Yao Ming Mania! All about Chinese basketball star and NBA All-Star Yao Ming » Yao’s best games

'Yao’s best games' category archive

Something special brewing at Toyota Center. Rockets shock Suns, win home court against Jazz

Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
by John
Yao scrambles on the floor for a loose ball Monday night at Toyota Center against the Phoenix Suns.  This play represents how scrappy the Rockets played to pull off an inspirational victory against the Suns to win home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz.  Yao finished with 34 points and 9 rebounds, while Tracy McGrady finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists.Yao scrambles on the floor for a loose ball Monday night at Toyota Center against the Phoenix Suns. This play represents how scrappy the Rockets played to pull off an inspirational victory against the Suns to win home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the Utah Jazz. Yao finished with 34 points and 9 rebounds, while Tracy McGrady finished with 39 points, 11 rebounds and 9 assists. Click here and here for more photos from the game. Click here and here for pregame photos during the shootaround.

Monday night was the kind of game you wait for all season. It was a game that everyone in Houston had marked on their calendar as an “L” against the amazing Phoenix Suns. In a great season that has had many memorable wins (remember beating San Antonio on the road earlier in the season?), the Rockets played an almost near perfect game to get a win when they really needed it.

With home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs at stake, the Rockets shocked the scoreboard watchers in Utah – and around the league – by pulling off a 120-117 victory over the heavily favored Suns.

I can only imagine what the reaction was in Salt Lake City when the fans at the Jazz-Portland game found out the shocking news when they heard Houston had beaten Phoenix. Taking a line from the old V-8 commercials while slapping their head, “Ohh, I could have had home court advantage!”

Instead, the Rockets were the ones savoring every last drop of their highly-caffeinated brew of run-and-gun offense, outscoring the highest-scoring team in the league for once.

On cue, the Rockets seem to be putting it all together. T-Mac is taking charge. Yao is a monster. The role players are hitting big shots.

Remember those games over the past two weeks where the Rockets have blown leads and Van Gundy has been grumpy about poor execution? All of that seems forgotten for now. I went on record saying I wasn’t concerned about those lapses because wins are still wins, and it shows the Rockets might have the stuff to create a lot of damage in the playoffs.

I may still be proven wrong, but right now, I think most of Houston is on a high this morning and thinking that way.
After losing to Utah at home on April 1st to drop 1.5 games behind the Jazz with only 9 games left in the season, the Rockets have not only risen from the dead to win home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs against Utah, but they did it by beating the juggernaut of a Suns team they hadn’t beaten in 6 attempts. Who would have thought on April Fools Day it would have come down to this?

Read the rest of this entry »

Rockets rally to overcome Kings

Sunday, April 8th, 2007
by John
Yao charges into Francisco Garcia Sunday night for one of his five fouls.  Those five fouls held Yao to just 24 minutes of action and 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting.  Luckily, Tracy McGrady scored 40 points as the Rockets beat the Kings 112-106 and pulled within 1/2 game of the Utah Jazz for homecourt advantage in their playoff series.Yao charges into Francisco Garcia Sunday night for one of his five fouls. Those 5 fouls held Yao to just 24 minutes of action and 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting. Luckily, Tracy McGrady scored 40 points as the Rockets beat the Kings 112-106 and pulled within 1/2 game of the Utah Jazz for homecourt advantage in their playoff series. Click here and here for more photos from the game. Click here for photos from Saturday’s practice in Houston before leaving for their West Coast road trip.

Maybe the Rockets should play the rest of their games on the road. After losing 3 in a row at home this past week, the Rockets went into Sacramento against a tough crowd at Arco Arena, and came back from a 8-point second half deficit to win 112-106.

It helped that Yao and T-Mac were back in the lineup together for the first time since their 3-game losing streak started.

The Rockets got off to a great start, with Yao scoring 9 of the Rockets’ first 11 points. One of those scores included T-Mac driving the lane, drawing the defense to him, and dishing to Yao for an easy dunk with Yao getting fouled. We sure missed that kind of play over the past 3 games.

