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Rockets pound Pistons to go 8-13 with a favorable schedule ahead

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
by John

I’ll make this quick since there is no controversy in how the Rockets took care of business last night beating Detroit, blowing them out with a 19-6 run to close out the game in a 97-83 victory.

Luis Scola is making a great case for an All-Star spot with 35 points on 16-of-25 shots, one point short of his career high at Golden State in the second game of the season.

Kyle Lowry’s growth as a point guard continues, scoring 22 points and racking up 12 assists and 6 steals, both career highs. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when Aaron Brooks returns to the court soon since Lowry has raised the bar on Houston’s point guard expectations. A little bit of pressure to be more of an assist man isn’t a bad thing.

The part of Lowry’s game that has made him even more dangerous is his 3-point shooting, which has drastically improved over the past few games. He was 4-for-5 from 3-point land, and 11-of-19 over the past four games.

Joining forces in the 20+ scoring club for Houston was Kevin Martin, who continues to amaze with his aptitude to get to the line, hitting 14-of-15 free throws.

Who would have thought just a couple of years ago the Yao Ming/Ron Artest/Tracy McGrady “Big 3” would be replaced by the Scola/Lowry/Martin triumvirate? Add Yao and Aaron back into the mix, and you’ve got a very formidable lineup that could get the Rockets back into the playoff hunt as they face a very weak schedule of teams in December to make up for all those opponents they faced before last night’s game. But they’ve got to play defense like they did Tuesday night, although Rip Hamilton getting himself ejected from the game gave the Pistons little hope offensively.

Speaking of McGrady, his return back to Toyota Center for the first time since leaving the Rockets provoked an interesting reaction. I heard many more boos than I had anticipated, but perhaps that’s because most of the crowd got word that McGrady dissed Houston before the game by saying the Rockets’ poor start this year is correlated with his leaving, or something like that.

When you read this quote, you’ve got to be happy this selfish, insecure bufoon is gone:

“It wasn’t my fault it ended the way it did, but yeah, I regret it. I want to know who they’re blaming around here now that I’m gone.”

Yes, it was your fault McGrady, and you hold partial blame for sucking tens of million of dollars from the Rockets’ cap the past two years in Houston when you hardly played, taking us through all of your drama, and handcuffing Houston from being able to get a legitimate free agent during your last two years here.

Back to Houston’s roster: Chase Budinger continued to struggle Tuesday, hitting only 2-of-6 shots, including an air ball on an open jumper from the free throw line, then missing 2-of-3 free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer. I haven’t seen a “sophomore slump” like this one in quite some time. Something has got to give here with Budinger’s playing time.

Rick Adelman said before the game that he was going to play more of Jermaine Taylor so he can add some size to the backcourt since Ish Smith isn’t all that big (and he’s not playing so spectacularly to give him lots of minutes). We’ve been calling for more playing time for Taylor for weeks, so I’ve got to give credit to Adelman for adjusting like he did with playing Jordan Hill more. But he only gave 6 minutes to Taylor on Tuesday night. Hopefully we’ll see more of them, although the Rockets might not need him as much with Milwaukee (7-13), Cleveland (7-14) and Sacramento (4-15) as upcoming opponents.

Yao leads Rockets to win over Pistons in 2 OTs

Thursday, March 19th, 2009
by John

It wasn’t pretty. It took 2 OTs for Houston to beat a Detroit team without its top scorers (Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton). The Rockets were lethargic at first, letting the Pistons out-hustle them for offensive rebounds and second-chance points. Detroit hung around long enough to threaten all the good karma Houston had built since the All-Star break beating most teams they should beat.

But the talent and energy of Houston’s roster finally prevailed in the 2nd overtime of a 3-hour game (ending at 11:41pm), finally pulling away with a 106-101 victory to go 45-25 on the year.


Yao Ming was virtually unstoppable against the Pistons, scoring a
game-high 31 points. Click here and here for more photos from the game.

Like most wins these days in the thick of the playoff race, it was a huge victory. Earlier in the evening, Denver had beaten Memphis to take a half-game lead over Houston at 45-25 to take over 3rd place in the West. By the time Houston closed the deal over Detroit, the Rockets had tied the Nuggets with the same record.

Four Rocket players rose up at different times that made the difference.

First, we’ve got to start off with Yao, who scored 31 points on 13-of-22 shooting in 45 minutes of action. He also racked up 15 boards and had 4 blocks.

