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Rockets overwhelmed by OKC’s talent. How can Houston get the same?

Thursday, December 16th, 2010
by John

On Wednesday night the Rockets lost to Oklahoma City in a game you probably could have placed a sure bet on. As much as the Rockets kept the score close through most of the first half, they failed to finish out the 2nd and 3rd quarters and were overwhelmed by the Thunder in the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

It’s not travel fatigue that you can point to being the root cause for the Rockets not to play up to the Thunder’s standard. Houston reverted back to its early season problems of not being able to finish strong the ends of quarters. I won’t get into all the numbers and details since it’s “deja vu all over again,” although OKC’s shooting an astounding 57% from the field is the highest FG% the Rockets have given up this season, and the highest OKC has racked up against an opponent this season.

The Jeff Van Gundy era seems like eons ago. JVG is starting to look like George W. Bush to Rocket fans — the more time passes, the more his favorability rating rises.

Not that I’m a Rick Adelman basher. I did plenty of that in his first year as Houston’s coach when I nicknamed him Rick “Idleman” for failing to make quicker personnel adjustments and inserting young talent into the lineup. He may still have that problem to a degree, but you’ve got to give him credit for giving Chase Budinger a lot of minutes last year, and doing the same with Jordan Hill this season, which has paid big dividends. I would have liked to have seen it with Jermaine Taylor, but he’s gone now. I’d still like to see it with Jared Jeffries, who has length and is a good defender. Isn’t that what they need more of now?

However, I do reserve the right to bring out the “Idleman” moniker if Jeffries continues to ride the pine. More importantly, the problem with the Rockets lies with personnel in a few key positions, to no fault of anyone who plays on the team who runs it. Not that Houston has bad players. I actually think every one of them has something to contribute. But as we have seen with Oklahoma City, it takes a few special players in key positions to make the difference from being an elite team and a mediocre one.

Not that this is any secret. Daryl Morey has been saying this for years. The only player the Rockets have that could be considered elite (at least two years ago) is Yao, and who knows how good he’ll be when he gets back to full speed. Aaron Brooks may be close, but his size brings up defensive liabilities. Luis Scola is great, but his defense is also suspect. Kevin Martin can score with the best of them, but his defense won’t scare anyone. Shane Battier is a good defender, but he doesn’t produce enough offense or wear out his man who is defending him. You get the point.

What really makes me mad is that in order to become an elite team in the NBA, you either have to be in a “special” market (LA, New York, Miami, Chicago) that attracts free agents or players wanting to be traded there, or you have to be terrible for a few years so you can get really high draft picks. Why Houston — the fourth largest city in the country — can’t attract free agents like the aforementioned frustrates me. But at least Philadelphia as the #5 city faces the same dilemma, although it didn’t bother Elton Brand a few years ago.

Oklahoma City (formerly Seattle) took the latter route of just being a bad team for a few years, and now they are on the verge of building a dynasty for a decade or more. Let’s go over who they have been able to draft over the years after putting up terrible W-L records:

2006-07 season: 31-51 record
2007 draft:
- Kevin Durant - 2007 - #2 pick
- Jeff Green - 2007 - #5 pick acquired in a package deal with Boston for Glen Davis (#35 pick in the same draft) and Ray Allen

2007-08 season: 20-62 record
2008 draft:
- Russell Westbrook - 2008 - #4 pick
- Serge Ibaka - 2008 - #24 pick

2008-09 season: 23-59
2009 draft:
- James Harden - 2009 - #3 pick

You have to give them credit for the trade to get Green, although they did give up a lot in hindsight. Also getting Ibaka at the #24 spot is pretty good drafting. But Durant, Westbrook and Harden were can’t-miss picks at #2, #4, and #3 respectively. All they had to do was suck and get a good draft pick each of those years.

It’s tough that a team like Houston — who has been stuck with late 1st round or 2nd round picks for several years — has to build more through trades and free agency. It’s very difficult to do that and win championships. It makes you wonder if they should take the easy route for a year or two and just be really bad in order to get a game-changer of a draft pick. That’s what they were before they drafted Ralph Sampson, Hakeem, and Yao (notice how I didn’t put Steve Francis on that exclusive list). I know intentionally being bad by tanking the season isn’t going to happen in Houston. The owner and GM want to win too much to do that, and I commend them for that. There is always a chance the Rockets can knock off a top seed in the first round of the playoffs, kind of like the Laker series a couple of years ago, or Golden State with the Mavericks a few years ago.

