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Rockets offense outduels Sonics

Thursday, February 1st, 2007
by John

I enjoy watching the Rockets play great defense and winning slug-it-out games

Their 112-102 victory against the Sonics Wednesday night wasn’t one of them.

But it was a nice break to see a game where defense took a back seat, and run-and-gun offense was the order of the day.

The score was 59-51 at halftime, which is almost like a 3rd quarter score for many Rocket games. It included lots of fast breaks by the Rockets, with Rafer Alston showing what he can do in the open court by getting the ball to his teammates for layups.

But the Rocket Express started to chug down in the fourth quarter, when Luther Head missed 4 straight shots to let the Sonics hang around. But then T-Mac checked back into the game, drew the defense to him, and Luther responded by hitting two big 3-pointers to open up the Rockets’ biggest lead to 9 points.

T-Mac then juked rookie Mickael Gelabale with a killer crossover move and drilled a jumper to put them up 103-92 with 3:11 remaining. Even T-Mac himself was impressed with that move, leaving his mouth agape in astonishment as he ran back up the court.

A few minutes later with 51 seconds remaining, T-Mac had the ball at the top of the three-point line, Chuck Hayes came out and set a bone-jarring monster pick on Gelabale, and T-Mac came around the pick and drilled a three-pointer to make it 108-98.

But T-Mac’s passing to guys like Head, Hayes, and Dikembe Mutombo for layups (and everyone else who was the recipient of his 9 assists) was impressive. He is so good at finding the open man. I agree with Van Gundy that McGrady is the best playmaker in the league behind Steve Nash.

The team was pretty good sharing the ball, too. The Rockets had 30 assists in this game and only 6 turnovers, a season low. And I have to give credit to Rafer (15 points) for some of the best pinpoint passes (9 assists) I’ve seen from him in one game.

You also have to give credit to Seattle, who played hard for a team that has now lost 14 games in a row on the road. Nick Collison burned the Rockets defense by getting to the hole many times for tip-in buckets, helping the Sonics shoot 61% in the first half and 58% through three quarters — amazing against the Rockets’ vaunted defense. I know Van Gundy is not happy with them giving up 102 points when they average a league-leading 90-something.

But the Rockets defense clamped down in the fourth quarter and held the Sonics to 36% shooting and 1-for-8 from three-point territory in the fourth. Before then, Ray Allen (36 points overall, 4-of-8 from three-point territory) was awesome, hitting tough baskets to keep it close.

But it was McGrady who stole the show. He played one of the best games I’ve seen, and that’s saying something since he was also suffering from a cold. He was so efficient, scoring 36 points on 13-of-23 shooting to go along with those 9 assists. It’s hard to believe he struggled like he did earlier this season.

Notes:

This is the first time in a long time I’ve seen Earl Watson, who has been rumored to be on the trading block, and who I thought would be a good fit for the Rockets at point guard, especially if Alston goes back to being inconsistent. Watson didn’t disappoint, showing a nice shooting stroke from the outside, scoring 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, and dishing 8 assists in just 29 minutes.

The other guy I really like with the Sonics is TV analyst Lenny Wilkins (I watched the Seattle feed on DirecTV). His commentary is wonderful and insightful. Can the Rockets TV people trade Clyde Drexler for him?

McGrady manhandles Seattle

Thursday, January 4th, 2007
by John

I have been out sick with a cold and bad cough, so I wasn’t able to watch the Rockets-Sonics game on Wednesday night. It looks like I missed a great performance by Tracy McGrady, who scored 31 points to help beat Seattle 103-96.

It was the Rockets fourth straight win since Yao went out with his fractured tibia, and T-Mac’s third straight game with 30 or more points. It looks like he’s determined to get to the basket and be aggressive as shown by his 11-of-21 shooting from the field, and hitting 3-of-6 from three-point land. He also chipped in a team-high 7 assists and six boards.

I’m sorry I can’t provide much other commentary. I’m pretty wiped out and need to get some rest.