He scored 8 of the Rockets’ 24 points in the 2 OTs, with his turnaround jumper as automatic as I’ve ever seen it. He’s been hitting that shot from the right post so regularly with such a sweet touch, it’s the most Hakeem-like play I’ve seen Yao master in my 7 years of watching him. He has such confidence in that shot — like Dream had with his turnaround J — every time it swishes through the net, it has to demoralize the opposing team.

Although it would have been nice to have seen the Rockets milk that shot of Yao’s more often since he was being defended man-to-man most of the time, at least they went to him more times than I’ve seen in the past during crunch time. Just imagine how much more Yao would score if starting small forward Shane Battier was a threat offensively that the defense had to respect. Battier took only 1 shot in 44 minutes of play!

Ron Artest
had a solid game scoring 26 points on a decent 11-of-24 shooting. Many times late in the game he would take it to the hole and score, like he should. He seems to have learned more since the All-Star break that he can’t get rely on the 3-pointer or outside shot all the time, especially when it’s not falling (he only took 4 shots from 3-point land, missing one of them). That’s something he has learned in the course of the season, unlike Tracy McGrady, who seemed to forget all the time.

Aaron Brooks came up big with 14 points on 4-of-8 shots, with no shot being bigger than the 3-pointer to start the second overtime, giving the team some breathing room to play a little looser and take a 10-point lead. The Pistons would cut the lead down to 3 points, but Brooks would come through with 4 straight free throws after being intentionally fouled twice. Those FTs alone are shots I would always be afraid that Rafer Alston couldn’t drain, but AB did what point guards should do — hit their throws with the game on the line.

Luis Scola also became a clutch player in the fourth quarter after the Rockets fell behind. Alot of people probably didn’t notice, but Adelman put him in the game after getting upset about Yao not staying down low in the paint, letting Will Bynum score more easily to give the Pistons a 5-point lead early in the fourth.

Scola would deliver with shifty moves down low in the paint DURING CRUNCH TIME and showed he can be a legitimate scoring option when the Rockets really need a bucket. It’s always good to have more options when the matchups aren’t favoring Yao, Brooks or Artest.

With Landry being out because of the terrible circumstances regarding his gunshot wound, the Rockets really missed his athleticism on the boards. Detroit seemed to be getting the offensive boards all night long, grabbing 21 for the game. As great as Yao’s rebound count was (15), he only had 2 on the offensive glass, obviously because he’s not the best jumper, doesn’t have the quickest reflexes, and his hands aren’t reminiscent of Dennis Rodman’s or Ben Wallace’s.

In comparison, other Rockets’ big men have better offensive rebounding ratios: Scola’s 6 boards included 3 offensive, Chuck Hayes‘ 5 rebounds included 3 ORs, and Artest’s 4 boards included 2 ORs.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not complaining. Similar to how Brooks may not be the best assist man for a point guard (yet), Yao Ming makes up for it in so many ways, being more of a go-to guy in crunch time, a no-brainer of a first option for all his teammates when he’s being single-covered.

That’s what he was late in the fourth quarter, scoring 7 points in a row to get the Rockets’ lead back and help send the game to the OTs where Yao would score 8 more points and the Rockets would take care of business.

Without Yao, Rockets still beat Pistons

Monday, January 26th, 2009
by John

If there was ever a chance for the Rockets to break an 8-year losing streak to the Pistons in Detroit, this was it. The Pistons had lost 6 of their last 8 games, and 3-of-4 in Detroit. They were also blown out by Dallas 112-91 Friday night, giving up 54.9% shooting in that game.

And although Yao Ming wouldn’t play so he could rest his knee in order to play against the Knicks Monday night in New York, the Rockets were getting Ron Artest and Tracy McGrady back, the first time they were to play on the court at the same time in 3 weeks.


Sidelined because of a knee bruise, Yao Ming signs autographs among respectful Detroit fans. Click here for more photos.

It was a back-and-forth game where you thought a couple of times the Rockets were going to pull away easily for a win, but the lack of defense without Yao in the middle to clog up the lane ended up really hurting them.

But luckily with some clutch rebounds and free throws by Ron Artest in the last couple of minutes of the game, the Rockets prevailed, won their 7th game out of their last 9, and finally exorcised some demons in Detroit.

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Pistons pound Rockets at The Palace

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007
by John
Yao Ming walks off the court in the second half of the Rockets-Detroit game after bumping into Luther Head, producing a cut above his eye that required four stitches.  Yao would score only 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 26 minutes of action.Yao Ming walks off the court in the second half of the Rockets-Detroit game after bumping into Luther Head, producing a cut above his eye that required four stitches. Yao would score only 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 26 minutes of action. Click here for more photos from the game.