In the meantime, it would be nice if the NBA expanded the lottery a few more teams, like to 6 to 8 more, since the teams who are on the lower end of the playoff brackets (#5-#8) really don’t have any chance of winning a championship without some draft pick help.

What’s interesting is that the Rockets now have a record (after acquiring Terrence Williams) of acquiring physically gifted players who were worthy of being lottery picks, but who hadn’t worked out with the original team that drafted them. First it was Jordan Hill from the Knicks (a #8 pick in the 2009 draft), now it’s Williams from New Jersey (#11 pick in 2009). Not a bad strategy to take if you’ve got the culture and coaching to course correct with players who have gone awry early in their careers. But it’s not like Houston’s a bastion for making guys shake off bad karma they gathered at previous teams (e.g., McGrady).

I’m all for trying to get players who have relatively ‘clean’ reparations who are overachievers given their physical limitations like Brooks, Battier, Scola and Kyle Lowry, just to name a few. But it has become clear that the Rockets believe that in order to get to the next level, they have to take a few risks trading for guys who have all the physical gifts but may be a problem with the coaching staff or in the locker room. We saw how they pulled the plug on Von Wafer pretty quick after he showed disrespect to Adelman.

Given these deals, I wonder now if Houston is giving up on the idea of acquiring “basketball IQ” types like Battier (and giving up Rudy Gay)? Perhaps in order to keep up with the Thunder and all the other tough teams in the West, you need to have athletic thoroughbreds. If they are, it won’t hurt if the Rockets do suck this year, get a very high pick, and hope that player turns into an elite player like so many teams seem to have these days (Minnesota, Clippers).

Is it worth it to go ahead and build for the future by playing younger guys now, finishing with a poor record, and load up on more lottery picks for a couple of years in order to build a dynasty for the next 10 years? If it is, I wouldn’t mind it so much. I like to see young players develop and improve, as long as it pays off in the long run and the team becomes better equipped to head off the Oklahoma City locomotive that’s barreling downy the tracks for many years to come.

The other question that comes to mind is how much does coaching really matter when so much of your success is predicated on getting really good players? I wonder just how good of a coach OKC’s Scott Brooks really is? Did he hit the lottery himself by being promoted to head coach right when their high draft picks were destined to gel anyway?

Durant misses a jumper to save Rockets from losing another game due to a blown lead

Monday, November 29th, 2010
by John

The Rockets surprised a lot of their fans Sunday night, holding on by a fingernail to beat Oklahoma City, one of the most explosive teams in the NBA with an 11-5 record and 6-1 road record.

Kevin Durant missed a fallaway jumper at the buzzer that he normally makes in his sleep. Everyone in the building, including the Rockets, thought it was going to go in. Shane Battier did about as good of a job you can do defensively, getting a hand in Durant’s eyesight. But with Durant’s length and skill, it probably didn’t make a big difference. He just missed it by coming up an inch short, the ball bouncing off the front of the rim for the Rockets 99-98 victory.

November 28th, 2010 - Yao helps cheer his team on to victory against the Oklahoma City Thunder
Yao Ming helps cheer his team to a victory Sunday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Click here for more photos from the game.

This was after Houston blew another lead — 9 points with 4 1/2 minutes remaining, and blowing a couple of double-digit leads earlier in the game that Oklahoma City chewed up like a tornado in a mobile home park.

All of this drama could have been avoided, though, if the Rockets’ offense didn’t turn into the Houston offenses of the past we had all grown to hate: have one guy (Kyle Lowry) dribble the shot clock down to about 7 seconds, then have him try to figure something out under duress, or jacking up a low-percentage shot.

Similarly, with 1:06 remaining, Battier had the ball in the corner with the shot clock winding down, and luckily made a difficult runner along the baseline to make it 99-93. Even Battier said after the game, “I think it was the first floater that I hit all year.” THAT is what this offense has come down to in crunch time?

After OKC’s Jeff Green hit a 3-pointer to make it 99-96 with 1 minute remaining, the best play the Rockets could come up with was for lightning to strike in the same place again: another floater from Battier that missed.

Russell Westbrook hit a jumper with 29 seconds remaining to make it 99-98. That’s when many Rocket fans just about blew a gasket as they watched Lowry just stand in one spot and dribble the ball until about 7 seconds remained on the clock, then put up a tough fallaway jumper in the lane that missed.