Sonics sock Rox, Yao fouls out with 22 points, 10 boards

Tuesday, April 4th, 2006
by John
Yao Ming's fans in Seattle came out in force to cheer on their hero against the Sonics Tuesday night.  Unfortunately, they only got to see him play 27 minutes because of foul trouble.  He did score 22 points and grab 10 boards, though, in a 104-87 loss to the Sonics.Yao Ming’s fans in Seattle came out in force to cheer on their hero against the Sonics Tuesday night. Unfortunately, they only got to see him play 27 minutes because of foul trouble. He did score 22 points and grab 10 boards, though, in a 104-87 loss to the Sonics. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

TUESDAY, 4/4/06 – The Rockets played uninspired Tuesday night in Seattle, losing handily to the Sonics 104-87. Yao fouled out of his first game since December 11th, finishing “only” with 22 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes of action.

Many of those fouls were touch fouls, and Yao didn’t really have an explanation for them. Several of the calls were bogus, but with the way the Rockets’ season has gone this season, nothing surprises me. When Yao wasn’t in the game, the Rockets gave up too many easy baskets in the paint, like to Chris Wilcox, who scored an amazing 26 points and grabbed 24 rebounds – tying Shawn Marion for the most rebounds in a game this season.

This game was almost the opposite of Houston’s blowout of the Sonics six days prior in Houston. Only scoring 10 points in the first quarter of that game, the Sonics scored 32 in the first quarter this time around and led by 11 heading into the second quarter. After that, the game was never really close. This time Seattle was rested, Wilcox had a great game, Ray Allen wasn’t 1-for-13 (11-of-22 in this game for 32 points), and Rashard Lewis played.

If the Rockets were lifeless in this game, can you imagine how they will be Wednesday night on the second night of a back-to-back in Portland? Luckily the Blazers have lost 21 of their last 23 games. Otherwise, it would not have been pretty.

One interesting thing the Rockets bench did in this game was remain standing until Yao scored their first point on a free throw to make it 6-1 with 9:14 remaining in the first quarter. Maybe it was a way to encourage their teammates. But it was strange seeing them standing for almost 3 minutes at the start of the game. I felt bad for the fans behind the bench who couldn’t really see because of it! If it was a show of solidarity toward their teammates, maybe the bench should have remained standing the entire game.

The only thing that went wrong for Wilcox occurred at the end of half-time when he was walking over to the baseline to inbound the ball at the start of the second half. The Seattle ballboy had to remind Wilcox to take off his warmup pants, creating a chuckle from the ballboy, Wilcox, and even the ref!

One surprising development that occured in this game for the Rockets was Richie Frahm showing major hops and scoring on two dunks in a row! Maybe the Rockets’ bench is more athletic than we thought. Keep an eye on Frahm the remainder of the season – with his 3-point shooting and surprising athleticism, he may win a roster spot next season.

With the Rockets having virtually no chance to make the playoffs, I’m not as mad about this loss as Jeff Van Gundy. I want to see more of the bench players perform to figure out who should stick with the team next season.

And it’s not a bad thing that with every loss, the Rockets’ chances increase for getting a higher lottery pick in the NBA draft. You may remember what happened in 2002 when the Rockets jumped several spots and landed the right to draft Yao Ming #1. With the bad luck the Rockets have had this season, they are entitled to a few lucky breaks come ping-pong ball time.

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 dominates Sonics, scores 29 in 29 minutes, grabs 10 boards

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006
by John
Yao throws one down Wednesday night against the Sonics on his way to a dominating 29-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist, 3-steal game.  The Rockers enjoyed a rare blowout victory, defeating Seattle 115-97 after holding a huge 40-point lead in the third quarter.Yao throws one down Wednesday night against the Sonics on his way to a dominating 29-point, 10-rebound, 5-assist, 3-steal game. The Rockers enjoyed a rare blowout victory, defeating Seattle 115-97 after holding a huge 40-point lead in the third quarter.

by John

WEDNESDAY, 3/29/06 – If only the Rockets could have played like this without T-Mac weeks ago.

