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Battier comes up big in Denver

Saturday, January 13th, 2007
by John

Shane Battier is the man. He willed the Rockets to a 90-86 win in what would have been one of their most embarrassing losses of the season Friday night in Denver. The Rockets were sleepwalking through the entire game and failed to put the limping Nuggets away when they should have. In the NBA you can’t just hope another team will give you a game. At some point you’ve got to earn it. If you don’t, your opponent will eventually come back and haunt you.

Forget the fact the Rockets had won 7 of their last 8 games before this game. Other than their blowout win against the Lakers on Wednesday, a lot of their wins have been a result of great defense concealing a mediocre offense (can you say ‘Rafer?’) For the most part, the Rockets have just lollygagged themselves through most of their games offensively, and end up having to make big plays in the fourth quarter to win the majority of the games during their current run. I love clutch plays down the stretch, but you’ve got to win a few games in the third quarter and coast once in awhile.

Everyone thought for sure it would finally catch up with them on Friday night. Denver was pathetic from the field, but the Rockets couldn’t get any separation, settling for shooting and miss jumpers rather than take it to the hole. The only semblance of consistency that kept the Rockets competitive was Luther Head, who hit some shots when the Rockets needed them. Their overall inconsistency finally caught up with them when the Nuggets got hot in the fourth quarter and took a 93-87 lead with 3:59 to go.

That’s when Shane must have said “enough is enough,” and attempted a three-pointer with 3:17 remaining and was fouled. He hit 2 of the 3 free throws to make the score 83-79, then the next possession down hit a 3-pointer to make it 83-82 with 2:49 left. Then caught in a confused offensive possession with a little over 2 minutes remaining, Shane got the ball at the three-point line, took it to the hole and laid in a sweet left-handed layup off the glass for an 84-83 lead with 2:05 remaining. Just like that he got the Rockets back into the game. Then with 46 seconds remaining, he hit another three-pointer to break a tie game and give them a huge 89-86 lead. What a stud. 10 points in 3 ½ minutes in the clutch.

It’s unbelievable how the Rockets pulled this game out, and did NOT do it with Tracy McGrady. T-Mac was lethargic shooting the ball (5-of-17, 12 points), settling for jumper that continued to clang off the rim, and for some reason not taking it to the rack. I was flabbergasted watching him miss 2-of-9 free throws to boot. He made up for it somewhat with 11 assists.

But I love the bravery that Battier showed in the fourth quarter. He obviously sensed Tracy wasn’t going to bail them out this game, and decided to take the game into his own hands since no one else would. Battier finished with 25 points (5-of-9 three-pointers).

After seeing the effect Shane has had on the Rockets this year, it’s obvious he’s not the boring ‘scrub’ a lot of fans thought he was in Memphis. The deal to bring him to Houston for Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift was the steal of the season.

Wow! Rockets nuke Nuggets in crunch time

Monday, April 17th, 2006
by John

Late in the fourth quarter Monday night with the Rockets down 81-68 with 4:22 remaining, they were right on schedule toward losing their 48th game of the season and improving their chances for a higher pick in the NBA draft. But then they had to go on one of their most amazing scoring runs of the season without Yao or T-Mac, outscoring Denver 18-2 the rest of the way and shocking the Nuggets at home 86-83.

Unbelievable. Give big time credit to Keith Bogans, who was involved in three consecutive huge plays down the stretch.

Down 83-78 with 1:29 remaining, Bogans stole a long pass and took it to the hole on a sweet crossover move for a layup to make it 83-80, Denver. On the very next Rockets possession with about 22 seconds remaining, Bogans again drove it to the basket along the right baseline, drew the defense to him, then kicked it out to Juwan Howard who nailed an open jumper to make it 83-82 with 19.3 seconds left in the game.

