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Spurs roar back on Rockets to win

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006
by John
Yao gets swarmed by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker Tuesday night on his way to a 7-for-21 shooting night and 20 points.  The Spurs showed why they are so good, rallying from 19 points down to defeat the Rockets 92-84.Yao gets swarmed by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker Tuesday night on his way to a 7-for-21 shooting night and 20 points. The Spurs showed why they are so good, rallying from 19 points down to defeat the Rockets 92-84. Click here for the game story. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Spurs showed Tuesday night why they were only a play or two away from going to the NBA Finals last season.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about it. You can read this Houston Chronicle story to find out more about the Rockets’ collapse and the Spurs’ big scoring runs in the 3rd and 4th quarters to win 92-84. The numbers aren’t pretty.

But I knew when the Rockets closed out the half with a scoring run of their own thanks to back-to-back 3-pointers by Scott Padgett — capped with a trey by T-Mac with .1 seconds remaining before halftime — their 13-point lead was going to be fleeting.

Actually, it wasn’t fleeting for awhile. The Rockets opened up a 19-point lead on the Spurs in the third quarter, then everything went south. Offense. Defense. You name it.

Yao only shot 7-for-21 (when is the last time we saw numbers like that?) for 21 points. Once the Spurs put Tim Duncan on him, he showed why he is a former league MVP. Duncan, along with his teammates, pretty much shut down Yao, and the rest of the Rockets for that matter.

For some reason I’m not too upset about this loss. Of course I love to see the Rockets win, but they have been getting so much recognition the past week or so having won 4 in a row, it can serve some good to get slapped back into reality.

The Rockets now know there is another level to which they need to aspire. They know they can’t coast to a win after building a big lead, and need to play hard against great teams like the Spurs.

Yao’s teammates know he is not going to dominate every night, and that they need to provide some help on the scoring side.

Bonzi Wells really knows now his team needs him because there will be some nights where they need his scoring punch.

Jeff Van Gundy knows that when the Rockets’ shooting is suffering, he needs to consider bringing Steve Novak off the bench. Novak didn’t play.

On the bright side…

T-Mac was the T-Mac of old in the first half, scoring 21 points (3-of-4 three-pointers). We’ll forget he only scored 5 points in the second half. He finished with 26.

Thank God the Rockets brought Padgett back to Houston after they let him go two years ago. He was their best 3-point shooter that season, and he showed he still has the touch. Those two 3-pointers he hit late in the second quarter almost brought the house down. He finished 2-of-3 from 3-point territory, and the Rockets were 7-of-11 in the first half.

That first half was unbelievable, with the fans and the bench showing lots of enthusiasm when the Rockets went on their run. It’s going to be fun at Toyota Center this season.

Dikembe Mutombo showed he still has it, blocking Tim Duncan twice in the first half.

Houston only committed 3 turnovers in the first half. They finished with 9. Luther Head had four, though. Tough night for a dude who has been playing pretty well this season.

In the first half they scored 56 points and shot 50% from the field. Although they shot 24% in the second half and scored 28 points (9 in the fourth quarter), we know that kind of poor shooting won’t happen too many times this season. It will probably be more in between those figures.

Look for the Rockets to come out with a vengeance all four quarters against the Bulls Thursday night.

Rockets end season in typical fashion, lose to Spurs

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006
by John

Finally it’s over! May the Rockets’ 2005-06 season rest in peace. In a microcosm of their season, the Rockets had a chance to win Wedneday night against the World Champion San Antonio Spurs, but Rafer Alston missed two free throws with 7 seconds remaining that could have won it, and that was basically the ballgame. Rockets lose 89-87.

Like many Rocket fans, I’m glad Rafer missed those free throws to give them a better chance at a higher draft lottery pick, although I still don’t think he’s the long-term answer at point guard (another abysmal 6-for-16 shooting night).

And the on-again off-again Juwan Howard scored 8 points on 3-of-11 shooting after scoring 31 points on 12-of-19 shooting in the Rockets’ last game against Denver. How come that continues to happen? Keith Bogans, who had such a great game in Denver with some clutch plays down the stretch, shot only 1-of-5 from the field for two points in 21 minutes. And David Wesley only made 3-of-11 shots for 10 points.