That’s what I was thinking after watching the Rockets destroy the Seattle Sonics Wednesday night at Toyota Center, 115-87.

Although Seattle had a mediocre record before the game (29-41), they actually have beaten some decent teams recently: San Antonio on Sunday in Seattle, then Memphis Tuesday night in Tennessee. But playing 3 games in four days really isn’t fair for any team. You had to think the Sonics were dead tired, and it didn’t help that their second-leading scorer, Rashard Lewis, was sitting out because of a sprained ankle.

The game was over after the first quarter as the Rockets held a 29-10 lead, the lowest number of points they have allowed an opponent all season in a first quarter. Seattle shot only 3-of-21 in the first quarter while Houston pushed their fast break more than any other time this season.

I’m sorry, but the league’s scheduling has got to be overhauled. It’s ridiculous that teams are forced to play so many games in such a short period. They need to cut down the length of the pre-season and spread those extra days throughout the regular season.

The Rockets widened the lead to 32 points by halftime, doubling Sonics’ offensive output to lead 64-32. They had 9 fast break points to Seattle’s three, and had a 22-8 advantage in points in the paint.

Yao was amazing, scoring 12 points and grabbing 6 points by halftime. He had a couple of sweet moves around the basket that befuddled smaller Sonic defenders, showing his “unstoppability.”

Even more impressive was Stromile Swift, who was scoring at will (6-of-8 for 12 points by half) both inside and outside, including a jump hook along the baseline that hit the top of the backboard, bounced a couple of times on the backboard, dropped and hit the rim, bounced a couple of times, and fell through for the basket! He also had a couple of sweet dunks off assists from Yao, and a couple of long jumpers near the top of the key. He was showing it all.

A lot of people have been down on Stro’ this year, including Jeff Van Gundy, but I am still bullish on him. He reminds me of how many critics who cracked on Robert Horry early in his career, and didn’t get more consistent until a few years into his career.

Another big unexpected surprise was newly acquired Richie Frahm hitting 3-of-3 from three-point territory. Maybe the Rockets have found a consistent 3-point shooter in this disappointing season after all!

Back to the game…scoring their most amount of points in a first half this season (64), the Rockets were shooting an incredible 63% at half compared to 22.5% for Seattle.

The Rockets kept pouring it on in the third quarter, opening up a 40-point lead. Yao was even better in the third, scoring 17 more points in the quarter on 6-of-7 shooting and 5-of-5 from the line. He rested the entire fourth quarter, finishing the game with 29 points (9-of-14 from the field, 11-of-11 from the line), 12 rebounds, a season-high 5 assists, and a career-high in steals (3), all in just 29 minutes.

Frahm and Swift both finished with 16 points each. Juwan Howard played another solid game, scoring 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting. And both of Houston’s guards, Rafer Alston (10 points, 8 assists) and Luther Head (14 points, 5 assists), shot 5-of-12 from the field. A solid game all the way around.

The 31-40 Rockets are now 4.5 games behind the Sacramento Kings for the eighth and final spot for the playoffs, with only 11 games remaining. You already know there’s no way they will make the playoffs, but after Wednesday’s game you’ve got to be encouraged that the talent is in this team to position them decently for next season.

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 win 2nd straight. Yao records double-double

Saturday, February 4th, 2006
by John
Yao puts up a shot over a much smaller Johan Petro Friday night against Seattle.  Yao scored 24 points and grabbed 14 points in an impressive 100-77 win.Yao puts up a shot over a much smaller Johan Petro Friday night against Seattle. Yao scored 24 points and grabbed 14 points in an impressive 100-77 win. To see more photos from the game, click here.

by John

FRIDAY, 2/3/06 – I had tickets to Friday night’s game, but couldn’t make it. Bad move. I could have seen a game where Houston dominated for once.