After an exhilarating game against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night, I was so looking forward to the Rockets game against the Pistons Sunday night. Would the Rockets show they have turned the corner and play an inspiring game against one of the league’s best teams? Or would they melt under the pressure?

After the Rockets took a step forward Saturday, they took another step backward Sunday, losing 94-82 at The Palace in Auburn Hills. The game wasn’t as close as the final score would seem to indicate.

It’s easy for the national headlines to blame the loss on the Rockets losing Tracy McGrady to injury in the game (more on that later), but the Rockets have shown they can be very competitive without him. The Rockets still had a chance to win this game, but for some stupid reason Rick Idle-man didn’t play Aaron Brooks when he should have. Has this coach learned anything about his players yet? Why does it always take him about 3 times longer than everyone else to figure out who should be playing?

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Rockets free throws pitiful against Pistons, but they still win

Thursday, December 13th, 2007
by John
Yao Ming shoots over Detroit's Rasheed Wallace Wednesday night.  Yao scored 21 points, grabbed 13 boards, had 3 assists, and blocked 4 shots.  He also hit some big shots in the fourth quarter that were instrumental to a close 80-77 win.Yao Ming shoots over Detroit’s Rasheed Wallace Wednesday night. Yao scored 21 points, grabbed 13 boards, had 3 assists, and blocked 4 shots. He also hit some big shots in the fourth quarter that were instrumental to a close 80-77 win. Click here for more photos from the game.

It was ridiculous how the Rockets escaped with this win. They overcame one of the worst free throw shooting games ever (6-of-22), the Pistons were extremely cold in the first half shooting only 27% from the field, the Rockets blew a 14-point first half lead, a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter, and the Pistons had two chances at the end of the game to win it on two consecutive three-pointers that missed. But the Rockets will take a win anyway they can get it. That’s how desperate they are for W’s.

The game started out with Rick Idle-man not rewarding the players who had given effort in Philadelphia on Monday with a starting assignment. Luther Head, Mike James, Kirk Snyder, Luis Scola and Bonzi Wells were all on the bench to start the game. James and Snyder didn’t play one minute of the game, and neither did Steve Francis.

It was clear from the outset that Idle-man was going to stick with his old ways, hunker down with a few key players, and be more conservative than ever to scratch out a win any way he could. He even had McGrady consistently playing point guard in the fourth quarter. It was like a throwback to the JVG era.

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Rockets beat best team in the East for 5th win in a row

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007
by John
This photo is indicative of the kind of game Yao had against the Pistons on Thursday night.  On this play, Yao did his patented spin move toward the baseline, leaving Rasheed Wallace in his wake.  Yao finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting, 7-of-8 free throws made, 7 rebounds, only 2 turnovers, and 1 BIG BLOCK.This photo is indicative of the kind of game Yao had against the Pistons on Thursday night. On this play, Yao did his patented spin move toward the baseline, leaving Rasheed Wallace in his wake. Yao finished with a game-high 27 points on 10-of-19 shooting, 7-of-8 free throws made, 7 rebounds, only 2 turnovers, and 1 BIG BLOCK. Click here for more photos from the game. Click here for pre-game photos.

Through 3 1/2 quarters Thursday night, it appeared the Rockets were on their way to having another “statement game” similar to the 50-point win they had Sunday night in Philadelphia.

This time, they held a big 18-point lead with only 8:18 remaining in the game against arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Detroit Pistons. The Pistons had won their last 6 road games, and 6 out of their last 7 games overall. So they are for real in a fairly weak East.

And in this game they were playing with Chauncey Billups, who has been out with a groin injury lately. This game was on its way to being a bona fide dismantling of Detroit, and I could only imagine what journalists and teams in the League were thinking about Houston.

Maybe something like, “Man, look at Houston. They are kicking tail. They have won 7 of their last 8 games (on their way to 8 of 9), and they dominated a good Detroit team. Watch out for them in the playoffs. No doubt now: they are going to be the surprise team in the playoffs this year.”

Well, after blowing that 18-point lead and letting Detroit close within 4 points with 2:31 remaining in the game, many of those potential accolades went out the window somewhat. Houston would hold on for a 91-85 win, which is impressive, but not as impressive as it could have been.

But I don’t care much about how a team looks when they win as much as I do with their ability to win close games any way they can. Houston has been learning lately how to close out tight games (remember the Indiana game Tuesday night?), which is undoubtedly going to be a necessity to win in the playoffs.

