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Yao scores 18; Suns thwart Rocket comeback

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
by John
Yao contests a shot from Boris Diaw Wednesday night in a 102-91 loss.  The Rockets were down 22 points, but Yao scored 13 points in the third quarter to help get the Rockets back in the game.Yao contests a shot from Boris Diaw Wednesday night in a 102-91 loss. The Rockets were down 22 points, but Yao scored 13 points in the third quarter to help get the Rockets back in the game. Click here for the game story. Click here for more photos.

The Rockets blew a golden opportunity to come back from a 22-point deficit against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night. It would have been their second greatest comeback in franchise history, but because of poor decision-making and the fact that Phoenix had run them ragged, they fell apart in the fourth quarter and the Suns cruised to a 102-91 victory.

The first half was awful with the Rockets turning the ball over numerous times and shooting only 37%. Meanwhile, the Suns went to the line 19 times in the first half alone, making 17 of those attempts, and held a 57-40 lead at halftime.

One of the main problems was that T-Mac was settling for too many jump shots. I couldn’t believe he wasn’t taking it to the hole more. Everyone knows he’s struggling from the outside and that he needs to be more aggressive and drive to the basket more, but for some reason he kept shooting and missing from outside, and no one corrected him.

Jeff Van Gundy said before this season that one of the Rocket’s pitfalls last season was “Basketball IQ” issues. Well, I think T-Mac’s insistence to continually shoot from the outside ranks as one of those IQ issues.

In the fourth quarter, McGrady did make a three-pointer and a long two-pointer consecutively to give the Rockets a 74-72 lead to cap a 34-15 run to put them ahead for the first time all night. Before those shots, he had shot 4-of-19 from the field. But down the stretch, he again settled for three-pointers, even after Steve Novak had checked into the game for 3-point shooting purposes and had nailed his previous three-pointer. Dumb!

After the Suns had put the game away 98-82 with 1:38 remaining, T-Mac padded his stats by hitting three treys in a row, but the damage had already been done and the Rockets lost.

To cap off a strange evening, for some reason the Rockets broadcast crew gave T-Mac “Player of the Game” honors. Maybe that’s because no one else had scored over 20 points (T-Mac finished with 23) — Yao didn’t finish with that great of numbers (18 points on 6-of-11 shooting) because of foul trouble. But c’mon! T-Mac essentially shot the Rockets out of the game. And you have to give credit to Yao for scoring 13 points in the third quarter to get them back into the game.

Then Rocket broadcaster Matt Bullard had the intelligence to say McGrady put up a courageous effort, or something like that, because he had been injured the night before and was probably playing with pain.

Excuse me, but if this had been any other sports market, the media wouldn’t be so kind and would have been asking instead, “If your hurt so badly that you can’t even shoot right, why are you playing, risking further injury, and hurting your team?” or “Adjust your game to compensate for your injury – stay away from your weakness, like outside shooting.”

Finally, the broadcasters said the Rockets had run out of gas because they had played back-to-back games, and that this loss was expected. But the fact of the matter is that the Rockets had a chance to steal one, and because of basketball IQ issues, they let it slip away.

Now there were other reasons why they lost. Maybe because they had attempted 35 three-pointers and made only 10 before T-Mac’s meaningless 3 three-pointers at the end of the game, which may demonstrate the following: when the Rockets are chunking them up with tremendous frequency trying to make a comeback, or trying to score more points to keep up with the Suns, thus throwing them out of their rhythm, I can buy that. But I don’t believe in letting them off the hook by serving up old clichés like a “courageous effort,” “he was hurting,” or “they ran out of gas.” Some of it may be true, but don’t cite it as the main reason why they lost. It’s weak. And I think Van Gundy would agree.

Rockets lose to Suns again

Monday, February 27th, 2006
by John
Yao greets last year's NBA League MVP, Steve Nash, Monday night at Toyota Center.   Despite Yao's 27 points and 18 rebounds, the Suns snapped the Rockets' four game home winning streak, winning 111-94.Yao greets last year’s NBA League MVP, Steve Nash, Monday night at Toyota Center. Despite Yao’s 27 points and 18 rebounds, the Suns snapped the Rockets’ four game home winning streak, winning 111-94. To see more photos from the game, click here.

by John

MONDAY, 2/27/06 – As I mentioned in my blog entry last night, I was not going to be able to watch the Rockets game against the Suns Monday night because of a family commitment that conflicted with the game. But I was able to see online that the Rockets had a 44-43 lead with a little over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, but then had to go off-line for a few hours. I was hoping the Rockets would shock me and pull off an upset of the heavily favored Suns, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The Suns showed why they are so good and blew past Houston to win going away 111-94. Yao pulled his weight, tallying another double-double with 27 points and 18 boards. But T-Mac struggled with only 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting.