Houston had one of its easiest victories of the season Friday night, beating Seattle 100-77 at Toyota Center. A 23-point margin of victory is a rarity in this abysmal season. But with T-Mac and Yao back together again, the Rockets won their second straight game at home (the first time that has happened this season) and are showing again they are tough to beat when healthy. They are now 11-6 this season when they play together.

T-Mac had 36 points, shooting over 50% (14-of-26) and made 4-of-7 three-pointers. He also had 9 rebounds and 3 steals. Meanwhile, Yao scored 24 points on 9-of-19 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds. That was after Yao struggled in the first half, hitting only 3-of-10 shots.

T-Mac caught fire in the third quarter, scoring 14 points and launching them to a 73-57 lead heading into the fourth quarter after ending the third on a 23-8 run. The rest of the way, the Rockets didn’t let up, even showing some impressive fast breaks, and closed out the Sonics easily.

Just as impressive as the offensive explosion was the Rockets holding the Sonics to 77 points after Seattle had scored over 111 points in six of their last 7 games.

The Rockets got meaningful contributions from Luther Head, who scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. In 18 minutes of play, Stromile Swift also chipped in 8 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and grabbed 6 boards.

Rafer Alston was awful, hitting only 1-of-7 shots (missing all six of his 3-point attempts). He did have 11 assists, though. David Wesley was only 1-of-5 with two points.

Now that Yao and T-Mac are back, you have to look at the standings and see if they can possibly make the playoffs. Right now they are 17-29 and 6.5 games out of the last playoff spot. New Orelans/Oklahoma City currently holds that position with a 23-22 record (.511)

With that winning percentage being a benchmark, let’s assume it will take a 42-40 record for making the playoffs. That means the Rockets will need to go 25-11 the rest of the way. That’s a 69.4% record. Only Detroit, San Antonio and Dallas have better winning percentages this season.

It’s going to be tough for the Rockets to make it, but if any two guys can get them there, it’s T-Mac and Yao.

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

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

Rockets win 5th straight after tight 4th quarter in Seattle

Thursday, December 15th, 2005
by John
Yao is double-teamed by the Sonics' Ray Allen and Vitaly Potapenko Thursday night in Seattle.  Yao played another great game, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help Houston win it's fifth game in a row, 104-98.Yao is double-teamed by the Sonics’ Ray Allen and Vitaly Potapenko Thursday night in Seattle. Yao played another great game, scoring 26 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to help Houston win it’s fifth game in a row, 104-98. For more photos from the game, click here.

by John

THURSDAY, 12/15/05 – For the second night in a row, a late game on the West Coast was worth staying up to watch for Rocket fans. Houston came through in a nerve-wracking fourth quarter against Seattle to astonishingly win their 5th straight game (104-98), fourth in a row on their longest road trip of the year, and they now have a rapidly respectable 9-12 record.

It’s strange to say it after having a 4-12 record only a couple of weeks ago, but I think the Rockets are now playing with the same confidence they were last year when they were making their incredible run to the playoffs, and they are doing it without a starting point guard (Rafer Alston) and sharpshooting veteran (Jon Barry). Just a couple of weeks ago they were playing their worst basketball in years. What a difference a McGrady makes!

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Without Yao and T-Mac, Rockets beat Sonics to win 4th straight preseason game

Tuesday, October 18th, 2005
by John
Yao sits out his second straight preseason game because of a toe issue. Tracy McGrady also sat out because of a minor injury, but the Rockets won their fourth straight preseason game, this time against the Seattle Sonics 93-85.

TUESDAY, 10/18/05 – I’m posting this game summary of the Rockets game much later than usual. I have a good reason: I was at the Astros-Cardinals game last night that Houston blew in the bottom of the ninth inning with two outs. They were one strike away from going to the World Series for the first time in this city’s history, yet they coudn’t finish out the game. I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about, so I won’t go into the gory details. But you can imagine the city of Houston, and myself, are mentally rocked by what happened, and it was hard to think about anything else last night, including the Rockets. I’m now getting back up on my feet.