For one moment, though, it looked like the Rockets’ season was going to be over when T-Mac twisted his ankle in the first quarter and went down in pain. On the replay, it looked like he had also hyperextended his knee, a much more serious injury. Thankfully, T-Mac returned to action after the ensuing timeout, and all was fine.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rockets pull out tough victory against Lakers in ‘Instant Classic’ — Yao scores 39, grabs 11 boards

Friday, March 30th, 2007
by John
Yao shows the intensity involved in the Rockets game against the Lakers Friday night in Los Angeles while getting a rest on the bench.  It was a wild game that went into overtime, with the Rockets pulling out an improbable 107-104 win.  Yao was incredible, scoring 39 points, grabbing 11 boards, making 17-of-21 free throws, and blocking 4 shots.Yao shows the intensity involved in the Rockets game against the Lakers Friday night in Los Angeles. It was a wild game that went into overtime, with the Rockets pulling out an improbable 107-104 win. Yao was incredible, scoring 39 points, grabbing 11 boards, making 17-of-21 free throws, and blocking 4 shots. Click here for more photos from the game.

When you play at Staples Center these days with the kind of scoring tear that Kobe Bryant has been on this month, you can’t expect to come out with a convincing victory – you just want to survive. You know Kobe is going to get his points. You don’t care how you win — just hold on for a wild ride and hope you can withstand #24’s offensive explosion.

That sums up what the Rockets did Friday night in a crazy game against the Lakers, holding on for a 107-104 victory in overtime

There were so many twists and turns in this game, I can’t possibly describe them all. Since the game was on ESPN, I assume many of you saw it, but I’ll try to describe some key plays while also providing a perspective on who was responsible for this big victory that pulls the Rockets within ½ game of the Utah Jazz for homecourt advantage in the playoffs.

Like many games in the NBA, this one got very interesting late in the fourth quarter when the Rockets had their biggest lead of the night — 12 points — with 4:30 remaining.

We’ve all seen Houston blow leads this season, but even I thought the game was over. After all, Kobe’s shot wasn’t falling in the second half, hitting only 1-of-11 shots in the third quarter and part of the fourth after scoring 25 in the first half. I thought he had finally cooled off, and “the butter was in the refrigerator,” and “the jello was jiggling,” or whatever former Laker announcer Chick Hearn used to say.

But then Kobe finally got hot again, outscoring Houston 12-3 all by himself to cut Houston’s lead to 91-88 with 1:47 remaining. It was just a matter of time before he would resurface. Just hold on, Houston. Just hold on.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yao makes Magic disappear

Monday, March 12th, 2007
by John
Yao lays in two of his 37 points Sunday night against the Orlando Magic in a 103-92 win in Houston.  Yao showed he is back to his dominating self, hitting 14-of-22 shots, 9-of-11 free throws, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 assists for the Rockets' third victory in a row.Yao lays in two of his 37 points Sunday night against the Orlando Magic in a 103-92 win in Houston. Yao showed he is back to his dominating self, hitting 14-of-22 shots, 9-of-11 free throws, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks, and 3 assists for the Rockets’ third victory in a row. Click here for more photos from Yao’s pre-game practice and the game.

All the questions about Yao Ming not being back to his regular self were officially put to rest Sunday night against Orlando in a 103-92 victory. Yao had his best game since coming back from his injury 4 games ago starting March 15th.

This time Yao scored 37 points on an efficient 14-of-22 shooting. Although several of those shots came from T-Mac finding Yao on passes for easy dunk shots, several of those buckets were made on tough hook shots, including some on the baseline using his left hand. His exceptional performance also came against a tough match-up against Eastern Conference All-Star Dwight Howard.

Yao made all four of his shots in the first quarter, but picked up his second foul with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter with the Rockets leading 16-7.

That’s when Dwight Howard went to work, getting 3 dunks on 3 shot attempts over the next 7 ½ minutes. When Yao checked back into the game with 9:48 remaining in the second quarter, the Rockets 9-point lead had been cut to four: 33-29.

But the Rockets opened up a 16-point lead in the second thanks to better defense, including one play with a little over a minute remaining when Howard went to the rack and Yao took it out of his hands while he was in mid-air!

From that point until halftime, Yao duplicated his first quarter performance, scoring 8 points, including a couple of easy layups coming off T-Mac dishes. Yao himself had 3 assists in the second quarter.