It’s performances like Yao’s that won him NBA Western Conference Player of the Week honors, as it was announced on Monday by the NBA (see more details below).

Oh well, the Rockets weren’t expected to win this game, so at least I picked the right game to miss.

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 and T-Mac enter All-Star weekend on a bad note

Thursday, February 16th, 2006
by John
Yao and Tracy McGrady show their disappointment during the Rockets' worst loss of the season, losing to the Phoenix Suns 109-75.  Pulled from the blowout early, Yao scored only 6 points, and T-Mac scored 10.Yao and Tracy McGrady show their disappointment during the Rockets’ worst loss of the season, losing to the Phoenix Suns 109-75. Pulled from the blowout early, Yao scored only 6 points, and T-Mac scored 10. To see more photos from the game, click here.

by John

TUESDAY, 2/14/06 – After playing their best game of the season on Tuesday night in a blowout win over the Clippers, the Rockets played their worst Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns on national TV, losing 109-75. It really wasn’t even that close. At one point, the Suns had a 47-point lead in the third quarter.

All the gains the Rockets made wining 7 of their last 8 games entering this game were virtually wiped out with their most embarrassing loss since last year’s 40-point blowout against the Mavericks in Game 7 of the first round of the playoffs.

What a great way to go into the All-Star break…Not! I bet you T-Mac (10 points, 4-of-15 shooting) and Yao (6 points, 2-of-7 from the field) don’t feel like playing in the All-Star game after being part of such a bad loss.

The good thing is that if the Rockets somehow make the playoffs this season, chances are they will play the Spurs or the Mavericks, not the Suns. It will still be an early exit, but maybe just not as bad.

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.

Suns burn Rockets to extend losing streak to five

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005
by John
Yao and Juwan Howard show their dejection during their loss against the Phoenix Suns, 100-88.  The Rockets have now lost five in a row and are 3-9.Yao and Juwan Howard show their dejection during their loss against the Phoenix Suns, 100-88. The Rockets have now lost five in a row and are 3-9. For more photos from the game, click here.

by John

WEDNESDAY, 11/23/05 – It’s really difficult for me to get motivated to write game summaries these days. After watching Houston lose its fifth in a row Wednesday night against Phoenix 100-88, it’s tough to get motivated to write about the worst team in the Western Conference at 3-9.

Not only were the Rockets outscored, they were outshot (45% vs. 41% field goals), were killed from behind the 3-point line (14-7), out-assisted (33-17), turned the ball over more (15-8), out-stolen (10-4), and out-blocked (5-0).

Yao, who only scored 8 points and grabbed 8 rebounds, had the following to say:

“I can’t believe how we’re playing right now. We have a game plan and we know what we need to do and we’re not doing it. I’m a big part of that, too. Time’s running down. There are 70 games left but I think this is a very bad, bad stretch for us.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Rockets just nick the Suns 98-97

Saturday, April 9th, 2005
by John
Phoenix's Steve Nash drives against Yao Ming on Saturday night.  It was a crazy game, with the Rockets lucky to escape with a win, 98-97.  Plagued with foul trouble, Yao scored 10 points, grabbed 8 boards and had 3 blocks in 24 minutes of action.Phoenix’s Steve Nash drives against Yao Ming on Saturday night. It was a crazy game, with the Rockets lucky to escape with a win, 98-97. Plagued with foul trouble, Yao scored 10 points, grabbed 8 boards and had 3 blocks in 24 minutes of action. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

SATURDAY, 4/9/05 – The Rockets escaped with one of their luckiest wins of the season Saturday night, and the timing couldn’t have been better. Leading by only one point against the Phoenix Suns, point guard Bob Sura went to the line with a 98-97 lead and could have at least guaranteed overtime if he hit both free throws.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yao scores 19, grabs 12 boards, but Rockets lose to Suns

Sunday, April 3rd, 2005
by John
Yao walks off the court Sunday with a bandage on his chin after getting accidentally elbowed in the paint.  Despite Yao's return to the lineup and leading the team in scoring (19 points) and rebounds (12), the Rockets lost their second consecutive game because of poor shooting, this time against the Phoenix Suns, 91-78.Yao walks off the court Sunday with a bandage on his chin after getting accidentally elbowed in the paint. Despite Yao’s return to the lineup and leading the team in scoring (19 points) and rebounds (12), the Rockets lost their second consecutive game because of poor shooting, this time against the Phoenix Suns, 91-78. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

SUNDAY, 4/3/05 – Through almost three quarters of play, it looked like the Rockets had a chance to keep up with the heavily favored Phoenix Suns. Houston was only down 64-62 with about a minute remaining in the third when Shawn Marion made a layup. Up until that time, there had been 11 ties and 18 lead changes in a tightly contested battle.