Then on a play that reminded me of the ending of the UCLA-Gonzaga game a few weeks ago, the Nuggets inbounded the ball to Howard Eisley, who was double-teamed immediately by Bogans and Chuck Hayes. Bogans was able to knock the ball away from Eisley without fouling him, and Hayes was there to pick up the loose ball, dribble two times toward the basket and slam it through for an 84-83 lead with 13.4 seconds remaining! And Houston was able to hold on for the shocking upset!

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Rockets come up golden against Nuggets

Friday, March 3rd, 2006
by John
Denver's Carmelo Anthony goes up against Yao Friday night with no success in a loss to the Rockets  89-78.  Yao finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds.Denver’s Carmelo Anthony goes up against Yao Friday night with no success in a loss to the Rockets 89-78. Yao finished with 21 points and 9 rebounds. To see more photos from the game, click here and here.

by John

FRIDAY, 3/3/06 – I was able to catch the second half of the Rockets-Nuggets game after coming back home from a business trip Friday night, and was impressed with how some of the Rockets came up with big shots and big blocks to beat Denver 89-78 at Toyota Center.

Denver – winners of seven of their last 10 games and leaders of the Northwest division– were obvious favorites in this game, but the Rockets drew raves from coach Jeff Van Gundy after playing with more intensity than they had in their previous two losses at home.

The Rockets only shot 41.7% from the field, but Yao was his usual high-percentage self (9-of-17 for 21 points), and T-Mac was 8-of-16 for 23 points. But the biggest surprise was Stromile Swift‘s return to action after missing the previous 5 games because of a sprained ankle. Stro’ looked great in scoring 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 6 rebounds and two blocks.

He made all kinds of athletic moves around the basket, including a couple of authoritative dunks and a wild prayer of a shot he jacked up underneath the basket for the score, drawing a nice ‘oooh’ from Yao heading back up the court. Yao said after the game about Stromile:

“He brings a lot of energy. He’s a great cutter. Like today, when the other team double-teams on the post or double-teams (Tracy) McGrady, he cuts very quickly. With his size and the way he can jump, that really helps us.”

So maybe Stromile isn’t on the trading block as rumored. I haven’t been really down on Swift this year like other people have. But I’ll save detailed commentary on him for a different time.

Other than that, the boxscore for the Rockets makes you glad someone like Stromile was able to contribute offensively. Without Yao, T-Mac and Swift playing very well, the Rockets would have lost this game. Here’s why:

Rafer Alston: 2-of-10 FGs for 6 points (but 7 assists)
David Wesley: 1-of-7 FGs, 1-of-4 free throws, 1-of-5 from three-point territory

That’s the second game in a row where the Houston starting guards have struggled offensively. How did they win this game?

Probably because of great defense. Except for Carmelo Anthony, who was unstoppable with 34 points on 12-of-23 shooting, the Rockets held the other Nugget players to 18-of-67 shooting (27%)!

Let’s not forget about Yao, though. Although he barely missed getting another double-double (23 points, 9 rebounds), he arguably had four blocks (only received credit for 3 officially). including a huge block on Andre Miller. In the fourth quarter with about 2:33 remaining, Miller decided to challenge Yao by going strong to the hole and trying to posterize him with a tomahawk jam, but Yao stuffed him at the rim for a huge rejection that got the crowd riled up!

With Friday’s victory, Houston remains four games behind the Lakers for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. They next play the team with the third worst record in the league – Portland – on Sunday night after the Lakers play Detroit Saturday night.

If the Rockets play like they did Friday night, look for the Rockets to close within 3 games by late Sunday night and make things very interesting.