By halftime, the Rockets were comfortably ahead 58-45 and had shot 69% in the first half.

T-Mac had 12 points and 3-of-3 shooting from Shane Battier (all three-pointers) and 4-of-4 makes from Juwan Howard.

Yao piled on 10 more points in the third quarter, which included making 4-of-4 free throws. T-Mac made only 1-of-6 shots in the third, but still the Rockets padded their lead by 5 points (83-66) heading into the fourth.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Rockets opened up their biggest lead — 21 points — and by that time, he had scored 30 points in 30 minutes. Not bad efficiency, huh?

But like in any NBA game, a team will make a run, and the Magic were no exception. With 5:41 remaining, the Magic had cut the deficit to 12 points with the Rockets struggling to make their shot. I just had to think, “Would there be another Boston game-like collapse?”

That question was answered about a minute later when Yao’s shot was blocked down low by Darko Milicic, but Shane Battier tapped the loose ball to T-Mac behind the three-point line, who proceeded to swish a trey to make it 94-79, and that was the ballgame.

Convincing as the win was, it’s surprising that Luther Head didn’t score (0-for-4 shooting), Rafer Alston scored only 5, and T-Mac only scored 19 points on 6-of-17 shooting. But he did have 10 assists to make up for it.

Now the Rockets head to Phoenix for a back-to-back against the scary Suns. We all know how that game is going to turn out, but at least Yao will create some fits now that it seems he’s back to his pre-injury self.

Yao dominant again to stop Rocket losing streak

Sunday, December 17th, 2006
by John
Yao lifts up over Chris Kaman Sunday afternoon on his way to pouring in 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 10 rebounds and a career-high 5 assists to lift the Rockets to a 108-103 victory to snap their 3-game losing streak.Yao lifts up over Chris Kaman Sunday afternoon on his way to pouring in 32 points on 12-of-18 shooting, 10 rebounds and a career-high 5 assists to lift the Rockets to a 108-103 victory to snap their 3-game losing streak. Click here for more photos.


I know it might be getting old, but I just cannot believe how much Yao Ming continues to impress me. It takes a LOT for me to say that. Not since Hakeem Olajuwon have I had chills run down my spine like I have the past few weeks seeing what I have been seeing Yao do.

With the Rockets’ season slowly turning into a big disappointment having lost their last 3 games they arguably should have won, Yao came out against the LA Clippers, said enough is enough, and came out and dominated once again with a 32-point, 10 rebound, and season-high 5-assist masterpiece to win it 108-103. And he did it while experiencing some stomach problems after eating something that didn’t agree with him in LA on Saturday. After the game, he joked the stomach problem may have helped him. But it’s not like he was struggling and needed something physical to whack him out of it, like T-Mac ‘s concussion a couple of weeks ago.

I was lucky enough to go to the game in LA and witness his dominance in person. At first I was disappointed the Rockets didn’t come out and blowout a struggling 10-12 Clippers team, especially after losing in broken-hearted fashion against the Lakers, Warriors and Lakers their past 3 games. The score was only 26-26 after the first quarter, with Yao scoring 8 points on 3-of-3 shooting. I was hoping it would be something like 26-16.

Yao’s first score came from a right-handed heave after jumping into the air, getting fouled by Chris Kaman, and banking it amazingly off the glass. It was a sign of what was ahead for Yao.

In that second quarter, Yao scored another 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting, and Bonzi Wells finally got going – after missing his first four jumpers of the game – by taking it to the rack for a dunk. I said to myself, “it’s about time,” since I have felt Bonzi can get things going earlier if he doesn’t settle for outside shots.

By halftime, the Rockets actually trailed by one point 46-45. But the way the Rockets had blown big leads recently, maybe it was good for them to be involved in a tight game where it would be harder for them to lose their concentration. One key stat that kept them in the game was an extremely low number of turnovers by halftime – only four (and 9 by the end of the game)!

I don’t know what Jeff Van Gundy said at halftime in the locker room, but the Rockets came out in the third quarter and scored their largest number of points in a third quarter this season, a nice turn of events for once.

Rafer Alston came out and took what the defense gave him – open 3-pointers since the Clippers were collapsing down low on him. He got hot and hit 3-of-4 treys to score 11 points in the third, giving the Rockets a somewhat comfortable 79-71 lead.