On the bright side, unlike Rafer who will be thinking about those missed free throws all summer, those Rockets who can go into the off-season feeling good about themselves are the following:

  • Stromile Swift, who led all Rockets with 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting.
  • Luther Head finished strong, scoring 17 points, grabbing 7 boards, and dishing 3 assists. But he did only make 1-of-5 from behind the arc.
  • Last but not least, Chuck Hayes was incredible, coming up with clutch rebounds (7), a block, two steals, and shooting 6-of-7 from the field for 14 points. All of that in 23 minutes!
  • So who do I see sticking with the Rockets next season? Here are my initial thoughts:

    Will definitely be around:
    Yao
    T-Mac

    Will probably stick:
    Stromile Swift
    Juwan Howard
    Chuck Hayes
    – finished strong and could be the hustle guy that Van Gundy always loves to have around

    On the bubble:
    Bob Sura – hope his back shows improvement during the off-season. When he’s playing, he’s as tough as they get
    Rafer Alston – if the Rockets can find another free agent point guard this off-season, trade him
    Keith Bogans – inconsistent, but played well in spurts. Could be a good backup to T-Mac.
    Richie Frahm – showed he can hit the three, which the Rockets really need
    Ryan Bowen – can Van Gundy afford to keep a defensive specialist on the roster who can’t score?
    Dikembe Mutombo – serviceable, but if the Rockets find a more athletic backup who can score…

    Gone:
    David Wesley – really toughed it out this year and tried very hard, but he’s past his prime. Thanks for all your heart over the past couple of years, D-dub.
    Maciej Lampe – couldn’t get any playing time, even when the Rockets were bad. That must tell you something.
    Rick Brunson – see directly above

    Now with the season over, I’m going to continue tracking Yao’s recovery from foot surgery as well as discuss some of the Rockets’ moves this off-season that will help improve them from having tied for the worst home record in the league this season at 15-26.

    john@YaoMingFanClub.com

    To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

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

    Spurs slap Rockets with fourth loss in a row

    Saturday, March 18th, 2006
    by John
    Yao clears out for a rebound against San Antonio's Tim Duncan Saturday.  Yao grabbed 10 boards and scored 20 points, but the Rockets lost to the Spurs again, this time 92-77.Yao clears out for a rebound against San Antonio’s Tim Duncan Saturday. Yao grabbed 10 boards and scored 20 points, but the Rockets lost to the Spurs again, this time 92-77. Click here for more photos from the game.

    by John

    SATURDAY, 3/18/06 – The Rockets surprised no one by losing 92-77 to the Spurs on Saturday night. In fact, they have surprised no one over the past four games against tough opponents, losing all four. They have also lost all 12 of their divisional games this season, and are 2-17 without T-Mac.

    There is really no point to go into the details for this game, other than…

    * The Rockets got to within 5 points of the Spurs (60-55), but then Robert Horry stole a ball and hit a three-pointer to create a bigger cushion, and that was the beginning of the end for the Rockets. Houston climbed within 7 points at the end

    * Focusing on playing more defense (holding Tim Duncan to 14 points), Yao scored 20 points and grabbed 10 boards, but was only able to take one shot in the game’s last 7 minutes.

    * The Rockets couldn’t stop Tony Parker, who burned them for 23 points. Overall, the Spurs shot 48.7%.

    * While Juwan Howard improved his play from recent games with 18 points on 8-of-12 shots, Rafer Alston was awful, hitting 2-of-14 for 8 points. At least Alston had some insightful comments after the game when he talked of another Houston failure to win a game down the stretch: “You’re supposed to get better. When other teams turn it up a notch or two levels, we turn it down a notch or two. Teams make it hard for us to get it to our best player (Yao Ming). We don’t make it hard to get it to some of their best players.”

    * I am really getting tired of the Rockets losing to the Spurs. Surprise me for me once, won’t you?

    The Rockets are now 4.5 games behind the Lakers with 16 games to play. The season is over. So let’s start thinking about next year and getting a high lottery pick. Can the Rockets get lucky again like they did in 2002 and get the #1 pick? Adam Morrison or J.J. Redick could really help the Rockets. Fat chance they’ll get one of them.