It amazes me that an offense and a system that depends so much on ball movement and finding an open man reverts to plays from the Charles Barkley or Steve Francis era that relies on just one guy to make something happen. And they’re doing it with Kyle Lowry, who is only shooting 36.8% from the field!

We all know the Rockets don’t have a go-to guy with Yao and Aaron Brooks out, so why depend on a play where you’re going to have a contested shot by a player who doesn’t shoot that well. The Rockets are one of the league leaders in assists (5th overall), but when they badly need a bucket, they try to be something they aren’t — running isolations and trying to score off the dribble.

On the other hand, the Thunder have so many weapons (Durant, Russell Westbrook, Green, Serge Ibaka) that strike fear in your heart, it makes you think there is no way you can win even before you step out on the court. Especially after OKC had won their last 5 games, are 8-0 in games decided by 7 points or less, and 3-0 in games decided by one point. So you have to give the Rockets credit for what they did Sunday night, especially holding Durant to 10 points below his average of 28 ppg.

I don’t think the Rockets are a bad team. They have had a chance to win in almost all of their games. They just haven’t had enough to prevent big scoring runs by their opponents, or to make plays down the stretch.

Statistically, the main advantage for the Rockets against the Thunder was rebounding (44-36), assists (26-19), and 3-point shooting (10-of-17 compared to OKC’s 5-of-12). Battier led the way from behind the arc by hitting 4-of-6 treys. I have said it for a couple of seasons now and it still rings true: when Battier scores, the Rockets win most of the time.

One of the silver linings of the Rockets’ struggles this season with Yao Ming out is that Rick Adelman has made a commitment to see what his young guys can do to step up, and so far it’s working well with Jordan Hill, who had another solid game with 12 points and 5-of-10 shooting. He also had 7 boards, bringing energy and hustle to the front line that Adelman said after the game is the only guy who aggressively goes after the ball and gets it.

November 28th, 2010 - Jordan Hill throws one down against the Oklahoma City Thunder
Jordan Hill continues to improve and has become an important part of the Rockets’ rotation lately.

It has been interesting to see Luis Scola get relegated to the bench in the 4th quarter the past two games. Hill played 9 minutes in the fourth, and it probably would have been more if he hadn’t sprained his ankle landing wrong after goaltending a shot.

Scola has been struggling lately, making only 5-of-14 shots Sunday night, and only averaging 12 ppg and making 9-of-25 shots in his last two games, and only hitting 14-of-28 (50%) of his free throws the past 5 games. But we all know Scola will bounce back. He’s just too good. Meanwhile, Hill continues to thrive, whereas his former Arizona teammate Chase Budinger continues to struggle, hitting only 1-of-4 shots (a 3-pointer) in 12 minutes. Earlier this year, everyone was thinking it would be the opposite: Budinger becoming the star and Hill trying to find playing time. If Budinger continues to struggle, we might even see Jermaine Taylor get some playing time. Imagine that!

The Rockets play the Mavericks in Dallas Monday night on a back-to-back. The Mavericks are one of the hottest teams in the league (12-4), and Houston is only 2-7 on the road this season. Without a friendly home crowd to help them get over the hump, I will be surprised if the Rockets make a game of it given how much energy they had to expend defending the Thunder and slowing down Durant.

Rockets outgunned in OKC. Drop to 3-8

Thursday, November 18th, 2010
by John

It was an ugly game Wednesday night in Oklahoma City. The Rockets lost 116-99, dropped to 3-8, and are looking overwhelmed and helpless without Yao, Aaron Brooks, and Chase Budinger in the lineup. Combine that against an athletically superior team like the Thunder, and with all the travel the Rockets have have had to do lately, and they look like a tired, worn-out team.

They have played 5 of their last 6 games on the road. Coach Rick Adelman brought up a good point on Wednesday:

“How do you go from a three-game Eastern trip, fly all the way back from New York, get in at 4 o’clock in the morning, play the next night at home, fly out after the game and come here? Now you got to go to Toronto.

“It does take a toll on you. I’m just facing the facts. It didn’t even seem like we were at home to me. I’m not going to say it to the players, but that’s how I felt.”

At halftime the Rockets were scoring fine, having shot 59% and racking up 53 points, which is their average as the #4 scoring team in the league. But the problem was that they gave up 65 points! Houston had 9 less offensive rebounds (11-2) in the first half and had 10 more turnovers (13-3). That’s not going to get it done.