Entering the fourth quarter, I had a sinking feeling that maybe the Rockets were going to squander this lead like they had done the previous two games against Golden State and the Lakers. After all, other than Yao, who else had stepped up in crunch time during their 3-game losing streak?

It turned out to be a committee of four players: Yao, Alston, Juwan Howard, and yes, finally….Bonzi Wells.

Rafer pumped in 9 points, thanks in part by taking it strong to the hole a couple of times with 3 minutes remaining to score on two consecutive possessions, including a sweet crossover move to get into the lane to put up a twirling hook shot. Until T-Mac is back, it’s aggressive moves like that which the Rockets need more of during clutch time, and for which I have criticized him in the past. Rafer finished with 26 points on 8-of-13 shooting, 3-of-6 treys, 7-of-8 free throws, 8 assists and only two turnovers. You have to give Alston a lot of credit for bouncing back after that 8-of-22 shooting, 7 turnover atrocity against the Lakers Friday night. I’ll get off his back if he gets a line like that every game.

Yao scored six points in the fourth quarter, which is no surprise there. But his biggest basket came when the Rockets, only leading 100-96 with a little over a minute remaining, had to score to keep the Clippers from getting too close for comfort as they continued their run. Yao hit a huge fallaway jumper than silenced the crowd. Actually, it made them oooh and aahhh, which I love hearing in an opposing team’s gym when the crowd watches a great player making a back breaking play.

The Rockets got lucky a couple possessions later. Leading 102-98 with a little over 30 seconds remaining, they were very disorganized and almost turned the ball over two or three different times on a helter-skelter possession, but were fortunately bailed out when Luther Head got fouled. Head ended up making 1-of-2 free throws to make it 103-98. After that, Rafer hit two free throws with 14.7 seconds remaining after being fouled intentionally, and that was essentially the ballgame.

Other key contributors during the fourth quarter was Juwan Howard, who scored four of his 9 points in the quarter, including a baseline jumper with 2:09 remaining that gave them a 100-92 cushion.

Last but not least, Bonzi scored 6 points in the fourth on 3-of-4 shooting, including a spot-up jumper where he was able to create his own shot, get an easy dunk after chasing down a loose ball in the backcourt, and a layup after getting a beautiful dish from Yao – a night where Yao created so much opportunity for his teammates that they didn’t squander.

When asked about his season-high assist count (5), Yao responded, “Actually, I watched a lot of film from last year. They double team quick and hard on the catch so I knew I had to know where my teammates were.”

I asked him after the game if he was tired after playing so many minutes against the Warriors and Lakers, and he responded: “Today was my shortest game of the past three games. Thirty-eight minutes is not too hard for me, and also my teammates today did so many great jobs. Help me on defense, share the pressure on offense. They know when they (the Clippers) came to double team, they cut to the basketball very fast, very well, right on time. When I hit them, they scored. Just harder to guard.”

Other tidbits from the game:

I have been to several arenas around the league, and I have to say the Staples Center is one of the best. Very clean and beautiful concourses.

I had the good fortune to sit next to the Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen for the entire game on press row. Jonathan really knows the game, and very personable, too. I got to know him during training camp in Austin. Classy guy.

Yao and John Lucas were giddy in the locker room after the game about the day off they were getting on Monday.

Yao scores 23 in 4th quarter to beat Wizards

Saturday, December 9th, 2006
by John
Yao goes airborne to chest bump Juwan Howard after Yao hit a back-breaking shot with 11.4 seconds remaining that helped beat the Washington Wizards.  Yao scored 23 points in the fourth quarter alone on his way to 38 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks.Yao goes airborne to chest bump Juwan Howard after Yao hit a backbreaking shot with 11.4 seconds remaining that helped beat the Washington Wizards. Yao scored 23 points in the fourth quarter alone on his way to 38 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocks. Click here for more photos.

I have seen a lot of fantastic performances by Yao over the past 5 seasons, but the game he had Saturday night against the Washington Wizards ranks as one of his best ever.