Luckily, I had a loyal visitor to my site provide a great recap of Monday night’s game between the Rockets and Sonics in Laredo, Texas, which the Rockets won 93-85 without Yao and T-Mac so they could rest minor injuries.

Here is some of what he wrote…

The new Rockets proved they are now a force that should not be taken lightly because of its deep bench, tenacity and strong will to win. One cannot help but fantasize about the great things to come for the new season.

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Yao hardly needed in Rockets’ blowout of Sonics

Wednesday, April 20th, 2005
by John
Yao relaxes with T-Mac during Wednesday's game against the Sonics in a blowout victory over Seattle, 106-78.  Since the Rockets had already clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, T-Mac didn't suit up because of a sore back, and Yao played only 23 minutes in the meaningless game, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 boards.Yao relaxes with T-Mac during Wednesday’s game against the Sonics in a blowout victory over Seattle, 106-78. Since the Rockets had already clinched the fifth seed in the Western Conference playoffs, T-Mac didn’t suit up because of a sore back, and Yao played only 23 minutes in the meaningless game, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 boards. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

WEDNESDAY, 4/20/05 – Look up the definition of “blowout” in the dictionary, and you’ll see the Houston-Seattle boxscore from Wednesday night’s season-ending finale, which ended with Houston winning 106-78.

As bad as the Seattle Sonics were without Ray Allen (ankle), Rashard Lewis (tendonitis), Vladimir Radmanovic (injured list), and Antonio Daniels (injured list), the Rockets shooting was that good. I have never seen such great shooting through three quarters in my life. Layup after layup. Three-pointer after three-pointer.

With 8:47 remaining in the game, the Rockets were shooting 62% from the field, and 71% (9-of-13) from behind the arc, and held a 38-point lead, 99-61. When Mike James hit another three-pointer with 8:00 minutes remaining, the Rockets had their biggest lead of 39 points (102-63).

By that time, little-played Moochie Norris and Torraye Braggs had been inserted into the game, and the Rockets finished disinterested the rest of the way. By the time the game was over, the Rockets’ overall shooting was 54% from the field and an amazing 11-of-16 from three-point territory.

And they did it all without T-Mac, who sat out because of back spasms.

But Mike James was unconscious, hitting 10-of-13 shots (24 points), mostly from the outside (4-of-5 three-pointers) to lead all Rockets in scoring. Everything he threw up seemed to go in, even a last-second desperation heave at the end of the third quarter where he was twisting in mid-air from way behind the three-point line.

Yao played 23 minutes and finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds. He had a couple of sweet moves down low that fooled Vitaly Potapenko so much, he looked like a mannequin standing in place as Yao went around him.

Since it was such a blowout win, there’s really no sense in my rehashing any other details from this game other than to point you to that impressive boxscore to see how the other Rockets fared statistically.

The main thing to point out is that the Rockets are rolling as they finished the season on a 7-game winning streak, with their final three victories having a winning margin was over 25.

Now the Rockets enter their first-round playoff match-up against a Dallas team, winners of 8 in a row just as hot as themselves and 17-2 under new coach Avery Johnson.

Although Dallas finished the season with a better record, it just doesn’t seem to matter that the Rockets don’t have home-court advantage. The Rockets are hot, and they are a very good road team. I don’t know who will win this series, but the best team should win.

JUDGEMENT DAY

Speaking of predictions, now that the season is over, I wanted to go back in time and recap my pre-season prediction of how the Rockets and Yao would do this season. I have included it below (you can go to the real page where I made the prediction by clicking here and scrolling to the “Predictions for 2004-05” section).