    You go, JVG

    As much as I have been underwhelmed by Jeff Van Gundy‘s coaching this season, I have to give him props for a comment he made Saturday. Discussing how players around the league celebrate when one of their teammates dunks on Yao, like in last Sunday’s game against the Spurs when Michael Finley supposedly dunked on Yao (although Yao just came over to help at the last second because Finley had driven past Rick Brunson):

    “I think some of those same people that like to mock Yao’s negative plays are the same people who predicted that he wasn’t good and would never really (make an impact). So instead of just saying, ‘I’m wrong, I’m an idiot, I have no idea what I’m talking about,’ they try to pick out a couple plays where it may not have gone as well for Yao. Saying you’re wrong is difficult.

    “A lot of players, if you remember, tried to say he was not that special. I think a lot of it, player-wise, is just talk. A lot of players never appreciated Yao’s slow and steady improvement. There’s something beyond it, but I’m sure natural size has something to do with it.”

    Update from Ric

    On a different note, I had a chance yesterday to speak to Ric Bucher, the co-author of Yao’s book. Like myself, even Ric is amazed at how well Yao is playing this early in his career. That’s saying something considering how much time Ric had spent with Yao in writing that book.

    Ric also is impressed with how great Yao’s English has improved and how he can now understand the nuances and subtleties of the language. We both agreed that Yao is one smart dude.

    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 fall to earth, lose to Spurs again

    Sunday, March 12th, 2006
    by John
    San Antonio's Manu Ginobili goes to the rack and throws down a left-handed jam late in the fourth quarter for a huge bucket on the way to defeating the Rockets 88-81.San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili goes to the rack and throws down a left-handed jam late in the fourth quarter for a huge bucket on the way to defeating the Rockets 88-81. Click here for more photos from the game.

    by John

    SUNDAY, 3/12/06 – On a pure coincidence, I was in San Antonio today during the Rockets-Spurs game. But I wasn’t at the game. Instead, I was stuck in the worst traffic jam I’ve ever been stuck in that backed up cars for 10 miles, on the verge of missing a flight out of San Antonio’s airport.

    I couldn’t believe how bad the congestion was, and it didn’t even look like there was an accident! Instead, it looked it was all because of construction. Good going, San Antonio. Do construction on one of the most heavily-trafficked arteries on the one of the busiest afternoons of the week.

    Needless to say, I wasn’t very happy with the city of San Antonio today, and I have even a bigger disdain for the city when the Rockets play the city’s team that has beaten them 16 games in a row at home.

    Luckily when I got to the airport late, my flight was delayed. So I thought maybe my good luck would rub off on the Rockets and they could pull off an upset of the Spurs. I even had enough time to check out an airport TV and see that the Rockets held a 42-38 lead at halftime, and Yao had scored 17 points at the half.

    But then I heard David Wesley was not going to be coming back into the game because of a rib injury. And that’s on top of T-Mac’s absence with a bad back.

    Then I saw the Rockets fall apart in the third, with Yao getting only 3 shots in the quarter while the offense showed poor shot selection, scoring 11 points, their worst third quarter of the season.

    Meanwhile, San Antonio had their way with Houston offensively in that third quarter, scoring 26 points. By the time the third was over, the Rockets were down by eleven, 64-53.

    I had to cease watching the game and go catch my flight with the sinking feeling the Rockets were going to lose yet another game to the Spurs. However, after my plane landed, I heard the Rockets had made a run and almost pulled off a major upset, but they couldn’t close the deal and lost 88-81.

    I had recorded the game on my Tivo and really wanted to see how the Rockets played in the fourth quarter. So I decided to watch what happened. I was pleasantly surprised to see a valiant comeback attempt.

    Luther Head hit a big three-pointer to cut the San Antonio lead to 77-75 with 3:20 remaining. The Rockets’ prospects were still looking good with Houston trailing only 79-77 with about 2:30 remaining. But the game turned on the next 3 possessions.

    Rick Brunson was guarding Michael Finley fairly well in the corner, but then he made a mistake in positioning and got caught in a pick, giving Finley a clear path to the basket for a slam dunk to make it 81-77.

    On the ensuing possession, the Rockets turned it over, and the Spurs came down and Manu Ginobili threw a tough left-handed fallaway floater in the lane for a bucket, and that was about it, 83-77 with two minutes remaining.

    For good measure with 1:08 remaining, Ginobili took Luther Head to school by getting him caught in a Tim Duncan pick, broke into the lane, shifted direction to fake Yao out, and threw it down with a left-handed dunk, giving them an 85-79 lead.

    Finley rubbed some salt in Houston’s wound with 40 seconds remaining, hitting a wide-open three-pointer, and that was the ballgame.