With an ailing T-Mac in the locker room because of back spasms (oh no, not again!), Yao took over and scored 23 points in the fourth quarter on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting from the field, and 11-of-12 from the line. His points mainly came from unstoppable fallaway jumpers, capped with a baseline jumper while falling out of bounds with 11.4 seconds remaining to expand a one-point lead to three, 112-109. The Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas missed a 3-pointer that could have tied it, and Shane Battier sank two free throws to seal the victory, 114-109.

Yao finished with a season-high 38 points on 13-of-19 field goals, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots. My goodness, Yao is indeed worthy of NBA MVP consideration.

With T-Mac’s back acting up again on a night where he was pretty good himself (28 points on 10-of-21 shooting, but 1-of-5 from three-point range), Yao knew he had to take over in the fourth quarter.

“(McGrady) was out in the fourth quarter, and it was very tough to score,” Yao said. “I was thinking, ‘Do more.’

“It a little bit changed my play. I was more aggressive. Tracy, who is the best player on our team, is out, and somebody had to step up.”

It’s comical how the Associated Press writer for the game watered down Yao’s performance and attributed it to Etan Thomas and Brendan Haywood having to leave the game because of injury. There may be just a little truth in that, but to have that be the leading theme in the story smacks of more anti-Yao thinking we had thought had finally been put to rest. You can read the AP writer’s take on the game by clicking here.

As much as this cat tried to downplay Yao’s game, Wizards coach Eddie Jordan gave Yao the ultimate respect after the game:

“I don’t think anybody has an answer. If you have personnel to look him in the eye a little bit, just a little bit, that helps. But the guy has an arsenal that I haven’t seen before. He is equally dominant on either box. Now you tell me: Who in the history of the NBA can you say that about?”

“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was dominant on the left box and darn good on the right. This guy shoots turnaround jump shots, gets post-ups, makes free throws. He does everything.”

While watching the game, here were some of the other plays that stood out to me:

1st quarter – Luther Head led a fast break that ended with a beautiful alley-oop to T-Mac for a dunk. I hadn’t seen that from the Rockets in awhile.

2nd quarter – Gilbert Arenas scored 19 points in the quarter alone, at one point scoring 13 of the Wizards’ points in a row. Rafer Alston led a break and faked a behind-the-back pass to T-Mac to juke his defender, then laid it in easily. Very Skip-to-my-Lou-ish!

2nd & 3rd quarter – Alston scored 10 points on 4-of-5 shooting. While Yao is out resting, T-Mac takes over and scores 12 points on 3-of-7 shooting and 5-of-7 free throws.

4th quarter – With the Rockets leading 90-87 with 7:34 remaining, Juwan Howard foolishly fouls Antawn Jamison while shooting a 3-pointer, and on top of that, was called for a technical for reacting to the call, which led to a 4-point play. Big mistake that keeps Washington in the game. But Luther hits two huge three-pointers down the stretch to help the Rockets maintain the lead.

Even though Gilbert Arenas scored 41 points, overall, the Rockets defense played very well, holding the high-scoring Wizards to 39.7% shooting. 12 total blocks by the Rockets definitely helped. Houston shot lights out: 55%.

Now the main thing that concerns the Rockets is the future of T-Mac’s back. This is much more concerning than the concussion he had last week. If he’s going to continue to have problems with his back like he did last season, then it was a bad night overall, even with Yao’s amazing performance.

John

Click here for the Houston Chronicle game story.

Yao dominates again, this time against Shaq

Monday, November 13th, 2006
by John
Yao contests a shot of Shaq's Sunday night in Miami.  Yao got the better of Shaq with 34 points and 14 rebounds, and arguably is now the NBA's best center. Photo courtesy Getty Images.Yao contests a shot of Shaq’s Sunday night in Miami. Yao got the better of Shaq with 34 points and 14 rebounds, and arguably is now the NBA’s best center. Click here for the game story. For more photos from the game, click here. Photo courtesy Getty Images.

Despite Yao’s contention and humility, an official “changing of the guard” took place last night in Miami.

Yao dominated Shaq, scoring 34 points and 14 rebounds compared to Shaq’s 15 points and 10 boards. In my opinion, Yao is being too nice when he said the following after the Rockets 94-72 victory:

“He (Shaq) is the dominant center in this league, even at his age (34). He’s not the same in the regular season as he is in the playoffs. Like last year. If it was the playoffs, I would have seen a totally different Shaq. I would say the regular season doesn’t matter. Maybe one day I could meet him in the Finals.”