I’ll let you judge for yourself on how close I came to hitting the mark. ;-)

With all the new players on the Rockets this season, I predict the team will get off to a very slow start. (I know, that’s not much of a stretch given their mediocre preseason.) Their won-loss record will suffer as they try to get accustomed to each other. They will lose many of their games in the first couple of weeks of the season. In many ways it will mirror the season of the Houston Astros: by mid-season the Rockets will be hovering around .500, and the national media will be saying the Rockets trade for T-Mac might have been a mistake.

But then they will turn it around, start clicking, get their fans excited like the Astros did, and finish strong. They will make the playoffs, probably as the fifth playoff seed with a record like 49-33 [they finished 51-31]. They will win their first playoff series in 6 or 7 games, advance and lose in the next round. But it will be an improvement over last year’s first round exit against the Lakers in 5 games.
Another reason why the Rockets won’t have a better record is because this new Southwest division in which they have been placed is tough…

Prediction for Yao: Yao and T-Mac this season will do some very special things on the court with each other, as anticipated. You’ll see great passing between the two that will be dazzling. And Yao’s stats will improve in almost every category since he’ll get the ball more now that Steve Francis and Cuttino Mobley are gone.

So here are my projected stats for Yao: 19.1 points, 10 rebounds, 2.3 blocks, 52% field goal percentage, and 82% free throw percentage. [Yao finished with 18.3 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 55.2% shooting, and 78.3% free throw shooting].

Not bad, huh? Now only if my fantasy league team had done as well. ;-(

John
john@YaoMingFanClub.com

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

Yao and T-Mac together score 58 points to win their second straight

Monday, April 11th, 2005
by John
Yao moves laterally to defend the Sonics' Luke Ridnour on Monday night in Seattle.  Yao scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 3 shots on the way to the Rockets winning their second straight, 90-78.Yao moves laterally to defend the Sonics’ Luke Ridnour on Monday night in Seattle. Yao scored 20 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and blocked 3 shots on the way to the Rockets winning their second straight, 90-78. Click here for more photos from the game.

ClubYao writer Chia-Chi attended Monday night’s game between the Rockets and Sonics. John also had commentary about the game, which is directly below Chia-Chi’s report below.

by Chia-Chi

MONDAY, 4/11/05 – The rest of the Rockets’ season all of a sudden seems much smoother with another convincing win on the road. The T-Mac/Yao one-two punch was in full force as the Sonics, missing four of its top six scorers, valiantly struggled to stay in the game but had no answer for T-Mac’s 38 points.

It took a while for the Rockets to get into gear in the first, with the Sonics playing a quick and faster pace. But after a timeout from Seattle, the Rockets defense stepped into gear, not allowing a single Sonics bucket for a six-minute stretch. But while the defense by the Rockets was particularly commendable, the defense of the Sonics was particularly rough.

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Yao dominates in fourth quarter, Rockets shock Seattle

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005
by John
Yao shoots a jumper over Jerome James Tuesday night in Seattle in a shocking 97-95 victory against the Sonics, the third-seeded team in the West right now.  Yao had a dominating fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and exhibiting much welcomed toughness.Yao shoots a jumper over Jerome James Tuesday night in Seattle in a shocking 97-95 victory against the Sonics, the third-seeded team in the West right now. Yao had a dominating fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and exhibiting much welcomed toughness. Click here for more photos from the game.

by John

TUESDAY, 3/8/05 – The Rockets headed into Seattle’s Key Arena Tuesday night, a place that hasn’t been very friendly to them over the years. They have only won 5-of-17 games at Key, and are 23-54 overall in Seattle. Facing one of the top teams in the West, the task wasn’t going to be easy. ClubYao’s Chia-Chi was in the arena for Tuesday’s game, and he will be filing his up close and personal report on Wednesday morning.

Well, at first it looked like it was going to be easy when the Rockets took a quick 6-0 lead, but the Sonics then went on a 28-6 run by outclassing the Rockets, getting to the hoop very easily and hitting uncontested three-pointers. It was “bombs away” for the Sonics, who hit their five treys in a row in the quarter and held a 16-point lead at one point.

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