playoffs, they will have really earned it.

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

To read the Houston Chronicle’s article about the game, click here.

Yao scores 22, but Clippers snap Houston’s 5-game winning streak

Saturday, December 17th, 2005
by John
Former Rocket Cuttino Mobley playfully greets Yao before their matchup in Los Angeles between the Clippers and the Rockets.  Yao played well, scoring 22 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, but the Clippers snapped Houston's five-game winning streak by winning 89-81. Former Rocket Cuttino Mobley playfully greets Yao before their matchup in Los Angeles between the Clippers and the Rockets. Yao played well, scoring 22 points and grabbing 9 rebounds, but the Clippers snapped Houston’s five-game winning streak by winning 89-81. For more photos from the game, click here.

by John

SATURDAY, 12/17/05 – The Clippers have been getting lots of press lately by surprising everyone and taking the lead in the Pacific division standing early this season. Even with a three-game losing streak, it was going to be tough for the Rockets to beat them on Saturday since two of those Clipper losses were against last year’s NBA Finals teams: Detroit and San Antonio. They also have been without scoring guard Corey Maggette (averaging 21.7 point per game) the past 5 games because of a foot injury. Meanwhile, Houston had just played Wednesday and Thursday, with only one day off before Saturday’s early 12:30pm Pacific start time.

The way Houston started out, they showed no sign of being tired playing in their fifth straight road game. They got off to a decent start in the first quarter, hitting 46% of their shots, led by an amazing scoring barrage by T-Mac, who made 5-of-7 shots to score 12 points. Most of them were jump shots or un-guardable fallaway jumpers. Yao was very consistent, hitting 3-of-6 shots on baseline jumpers or little jump hooks in the lane.

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Yao scores 24, Rockets clinch 5th seed with another 115 points

Monday, April 18th, 2005
by John
Yao takes it strong to the hole over the Clippers' Elton Brand as the Rockets dominated LA 115-90.  Yao led the Rockets in scoring with 24 points, 7 rebounds and two blocks.  With the victory, the Rockets clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round.Yao takes it strong to the hole over the Clippers’ Elton Brand as the Rockets dominated LA 115-90. Yao led the Rockets in scoring with 24 points, 7 rebounds and two blocks. With the victory, the Rockets clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs and will face the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

MONDAY, 4/18/05 – For those of you who wanted the Rockets to tank their final two games of the season so they could face the Seattle Sonics in the first round of playoffs, I’ve got some bad news for you. The Rockets not only clinched the fifth seed in the playoffs on Monday night to set up an opening series with the Dallas Mavericks, but they did it in convincing fashion by blowing out the LA Clippers 115-90.

It was the second game in a row the Rockets scored 115 points, having scored the same against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday in another dominating performance, 115-87.

The Rockets picked up where they left off from Saturday night, coming out in the first quarter with guns a-blazin’, scoring 40 points in the first quarter – the most points scored by the Rockets in the first quarter this year. It was also the most points scored against the Clippers in a quarter this year. Yao came out aggressive, cutting to the basket and getting nice feeds from T-Mac to score 10 points down low on 5-of-6 shooting in the first quarter.

Throughout the game Yao continued to dominate against the smaller Clippers, finishing with 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting in 28 minutes of play. He shot all of his fadeaway jumpers decisively and most of them hit nothing but net.

David Wesley was just as hot, making all four of his shots, including two treys, to score 11 points in the first quarter.

The Rockets shot an amazing 16-of-21 from the floor (76%) in the first, including 5-of-6 from behind the arc. The Rockets’ incredible shooting overshadowed an awesome performance by the Clippers’ Elton Brand, who scored 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the first quarter alone. He would go on to score a career high 36 points.

The Rockets extended their 9-point first quarter lead to as many as 23 points in the second quarter, helped by Scott Padgett hitting 2-of-3 three-pointers.

They took a commanding 70-49 lead into halftime, the most number of points scored in a first-half this season by the Rockets. But the Clippers weren’t playing that poorly. LA shot 61% from the field, but Houston was unconscious themselves, shooting 64% and hitting six more three-pointers (7-of-15) than the Clips.

At the beginning of the second half, the Rockets experienced their only lapse of the game, turning the ball over and missing all of their shots for the first 3 minutes while the Clippers went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 70-57.

But because the Clippers jammed up the middle defensively and left Houston’s shooters on the perimeter wide open, the Rockets finally responded with a Bob Sura three-pointer at the 8:44 mark in the third to stop the momentum, 73-57. Then Sura hit another wide-open trey to make it 77-57, and the Rockets never looked back. The rest of the game was a yawner, with the Rockets winning handily 115-90.

Houston’s bench played fabulous, with Mike James scoring 11, Dikembe Mutombo scoring 9, Wesley 13, and Sura 15.

But the guy who has stepped up recently when the Rockets have needed it is power forward Scott Padgett, whose 15 points were much welcomed since the Rockets have missed Juwan Howard’s scoring punch after getting hurt a few weeks ago and who will miss the entire playoffs. Padgett hit 5-of-6 three-pointers and had 9 rebounds. He reminds me of former Rockets’ three-point specialist Matt Bullard, but with better rebounding capability and hustle. Hopefully Padgett and Clarence Weatherspoon will be able to slow down Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki just a bit on his way to 30+ points when the Rockets start playing the Mavericks later this week in the first round of the playoffs.

Not to be forgotten, T-Mac had 16 points and 10 assists, with 8 coming in the first quarter alone. That’s 26 assists in three games, which is close to the average of league assist leader and MVP candidate Steve Nash! T-Mac also had some humorous moments. During a break in the action as he was preparing to inbound the ball into play along the sideline, there was an empty fan seat next to where he was going to inbound the ball, so he sat down in it to rest in between two fans. And after Yao got fouled hard on the left arm, T-Mac came over and massaged his elbow and forearm for several seconds, making Yao himself crack up a bit.

The Rockets have now won six games in a row, and hope to make it seven in their final regular season game on Wednesday against the Seattle Sonics, who may be back on track now that Rocket-killer Rashard Lewis is back in the lineup. Lewis was a key component in the Sonics’ last victory against Minnesota, eliminating the T-wolves from the playoffs. Maybe, just maybe, the Rockets are better off playing Dallas in the first round after all. It doesn’t hurt that Houston is only a one-hour flight from Dallas, so travel should not pose a problem to either team.

To read the Houston Chronicle’s post-game analysis, click here.