I could go on-and-on about the problems with this team, but there are plenty of other forums online about that. I will take some pride, though, when I implored the Rockets in yesterday’s blog post to play Jermaine Taylor, and to my surprise, they did! And it wasn’t just garbage time. It was in the second quarter when Taylor saw his first action it quite some time, and he did pretty well, finishing with 8 points.

Taylor didn’t get the ball many times in the 2nd quarter. He was kind of like the new kid in school among his teammates, not getting many passes thrown his way. But when he did , he took it strong to the hole a couple of times and scored on impressive moves. He turned it over on another possession dribbling into traffic, and missed a 3-pointer. On the defensive end, he blocked Serge Ibaka impressively on a put-back attempt near the rim.

But the Rockets were so overmatched in the third quarter by Kevin Durant (24 points) and Russell Westbrook (21), they really had no chance as they ran out of gas, and OKC cruised to their biggest margin of victory this season. The silver lining is that maybe Taylor will get more playing time after doing well and proving me right.

The only thing that can give solace to the Rockets is that injuries occur to every team, so the ground they have given up to other teams at the beginning of this season could be made up as their competitors get hit by the injury bug themselves. Not a great strategy, but it is a reality.

Rockets almost lose to worst team in league, but grind out a win

Saturday, January 10th, 2009
by John

The Rockets did just about everything they could to give a league-worst 5-31 Oklahoma City team a victory Friday night. Not able to put them away after holding a 15-point lead in the second half, Houston committed numerous blunders and almost experienced what would have been their most humiliating loss of the season. That’s saying something for a team that has lost to Memphis, the Clippers, Washington, Toronto and Philadelphia, all teams with bad records.

Oklahoma City had their chances late to pull off one of their few wins of the season, but they couldn’t make big shots at the end of the game, and the Rockets escaped disaster, winning 98-96.


Yao Ming had about as ugly of a game as
Robert Swift’s tattoos. Click here for more game photos.

When the score was 83-83 entering the 4th quarter, I couldn’t believe the Rockets were in that kind of position against the league’s worst team. I understand that Ron Artest and Shane Battier weren’t playing, that Brent Barry had to skip the game because of a personal emergency that popped up, and the Rockets were probably tired playing their 5th game in a row on a grueling road trip.

But this is the Thunder we’re talking about, a team the Rockets should be streamrolling like almost every other team, take for example a 9-25 Minnesota team that beat them by 42 points on Wednesday night.

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Rockets beat Oklahoma City to go 3-0

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008
by Ren


Yao Ming and Aaron Brooks high-five each other during Houston’s game against Oklahoma City Saturday night at Toyota Center. Yao would go on to score 16 points and 11 rebounds in 39 minutes in an 89-77 victory. Click here for more photos. Click here for the Houston Chronicle’s game story.

This Yao Ming Mania game summary is from guest contributor Ren Hsieh

Well, the offense still isn’t pretty yet but there’s just enough flashes of brilliance at just the right time to keep even the most critical of fans from losing faith. Three wins, all closed out in the 4th in the convincing fashion the Rockets often struggled with last season.

Granted, two of these wins came at the inexperienced, potential debacles of Memphis and Oklahoma City. While Houston’s team .364 shooting against an actually fairly solid Thunder defense (and their .426 shooting for the season) might raise some concerns, their own defense effort should not.

The Rockets are giving up only .400 FG% to opponents and a league-leading .138 from behind the arc. And they need the defense to bide through the growing pains of the offense; for which they should continue resisting the temptation to veer away — winning helps the cause. The OKC game was a good example of why. On off shooting days, which Rockets fans are more than accustomed to, the offense provides enough open looks to bide the cold streaks. This was evidenced by the Rockets’ balanced scoring, getting 6 players in double figures.

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Rockets sock Sonics for 3-way tie in West for 2nd

Thursday, April 10th, 2008
by John
Houston's Luther Head drives the baseline Wednesday night against the Sonics.  Head got the start since Tracy McGrady sat out the game because of a sore shoulder, and he came through with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting.  The Rockets beat Seattle 103-80 to tie the Lakers and Spurs for second place in the Western Conference.Houston’s Luther Head drives the baseline Wednesday night against the Sonics. Head got the start since Tracy McGrady sat out the game because of a sore shoulder, and he came through with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. The Rockets beat Seattle 103-80 to tie the Lakers and Spurs for second place in the Western Conference.