Yao forgets that Shaq’s NBA Finals performance last season was just so-so, averaging less than 14 points and scoring less than 10 points twice in the 6-game series. There’s almost no way that Yao would put up that low of numbers in a Finals the way he’s playing now. And he’s putting up bigger numbers than Shaq (14 ppg) all the time now.

The entire country — having access to watching the game nationally on ESPN – could see for themselves just how good Yao is. He’s hitting fallaway jumpers with consistency, hook shots in the lane, running the floor for layups, even throwing up tough left-handed shots while falling to the floor, and most of them are going in. 11-of-19 went in last night.

He’s also money from the line, which Shaq is definitely not. Yao made 12-of-13 free throws. It’s clear just how much of a force Yao is now in the league.

He’s also playing pretty good defense. After Shaq made his first 4 shots with relative ease against Yao, he only made 2-of-10 the rest of the way (6-of-14 was the final total).

Sure, Yao is not playing a perfect game. He still got blocked a couple of times, but he’s better than any other center in the league.

I even like how he’s keeping his cool. Shaq doesn’t like the notion of having been replaced as the NBA’s ‘best center’ or even ‘most dominant,’ so he threw a couple of shots at Yao that showed how much of a thug he can be. Battling for position for a rebound, Shaq threw an obvious elbow at Yao’s head that sent him falling to the floor in pain. Later he pushed Yao with his left arm while Yao was vulnerable in mid-air while going up for a rebound.

Yao didn’t lose his composure and retaliate against Shaq because of these cheap shots. I probably would have, but that just shows how much Yao is under control mentally of his game right now.

This game was also a statement game for the Rockets. They showed the world how good they are, beating the defending World Champions and extending their record to 5-2. And they are doing all of this with Tracy McGrady struggling from the floor.

T-Mac only hit 6-of-18 shots for 12 points, but he’s showing how great of a difference maker he can be by making excellent decisions with the ball and dishing out a game-high 8 assists.

Until T-Mac gets back to normal with his jump shot, I think he should just continue going to the rack to get easier shots, which he did a few times Sunday on some highlight reel plays.

As far as the other Rockets, most notable was Shane Battier continuing to make solid contributions with 11 points (5-of-10 shooting) and 3 assists. I remember seeing a couple of weeks ago the results of a survey of NBA General Managers asking them what was the most consequential trade during the off-season, and the Rockets acquisition of Battier for a draft day trade of Rudy Gay ranked #1. After seeing Battier play this season in the Rockets lineup, I think I would have to agree with them. I also think a lot of people who didn’t like that trade might have changed their mind by now.

Chuck Hayes also made his presence felt by battling hard for rebounds (6) and scoring on some nifty moves around the basket using the rim well to shield against getting his shot blocked. He did run into Shaq in the second half and hyperextended his left knee. Looking at the replay on TV, you can tell it really hurt. Hopefully he will be okay because they really need his garbageman mentality.

Juwan Howard came in to replace Hayes, and he did a pretty good job, 2-of-5 shots and grabbing four boards.

Luther Head continues to play extremely well, hitting 4-of-9 shots (3-of-6 treys) to score 11 points.

But the night belonged to Yao. Even T-Mac got caught up in the excitement after the game when he stated:

“The big fella is playing at his best. I don’t know if he can get better. He’s phenomenal out there, man.”

“Now, I know what it feels like to sit back and watch a great player right before your eyes. Guys I played with in the past got caught up in the moment of just watching something great. That’s what I’m doing right now, watching something great.”

Yao knocks out Knicks

Saturday, November 11th, 2006
by John
Yao goes after a shot from New York's Eddy Curry Friday night in Houston.  Yao was unstoppable, scoring 35 points, grabbing 17 boards and blocking 7 shots in an 103-94 win. Photo courtesy Bill Baptist / Getty Images.Yao goes after a shot from New York’s Eddy Curry Friday night in Houston. Yao was unstoppable, scoring 35 points, grabbing 17 boards and blocking 7 shots in an 103-94 win. Click here for the game story. For more photos from the game, click here. Photo courtesy Bill Baptist / Getty Images

The dominance of Yao we saw last year is back. Yao had put up decent numbers this season before Friday night’s game against the Knicks at Toyota Center. He had a monster game against Dallas 4 games ago at home, but since then, he had averaged “only” 21.3 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block.