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Pistons pound Rockets in fourth quarter

Sunday, November 19th, 2006
by John
Yao comes out to the perimeter to limit Tayshaun Prince offensively in Detroit Saturday night.  Yao had a monster night statistically (33 points, 16 rebounds), but was limited to two points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 104-92 Rockets loss.Yao comes out to the perimeter to limit Tayshaun Prince offensively in Detroit Saturday night. Yao had a monster night statistically (33 points, 16 rebounds, 4 assists), but was limited to two points in the fourth quarter on the way to a 104-92 Rockets loss. Click here for the game story. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Rockets had a golden chance to make a statement about the kind of team they are Saturday night against Detroit in Auburn Hills, and for 3 quarters, they were looking pretty good.

Yao was dominating through those first 3 quarters, scoring 31 points.

T-Mac had started the game hot, scoring 8 of the Rockets first 10 points, and 13 of their first 19, not missing a shot and looking like he was on his way to a 30+ point night.

But the problem was that the other Rocket players weren’t shooting well (12-of-35 for 34%), and when Yao (two points in the fourth quarter) and T-Mac cooled off, and the defense couldn’t stop the Pistons in the final quarter, it was a recipe for disaster and a 104-92 loss.

Detroit had gone on their own dry spell in the second quarter when they missed 10 shots in a row and fell behind 34-26. But you knew the Pistons, only two seasons removed from a World Championship, were too good of a team to fold and die.

They came roaring back and managed to close their deficit to 52-50 at halftime. Both teams played to a stalemate in the third quarter (26-26), leading to the Rockets collapse in the fourth quarter where they were outscored 28-14.

Giving up 104 points to the Pistons is surprising considering the Rockets headed into the game giving up the least number of points per game this season on the road (about 91) and Detroit averaged about 90 ppg.

Even T-Mac admitted the Rockets’ shortcoming on defense:

“Our defense in the fourth quarter was bad, really bad. Until we change that, we’re going to keep having those results.”

Detroit’s defense did a good job forcing Yao and T-Mac farther from the basket, making the Rocket offense bog down, resulting in turnovers and bad shot selection. T-Mac only hit 2-of-7 field goals in the second half and scored 24 points. He was also limited in playing time because of foul trouble, a rarity, but considering he was playing against Richard Hamilton, it’s somewhat understandable.

Pistons’ coach Flip Saunders revealed after the game his strategy in using Rasheed Wallace and the rest of his big men against Yao, who was 1-for-5 in the fourth:

“Sheed (Rasheed Wallace) is smart. Last year at times when we played (Yao Ming) we actually put Sheed on him and he did a nice job. He fought him and fought him. I told our guys going into the game, Yao gets a little bit tired in the fourth quarter so you got to keep running, keep on pushing and keep on fighting in there and try to wear him down to the fourth quarter. I think we did that.”

Chauncey Billups said after the game, “(Wallace) played Yao really well, we cut Yao out running so many pick and rolls and making him play out on the perimeter because he is really unstoppable.”

The Rockets turned it over at least 5 times in the fourth quarter (two by Yao), went 7 minutes without a field goal, and shot only 26% (5-of-19) while Detroit went on a 13-0 to put the game out of reach.

One thing is for sure. T-Mac needs to stop shooting 3-pointers. He was 1-for-5 in the game, and is shooting 28% from behind the arc for the season.

Yao was phenomenal in those first 3 quarters, giving the Ben Wallace-less Pistons problems down low, getting fouled numerous times, and making them pay by hitting 17-of-20 free throws.

He also threw several nifty passes for 4 assists, and only committed one personal foul. On the downside, he turned the ball over 8 times total.

The Rockets next play the Knicks in New York, and I have a bad feeling about that game. The Knicks are very explosive and gave the Rockets all kinds of fits last week in Houston.

Rockets almost shock Detroit with last-second 3-pointer

Sunday, January 22nd, 2006
by John
T-Mac consoles rookie Luther Head after Luther just missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that could have shocked the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday.  Despite 43 points from T-Mac, the Rockets lost 98-97.T-Mac consoles rookie Luther Head after Luther just missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that could have shocked the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday. Despite 43 points from T-Mac, the Rockets lost 99-97.

by John

SUNDAY, 1/22/06 - The 13-26 Rockets came within one inch of having the biggest upset win of the NBA season on Sunday. Luther Head had an open look at the basket for a 3-pointer with just a few seconds remaining that could have won the game for te Rockets, but it was just one inch short of going in and shocking the Pistons — and the league — in Detroit (now 33-5).