John

P.S. As some of you may have noticed, I had the wrong caption under the photo above for several hours. That’s because I got home from my trip around 1:00am, and didn’t finish watching my recording of the game and filing my report until 4:00am. So you can imagine I was dead tired. Man, I wish this blog could be my full-time job.

john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

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

T-Mac goes down, and so do the Rockets

Sunday, January 8th, 2006
by John
T-Mac falls to the floor in severe pain because of back spasms Sunday night against Denver.  The Rockets played fairly well without T-Mac in the second half, but couldn't close out a win without him and lost 92-90.T-Mac falls to the floor in severe pain because of back spasms Sunday night against Denver. The Rockets played fairly well without T-Mac in the second half, but couldn’t close out a win without him and lost 92-90.

by John

SUNDAY, 1/8/06 – The Rockets experienced bad luck again Sunday night, with Tracy McGrady going down in a heap on the floor right at halftime. He had back spasms and had to be taken to the hospital for tests. By looking at the pain on his face as he collapsed and how he was carried off the floor (via stretcher), it looks like he is going to be out for awhile.

The Rockets fought hard and played pretty well in the second half without him (shooting 55%), but the Denver Nuggets made plays in the last minute to beat the Rockets 92-90. With about a minute remaining, the Rockets led 88-87 but turned the ball over on a possession that could have put the game away. Earl Boykins came back and hit a three-pointer with 31.6 seconds remaining to make it 90-88, Nuggets. Stromile Swift was fouled down low and was clutch by hitting two free throws to tie the game at 90-90.

It went all for naught when Carmelo Anthony hit a fadeaway baseline jumper over David Wesley to put Denver up 92-90 with one second remaining. The Rockets tried a difficult inbounds pass to Stromile underneath the basket as the clock expired, and that was the ball game.

If T-Mac had been in the game, he probably would have been the guy who would have defended Anthony since he is seven inches taller than Wesley. Oh well.

In the second half, the Rockets had a few players step up. Swift had 13 points in the second half (5-of-11), 17 points overall. David Wesley took it to the hole strong many times and had 11 points after halftime (15 overall), and Rafer Alston finally had a good game, scoring 18 points (7-of-10) after halftime, and led all scorers with 24 points overall.

If only they had T-Mac at the end to make plays when they needed them, this game could have been won.

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.

Rockets lose second straight without Yao

Friday, December 23rd, 2005
by John
A picture is worth a thousand words.  Without his partner Yao playing because of his toe injury, T-Mac struggled offensively again, hitting only 4-of-17 shots as the Rockets lost their second straight game, this time to Denver 108-86.A picture is worth a thousand words. Without his partner Yao playing because of his toe injury, T-Mac struggled offensively again, hitting only 4-of-17 shots as the Rockets lost their second straight game, this time to Denver 108-86.

by John

FRIDAY, 12/23/05 – This summary is going to be short because there really isn’t much to say. The Rockets’ shooting was so pathetic in Denver, they only hit 25% of their shots in the first half and 32% overall to have their worst shooting game of the season. Their main offensive weapon – T-Mac – was dreadful for the second straight game, only making 4-of-17 shots, but somehow still scoring 17 points.

Their defense was awful, too. They let the Nuggets score at will from both outside and inside the paint, making 48% of their shots.

This is what Jeff Van Gundy had to say after the game:

“Little put into the game. Not a competitive game. Not a competitive spirit to make it a game. We were beaten before the game started by our attitude and belief.”

He later said the effort seen during the game is “what you would have seen from guys that had played on lottery teams.”

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Rockets play incredibly to destroy Nuggets

Saturday, April 16th, 2005
by John
Yao lofts a hook shot Saturday night at Houston's Toyota Center against the Denver Nuggets on his way to 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks in a stunning Rocket victory over Denver, 115-87.Yao lofts a hook shot Saturday night at Houston’s Toyota Center against the Denver Nuggets on his way to 13 points, 11 rebounds and 5 blocks in a stunning Rocket victory over Denver, 115-87. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

SATURDAY, 4/16/05 – I was fortunate enough to attend the Rockets-Nuggets game on Saturday night in Houston, and I couldn’t have picked a better game to attend than this one. If you’re a Yao or Rockets fan, you probably saw the game on ESPN or have read the AP news story. The Rockets stunned the Nuggets 115-87 in dominating fashion on Saturday night. Like any other news story, I will give you many of the facts you would expect from any sports story. But I’ll also try to give you a sense of what it was like to be there.

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