    In that fourth quarter, give credit to Luther for making 2-of-4 shots for four points, and Rafer Alston going strong to the hole and scoring 7 points on 3-of-6 shooting. Even the newest Rocket, Brunson, hit two treys in the fourth quarter to score 6 points.

    Yao finished with 25 points on 9-of-19 shooting, made all 7 of this free throw attempts, and had 3 blocks. But he was smothered in the second half by San Antonio’s double and triple-teams, and Yao’s teammates couldn’t make the Spurs pay, especially in that third quarter.

    One small concession is that Alston had his best shooting game in a long time, hitting half of his shots (7-of-14 for 15 points) and dishing five assists.

    Keith Bogans (5-of-10 shooting for 11 points) played very well in place of T-Mac, out with a bad back for the next 5 weeks.

    What’s sad is that the Rockets either beat or tied the World Champion Spurs in almost every statistical category, like:

    Field Goal %: 46.4 (Rockets) vs. 45.6
    FT%: 72.7 vs. 69.2
    Rebounds: 39 vs. 40
    Assists: 19 vs. 17
    Steals: 8 vs. 8
    Blocks: 4 vs. 3
    3-pointers: 7-of-16 vs. 5-of-17

    But they couldn’t make the plays down the stretch, which is that clutch performance championship teams like the Spurs are known for doing. Take T-Mac out of the Houston lineup, and the chances of Yao doing it all by himself against a team like the Spurs is extremely low.

    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 get run out of River City

    Thursday, November 17th, 2005
    by John
    Yao comes out to the perimeter to defend against the Spurs' Tony Parker Thursday night in San Antonio.  Houston got rolled in the game, losing 86-80.  Yao finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds.Yao comes out to the perimeter to defend against the Spurs’ Tony Parker Thursday night in San Antonio. Houston got rolled in the game, losing 86-80. Yao finished with 19 points and 7 rebounds. For more photos from the game, click here. Photo courtesy of NBAE via Getty Images.

    by John

    What a joke. The Rockets were outclassed in every way Thursday night against San Antonio on national TV. It was embarrassing. I am so flustered, I can’t file another report on a bad loss like this. Forget the final score of 86-80. The Rockets made a run in the fourth quarter to make it look closer than it really was.

    Houston was down by 9 points after the first quarter (21-12), 13 after the second (49-36), 18 after the third (70-52), 20 points in the fourth, then made a meaningless run when the pressure was off to lose 86-80.

    They were out-hustled to loose balls and let the Spurs have their way to get into the lane, outscoring them 36-14 in the paint in the first half alone. Yao was the entire offense in the first half, scoring 18 points on 8-of-16 shooting. But then he only scored 1 point the rest of the game AND ONLY TOOK 1 SHOT IN THE 2nd HALF.

    T-Mac had only scored 4 points on 0-for-7 shooting in the first half, but then scored 23 on 8-of-15 the rest of the way to finish with 27 points on 8-of-22 shooting, 12 rebounds and 4 assists.

    Other than Yao, T-Mac, and Luther Head (11 points on 4-of-7 shooting), everyone else was abysmal. Check out these stats:

    Rafer Alston: 2 points / 1-of-6 FGs; 3 assists
    Juwan Howard: 4 points / 1-of-6 FGs
    Derek Anderson: 2 points / 1-of-4 FGs; 1 assist
    David Wesley: 6 points / 2-of-6 FGs
    Jon Barry: 3 points / 1-of-2 FGs

    This is about as low as it gets, people. Look for a resignation, firing, and/or massive trade soon. If one of these things doesn’t happen, it probably won’t get better anytime soon.

    John
    john@YaoMingFanClub.com

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

    To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

    Yao doesn’t play, but Swift finally does — Rockets beat Spurs in San Antonio

    Saturday, October 15th, 2005
    by John

    The Houston Astros are getting all of the attention in H-Town these days, and deservedly so. With no question, I’m getting into it as much as anyone. In fact, I was lucky enough to attend last week’s classic 18-inning thriller where the Astros came back from a 6-1 deficit to beat the Braves in one of the most amazing come-from-behind baseball playoff games in history. And then this weekend, I have a ticket to the National League Championship Series games in Houston between the Astros and St. Louis Cardinals. So I definitely have AstroMania.