But you can’t get too down on the rookie. After all, it was Luther who put the Rockets in position to win the game, nailing a high-arching three-pointer to close the deficit to 98-97 with 10 seconds remaining. After Detroit’s Richard Hamilton was fouled intentionally and made only 1-of-2 free throws, that gave Houston a chance to win it with a trey. But it wasn’t meant to be in a game where Houston surprisingly pushed the NBA’s best team to the brink.

You knew it was going to be a special night for Tracy McGrady when he started off the game scoring 11 of Houston’s first 13 points. With T-Mac putting his team on his back, the Rockets led 22-21 in a game where they were expected to fall behind quickly.

After T-Mac checked out of the game in the second quarter, Detroit opened up a double-digit lead and led 55-46 at halftime. T-Mac – who was logging more minutes than expected for the second consecutive game after coming off the inactive list – had played 21 minutes in the first half and scored 19 points.

Surprisingly, Houston made a game of it after completing a 17-4 run at the end of the second quarter and beginning of the third, cutting the deficit to 55-53.

T-Mac stayed hot in the third, scoring 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Couple that performance with a steal and layup by David Wesley at the end of the quarter, and the Rockets only trailed 78-77 heading into the fourth .

If only the Rockets had a couple of more breaks, this game could have been won. Rafer Alston scored 5 points in the fourth, but he also fouled Chauncey Billups behind the three-point line for easy free throw points (the second time he put Chauncey on the line after fouling him behind the three-point line), and Alston foolishly had his foot on the sideline when he received a pass, resulting in a turnover down the stretch that really hurt.

The refs also called new Rocket Chuck Hayes for a very ticky-tack foul on Billups with 1:24 remaining that put Chauncey on the line, giving the Pistons a 96-92 advantage. That kind of call in that situation is inexcusable — the refs should have just given the Pistons the game right then if they were going to make a call like that.

Those giveaway points by the ref would end up being the difference in the game, along with that three-point shot that fell just one inch short for Luther.

As disappointed as I was the Rockets didn’t win this game, I was pleased with the effort against the league’s best team, and enjoyed watching T-Mac going off for 43 points on 17-of-33 shooting, racking up 9 rebounds, and doling out 5 assists.

I would have loved to have seen T-Mac take the final shot more than anyone else because he has come through in the clutch so many times on shots like those. He had a chance to take the 3-pointer himself over a couple of defenders before passing off to Luther for the final shot. T-Mac rises so high off the floor, defenders standing in front of him don’t really affect him.

But I think it was good to see T-Mac distribute the ball in that situation and let a younger player like Luther develop more confidence taking big shots like that. In the long run, it will be beneficial to have guys on the floor other than T-Mac who can drain shots in future clutch moments.

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

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

More quotes from Yao and JVG after Pistons game

Sunday, November 20th, 2005
by John

ClubYao’s correspondent in Hong Kong, Raymond, has translated a Sina.com article from Chinese to English reporting some of Yao’s and Jeff Van Gundy’s thoughts after the Pistons game on Friday night. You can read those quotes by clicking here. Thanks Raymond!

Rockets fall to 3-6 after loss to Detroit

Friday, November 18th, 2005
by John
Yao prepares to make a strong move against Detroit's Ben Wallace.  Yao showed lots of aggressiveness all night, played 37 minutes, and recorded a double-double (20 points and 12 rebounds).  But the rest of the Rockets struggled, and the Rockets lost again, this time 78-70.Yao prepares to make a strong move against Detroit’s Ben Wallace. Yao showed lots of aggressiveness all night, played 37 minutes, and recorded a double-double (20 points and 12 rebounds). But the rest of the Rockets struggled, and the Rockets lost again, this time 78-70. For more photos from the game, click here. Photo courtesy of NBAE via Getty Images.

by John

Like the Rockets, it has been a long week for me at work and I’m dog tired, so this is going to be a relatively short report. Watching the Rockets play the Pistons didn’t give me any extra energy since the game was relatively boring and low-scoring. Both teams couldn’t score (39-36 at halftime), the same number of points was scored in the second half, and the Rockets lost 78-70.

The only real excitement in the game was watching Yao take Ben Wallace to school, showing aggressiveness down low and scoring 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting. And although Houston’s offense was sucking again (except for Yao), the Rockets managed to keep it close and had a shot at the end to win it.

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