The Rockets took care of business Wednesday night by beating Seattle 103-80, their 7th victory in a row over the Sonics.

Houston played without Tracy McGrady because of his sore shoulder. They say the soreness came from the injection he received before his last game to relieve the pain, but this should be the only game he misses because of it.

McGrady’s absence didn’t matter, though. As we have come to expect this season, the Rockets role players stepped up to beat an opponent they were expected to beat.

With the victory, Houston is now in a 3-way tie for second place in the West since Phoenix beat the Spurs in San Antonio!

Now the serious business begins with a monster set of games to close out the season: the Suns on Friday in Houston, then road games against Denver on Sunday, followed by Utah on Monday. Thank you, NBA schedulers, for forcing the Rockets to play 3 of their biggest games of the season in 4 days. That doesn’t even happen in the playoffs.

The Rockets then close out the season against the Clippers next Wednesday.

If the Rockets lose 2 or 3 of their remaining games and enter the playoffs without homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, we could always give them a pass and say, “It’s okay. It’s so tough to win games against such great teams, especially without Yao.”

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McGrady shakes off pain and bandage to sock Sonics

Saturday, April 5th, 2008
by John

As close as the Western Conference race is with only 12 days to go in the season, it was still tough to get psyched up for the Rockets-Sonics game Friday night.

Let’s see…Seattle is terrible with only 17 wins this season. They have lost 20 of their last 22 games, and they will have their worst record ever.

It was a late start for Houston fans in the central time zone with tip-off a little after 9:30pm.

It was a Friday night game, when most workers like yours truly are tired from a long work week, especially after watching another late night game the night before against Portland.

And then you’ve got other more important games on national TV taking away your attention, like Jazz-Spurs, Mavericks-Lakers, and even the Final 4 games on Saturday right down the freeway in San Antonio.

The way Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant started the game, you’d think they were tired, disinterested, or both as well. McGrady made only 1-of-8 shots in the first half, and KD was worse: 1-for-10.

McGrady was clearly affected by a bandage on his left shoulder, still hurting after banging it in a game against Sacramento on March 24th. Only 2-for-10 by halftime, he took it off and came out much more aggressive in the second half.

Although Seattle shot 29.4% in the first half, somehow they led 41-40, thanks to 21 second-chance points by the Sonics due to terrible defensive rebounding by Houston.

McGrady’s poor shooting and Houston trailing a terrible Sonics team inspired him to take over for the second 3rd quarter in a row, just like he did in Portland the night before. He made 9-of-13 shots for 18 points in the quarter to put Houston ahead 69-54 heading into the fourth quarter, which was essentially the ballgame since both team shut down their offenses in the fourth. Houston would 10 and Seattle 12 to give the Rockets a 79-66 victory.

Seattle’s 66 points were the fewest scored by a Houston opponent all season, and was Seattle’s third lowest scoring game in their franchise history. Their 25 second half points were the fewest the Rockets have allowed in the second half this entire season.

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Seattle almost slays Rockets, but Yao-McGrady combo saves the day

Thursday, January 24th, 2008
by John
Yao Ming takes it strong to the hole against Seattle's Nick Collison.  Yao scored 26 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 14-of-15 from the free throw line.  He also had 12 rebounds and 6 assists to team up with Tracy McGrady (28 points) to overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a miracle win against a team that had lost 11 in a row before the game.Yao Ming takes it strong to the hole against Seattle’s Nick Collison. Yao scored 26 points on 6-of-13 shooting and 14-of-15 from the free throw line. He also had 12 rebounds and 6 assists to team up with Tracy McGrady (28 points) to overcome a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter for a miracle win against a team that had lost 11 in a row before the game.

I was preparing for one of my biggest rants of the season as I saw the Rockets’ lack of heart on display during most of Wednesday night’s game against the 9-32 Seattle Sonics. I absolutely couldn’t believe that even the Rockets could lose to a team they had just narrowly beaten Monday to hand them their 11th loss in a row. Hadn’t they learned their lesson in almost blowing that game against the same team?

But then midway through the 4th quarter, something mysterious happened. The Rockets made plays and refused to lose, pulling out a miraculous 109-107 victory after being down 13 points with 8:10 remaining in the 4th quarter!

This game had two major themes: the first theme was about guys who you thought were down who came back to make big plays. The second theme was the opposite: about some guys who stepped up, but then went back down to almost negate everything they had done so well.