    As a result, it would have been very tempting for me to blow off doing a report for the Rockets-Spurs game on Saturday night. After all, it was a preseason game that didn’t mean anything, and it’s hard to concentrate on anything else other than the Astros after their victory over the Cardinals at electric Minute Maid Park on Saturday afternoon.

    But when I started watching the Rockets-Spurs game on television after coming down from my Astronomical high, I quickly was able to change gears and snap into a basketball mindset. It was much easier to get into after the Rockets game after they came back from an early 9-2 deficit, started playing well, and continued the good play for a third straight game. By the end of the game, the Rockets played well enough to win 95-87 in San Antonio’s SBC Center.

    Unfortunately, Yao did not play because his big left toenail fell off, so the Rockets were cautious and wanted to rest him for a game (that’s why there is no photo of Yao from this game). I can only imagine how much more impressive the Rockets would have been if Yao had been in the lineup. Dikembe Mutombo started in his place, and as always, he was more than adequate. Mutombo grabbed 11 rebounds, scored 7 points and blocked 3 shots in 29 minutes of play.

    But Deke wasn’t alone on the front line. We finally got a glimpse of new power forward Stromile Swift, who was held out of the first two preseason games because of a bruised arm. What a debut it was!

    In the first half, Stromile scored on a couple of strong moves to the basket, like a dunk from an assist down low, and a whirling-dirvish move on Tim Duncan to score on a powerful move to the rack. He also had a nice, soft jumper that hit the rim and bounced through the basket for a score. Nice shooter’s bounce! No way did I think he would score 11 points in the first half of his first game as a Rocket. I thought he would need more time to get accustomed to his new teammates. Stromile finished with 15 points overall on 6-of-10 shooting. I love those high field goal shooting percentages!

    Stromile Swift gave fits to opposing power forward Tim Duncan. Swift held his own with 15 points in his Rockets debut. Click here for more photos from the game.

    Stromile also had 2-3 very impressive blocks that quickly make you realize that the Rockets front-line defense is going to be even more intimidating this year. We should start thinking right now of a new nickname for Yao, Stromile, and Dikembe, and how difficult it will be for opposing offenses to score on them. Any ideas?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Spurs surge past Rockets in fourth quarter

    Sunday, March 27th, 2005
    by John
    Yao shoots a hook shot over the Spurs' Rasho Nesterovic Sunday in San Antonio.  Yao scored 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting.  Unfortunately for the Rockets, the Tim Duncan-less Spurs mandhandled Houston in the fourth quarter, winning 83-70.Yao shoots a hook shot over the Spurs’ Rasho Nesterovic Sunday in San Antonio. Yao scored 18 points on 6-of-14 shooting. Unfortunately for the Rockets, the Tim Duncan-less Spurs mandhandled Houston in the fourth quarter, winning 83-70. Click here for more photos from the game.

    by Chia-Chi and John

    SUNDAY, 3/27/05 – Chia-Chi: Today’s game against the Spurs was an important one as the final weeks before the playoffs wind down and the top teams vie for home court advantage. The Rockets have the second-best record in the league after January 1st and the Spurs have the best overall. With Tim Duncan injured and the Spurs faltering, the time seemed ripe for the Rockets to finally win against the Spurs on the road.

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    Yao scores 20, but Sura-less Rockets can’t overcome Spurs

    Wednesday, February 23rd, 2005
    by John
    Yao lays one in Wednesday night in San Antonio on his way to 20 points, but the loss of Bob Sura to injury hurt the Rockets for the second night in a row, losing to the Spurs 99-81.Yao lays one in Wednesday night in San Antonio on his way to 20 points, but the loss of Bob Sura to injury hurt the Rockets for the second night in a row, losing to the Spurs 99-81. Click here for more photos from the game.

    by John

    WEDNESDAY, 2/23/05 – The loss of Bob Sura to the Rockets loomed even larger on Wednesday night as Houston fell apart in the fourth quarter in San Antonio, turning the ball over multiple times and unable to close a 5-point deficit heading into the final quarter. The Rockets got blown out in the fourth, losing 99-81.

    Tony Parker absolutely destroyed the Rockets, getting into the lane for his patented teardrop shot and high off-the-glass layups to score 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting. He also picked the Rockets’ pockets for five steals and outshined the Houston Sura-less backcourt of Rod Strickland and Andre Barrett.

    Read the rest of this entry »