But like their losses against the Hornets on Friday and the Spurs last weekend, the Rockets fell apart in the fourth quarter and lost another game that was winnable, losing 91-78 at Toyota Center.

The Suns started off with their high-octane offense, and surprisingly, Houston revved up its own engines and managed to keep pace with much more fluidity in their offensive game compared to how they played against the Hornets in that humiliating loss Friday night. Yao got off to a great start, making a dunk on Houston’s first basket, and showed just how missed his inside presence was on Friday. Houston was only down 31-25 at the end of the first quarter, with Yao hitting 3-of-4 for six points.

In the second quarter, the game quickly became more defensive-oriented, with the Rockets limiting the Suns to 10 points on 5-of-25 (20%) shooting. Yao was playing extremely well defensively, tipping passes, blocking two shots, and coming up with numerous intimidations. And he wasn’t getting into too serious of foul trouble, either.

But Houston’s offense didn’t really capitalize, scoring only two more field goals (7-of-23) and 17 points overall to lead 42-41 at halftime.

Other than free throw percentage (1-of-6 for Phoenix, 6-of-8 for Houston), all of the stats were pretty much even. So the second half was going to come down to who wanted it most.

At first, it looked like Phoenix was going to run away with it when they started off on a 6-0 run. Jeff Van Gundy called a timeout, probably not happy about how the Rockets’ Ryan Bowen — not confident after a 1-for-4 shooting performance in the first half — had passed up a couple of open shots. For the fifth time this season, Bowen was starting in the lineup since Jon Barry experienced back spasms before the game. So T-Mac moved over to shooting guard and Bowen came in to fill T-Mac’s small forward spot.

After the timeout, their offensive liability (Bowen) soon turned into an asset. Van Gundy positioned Bowen on the low block, and he scored on a layup and was fouled for a three-point play. Energized, Bowen stole the ball on the ensuing Suns possession, dribbled it down court with one defender in his way, then dished to an oncoming Yao who beat everyone down the floor and threw it down for a one-handed jam to tie it at 47-47.

Steve Nash came back to hit a three-pointer, but Bowen responded and hit a 17-footer to close it to 50-49, Phoenix with the lead. Bowen came back and hit a wild 8-foot hook shot from the baseline to put Houston up 53-52.

In a span of about 4 minutes of action, Bowen showed he could play by scoring 9 consecutive Houston points, getting a steal and dishing an assist. Perhaps Bowen was going to be yet another un-sung hero that emerged from the Rockets’ bench this season, just like Jon Barry and Scott Padgett have been able to do this season. Bowen had a decent track record, being 4-0 as a starter this season, but never performed like this before. He was sitting on 14 points and the Rockets looked like they were going to make it competitive.

Not for long, though. Bowen didn’t score the rest of the game, and not many other Rockets did either. Houston’s shooting continued to head southward, and the Suns finished off Houston for its 30th road win of the season.

Although they did a great job on defense, the Rockets’ final shooting stats were horrific. 34% overall, 22% from three-point land. T-Mac (13 points) hit only 6-of-21, and was 0-for-5 from three. That’s his second bad shooting game in a row. Bob Sura (10 points) was 4-of-15, David Wesley (8 points) was 3-of-11, and Mike James (7 points) was 3-of-15. If it wasn’t for Yao’s great return, 19 points and 12 rebounds, this one would have been over much, much sooner.

What seemed to be a strength (good shooting) during recent win streaks is now turning into a weakness. Perhaps you can chalk it up to the chemistry imbalance that has arisen since Juwan Howard got hurt, but the Rockets are going to have to get over it and compensate somehow, or their playoff run will be as short as some of the jump shots we saw on Sunday night.

Even though Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire (9 points) wasn’t much of a factor because of foul trouble, one ironic twist was that Jim Jackson returned to his former arena and haunted them like no else has in a long time, scoring 15 points and hitting 3-of-5 treys. In 21 minutes Jackson, a reserve, scored as many points as Wesley and James combined in 69 minutes of play.