The first theme can be applied to the entire Rockets squad in general. The Sonics led most of the game, hitting everything from the outside and out-hustling Houston, leading by that seemingly insurmountable 13 points.

But then the Rockets came back on a surge, led by a guy who almost everyone thought a couple of weeks ago the Rockets would be better without, Mr. Tracy McGrady. He took over the game in the third and fourth quarters when hardly anyone else could hit a shot. He was everything you expect him to be, except for one major thing. After putting the Rockets on his back in the final minutes to finally give them a 2-point lead 12 with seconds remaining, he was intentionally fouled, then proceeded to BLOW TWO FREE THROWS, giving the Sonics a chance to win the game. You really want to believe in the guy, but right when you think you can without getting burned, he does something like that!

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Yao dominates in squeaker over Sonics

Monday, January 21st, 2008
by John
Yao Ming throws down a dunk Monday night against Seattle on his way to 30 points and 17 boards to lead Houston to a victory.Yao Ming throws down a dunk Monday night against Seattle on his way to 30 points and 17 boards to lead Houston to a victory. Click here for more photos from the game.

Having lost to the Philadelphia 76ers last week AT HOME to end Philly’s 7-game losing streak, the Rockets were very close to messing up again against a poor team. The Rockets almost let Seattle snap their own 10-game losing streak after letting them shoot 51% in the first half and let them close within 4 points at 89-85 with 1:50 remaining.

But then Houston finally woke up and made the plays they needed to just get by the Sonics. No big field goals were really made by anyone other than Yao taking it strong to the hole on the next possession, getting fouled, and hitting 2 free throws to make it 91-85. The rest of the way the defense stepped up when it had to, and they made 5-of-6 free throws to seal the win.

The effort was so bad on the defensive side of the ball, usually passive Houston announcer Bill Worrell said, “The Rockets defense stinks” early in the third quarter after Chuck Hayes was burned on defense, and Worrell lamented how inconsistent their defense was after putting together such a great effort on Saturday against the Spurs. Amen, Bill.

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Yao gets pulled down, but pushes back with scoring barrage to sink Sonics

Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
by John
Yao goes up for a shot against Seattle's Nick Collison on Monday night.  Later in the third quarter, Collison would pull Yao down to the floor on a flagrant foul, and Yao would retaliate by hitting alot of shots to finish with 15 points in the third, and 31 overall.Yao goes up for a shot against Seattle’s Nick Collison on Monday night. Later in the third quarter, Collison would pull Yao down to the floor on a flagrant foul, and Yao would retaliate by hitting alot of shots to finish with 15 points in the third, and 31 overall. Click here for more photos from the game.

Unfortunately this blog entry has to be somewhat short because of some work I had to get done tonight. But I have to say that I was impressed with the up-tempo style of play the Rockets played against the Seattle Sonics to win 95-90.

Yao Ming was the man (again), scoring 31 points on 10-of-19 shooting and hitting all 11 of his free throws. The Sonics didn’t have anyone who could stop him, and they obviously don’t have the personnel to play the kind of team defense that Golden State or Phoenix plays against him.

Probably the most exciting play that involved Yao occurred with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter with the Rockets up 62-59.

Yao was running down court on a fast break and got great position down low on Nick Collison. Yao went up for the shot as his body was moving toward the basket, and Collison put his right arm on Yao’s hip while also pulling down on Yao’s shooting arm with his left hand.

Yao has a tendency to fall to the floor on these kinds of shots, probably because he’s so big and it’s safer for him to have his body fall to the floor — like a stuntman would — than try to use his legs to stop all the momentum behind his upper body.

But with Collison having his arms on Yao as he was falling, it looked like it was a flagrant foul, but in my opinion it was really hard to tell if Yao’s falling to the ground was all of a result of Collison, or Yao was falling anyway, or a little bit of both.

After the game, Yao definitely thought Collison pulled him down. But if you look at the slow-motion replays carefully, it showed Yao had a lot of momentum as he was falling to the floor, and that it could have been deceiving. Regardless, if you watched the game in live action like the refs saw it, you would think it was flagrant, and that’s what they called.

When Yao hit the floor, he was writhing in pain and held his elbow after hitting it hard on the floor. Seeing Yao be the victim of a called flagrant foul by the refs, and also in pain, T-Mac took exception to Collison’s foul on Yao. Wanting to protect his big man and make a statement, T-Mac came up to him and shoved him with his right hand.

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