Now the Rockets head to the Bay Area where they face a very hot Golden State team. Houston was lucky to win their last game there a few weeks ago. With the way Houston is shooting, look for another loss and more risk of Houston’s hold of the sixth playoff spot unraveling before our eyes and having to face either the Suns or San Antonio in the first round. Yikes.

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

Reliving Yao’s dominance against the Suns

Saturday, March 12th, 2005
by Chia-Chi

3/12/05, SATURDAY – The game versus the Suns was easily Yao’s best game of the season. Possibly one of the best of his career. For those of you who saw the game you witnessed exactly what I did. For those of you that didn’t see it, let me sum it up: Imagine Yao as the superstar everyone hyped him up to be, a player that changed the game, a dynasty player, a player that you just watch in awe, imagine Yao playing to his fullest potential – that was Yao against the Suns. Dominant, unstoppable, a force.

27 points, 22 rebounds, 5 blocks.

It is hard to describe what transpired last night, but it was nothing less than complete domination of the best team and the best offense in the league. It was a Rockets offense so in tune that it scored 41 points in the fourth quarter. It was a hungry, aggressive,in-your-face Yao that scored a double-double in the fourth quarter alone.

It was defense so smothering it limited the Suns to 14 points in the fourth. It was blowing out the best team and doubling their previously largest loss margin at their home. It was Yao completely shutting down Amare Stoudamire’s offense in the second half making him alter and miss countless shots and blocking four of them. It was T-Mac playing like a madman that couldn’t miss if he tried. It was a Rocket’s team that feared nothing and believed they can make it all the way.

But more than just a huge victory, there was a change. A slight change, but a change that holds the possibility for so much more. Finally we saw Yao imposing his will on the game, grabbing rebounds like a machine, scoring like a machine, and playing as if nothing could stop him.

It was embarrassing for the Suns. It was a defining moment in the Rockets’ season. It is a warning shot to all the other teams in the league. The Rockets and Yao are coming.

Chia-Chi
zenithnadir@YaoMingFanClub.com

Yao and Rockets shock Suns in dominant performance

Friday, March 11th, 2005
by John
Yao reacts after scoring two of his 27 points in a shocking 127-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday.  Yao also grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds.Yao reacts after scoring two of his 27 points in a shocking 127-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Friday. Yao also grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

FRIDAY, 3/11/05 – With Bob Sura returning to the lineup for the first time Friday since being put on the injured list a couple of weeks ago, everyone expected the Rockets to at least be competitive against an awesome Phoenix Suns offense. But there was no way they were going to win considering they were in for a “track meet” and certain to fade down the stretch.

Instead, the exact opposite happened. Sura’s contribution was minimal (2 points on 1-of-5 shooting, two rebounds). But the one-two punch of Shaq-Kobe, er, I mean Yao-T-Mac carried the Rockets to an improbable 127-107 victory against the best offense in the league…and on the road in Phoenix!

The Rockets were down 14 points in the third quarter that made most pre-game predictions look like they were going to be fulfilled. But their 41-17 outburst in the fourth quarter was completely unexpected, thanks to Yao and T-Mac doing their thing.

Yao was incredible in this game, dominating in the fourth quarter with 14 points to finish with 27 overall on 10-of-18 shooting (7-of-9 from the free throw line). Yao also grabbed a career-high 22 rebounds and had 5 blocks. Maybe I’ve been reading too much hype about Amare Stoudemire, but I couldn’t believe that Yao was able to take Stoudemire (who only scored 7 points on 2-of-10 shooting) to school like he did in the second half. Four of Yao’s 5 blocks came against Stoudemire, leaving him discombobulated.

Rather than myself include lots of quotes here about how amazed Yao’s teammates were with his performance, you’ve got to read all the props they gave Yao after the game by clicking here and reading the Houston Chronicle’s coverage of the game.

T-Mac was also amazing, scoring 38 points on 16-of-27 shooting, filling it up with 21 points in the second half. He also had 9 rebounds. What else can you say about him? He’s unbelievable.

Other amazing stats of this game were that the Rockets outscored the Suns 20-9 in fast break points, and had 6 steals to Phoenix’s three.

My colleague Chia-Chi is traveling right now, but he will provide his take of Friday’s game later today (Saturday).

Now that the Rockets have won two games in a row on the road that hardly anyone expected them to win (Seattle and now Phoenix), the hopes of a sweep of the remaining games on this road trip (Sacramento and Golden State) may amazingly be possible.

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com