Returning home after a three-game road trip, Yao put up the amazing numbers we loved seeing so much last season. Friday night’s line:

35 points, 17 rebounds, 7 blocks

If he does that well Sunday night against Miami and Shaq on Sunday night on ESPN, he should win Player of the Week honors.

Yao abused Eddy Curry and the rest of the Knick front line all night. It was clear that Curry didn’t want to have anything to do with Yao, putting up very little defense on most possessions. The Knicks also opted not to double-team him much.

Yao took advantage of it, hitting uncontested fallaway jumpers and layups most of the night, and started by scoring 10 of the Rockets first 12 points of the game. He even hustled down the court a couple of times for a dunk and layup.

Midway through the second quarter, he had 14 points and 5 blocks. On defense, he was even smart enough to back off of Curry and “pull the chair” from him to make him tumble to the floor and call a timeout. The trick that several players had pulled on Yao in previous seasons is now part of his own repertoire. He does it all.

As strong as Yao and the Rockets looked by shooting 50% in the first half, they still only led 51-46 with a couple of seconds remaining before halftime. Dribble penetration by the Knick guards had broken down the Rockets’ offense on numerous occasions, keeping the game somewhat close. But Tracy McGrady gave the Rockets the wider margin they deserved by hitting a fallaway 3-pointer off the glass at the buzzer!

By that time, Yao had 18 points to go along with those 5 blocks.

Yao continued his onslaught by hitting a fallaway jumper in the lane to start the second half. The Rockets continued to roll, and opened up an 18-point lead with 7:30 remaining when Chuck Hayes blocked Jamal Crawford ‘s shot, which started a fast break where Rafer Alston threw it to T-Mac at the top of the three-point line for a dagger!

McGrady, who had started the game 0-for-5, made 4 of his next five shots to give Yao some help, and the Rockets were cruising into the fourth quarter with an 82-66 lead.

But just like their previous game against Milwaukee, the Rockets couldn’t put the Knicks away in the fourth quarter. Houston turned the ball over four times in the first 3 ½ minutes of the quarter while New York scored 6 straight points.

But just like the Milwaukee game, Alston came threw when the Rockets were reeling and scored on a tough hook shot at the baseline to stop the bleeding. But the Knicks still kept it close, and with a little over 3 minutes remaining in the game and the Rockets only up by 8 points, Alston came through again with a HUGE buzzer-beating 3-pointer a couple of feet behind the three-point line to give them a 95-84 cushion.

I bashed Alston plenty of times last season, but I have to give him props for playing pretty well in this young season. He has hit big shots and is hitting a respectable 39% from three-point territory this season, with many of those shots being hit during clutch moments. Skip-to-my-Lou finished with 13 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds. If he continues to play at this rate, he could become a candidate for most improved player of the year.

Back to the game…the Rockets led 99-86 with about 2 minutes remaining after Yao hit a jump shot, and it looked like the game was in hand. But within 45 seconds, the Knicks had gone on a 7-0 run to cut it to 99-93 with 1:15 remaining, a run that included an amazing rebound and dunk by 5’9” Nate Robinson which even got Houston fans sitting behind the goal out of their seats!

On the Rockets’ ensuing possession, Yao had the ball and Robinson came by and hacked him on the arm as he was passing to Alston (no foul was called), which made the pass go off line and made Alston mishandle it and the ball went loose. A mad scramble occurred, with the Rockets desperately needing to gain possession since they couldn’t afford to have New York score again. That’s when Alston dove to the floor for the ball, knocked it to another Rocket to save possession, and T-Mac was fouled and drained two free throws to make it 101-93 with 48.7 seconds remaining.

Then on the next possession, Stephon Marbury missed a free throw that could have made it 101-95, and Yao grabbed the rebound. But once again, Robinson mugged Yao and slapped him purposely in the face. A technical should have been called, but it wasn’t. Very quickly Robinson has showed to me he’s a bit of a thug by playing so physical. He better be careful, or he’s going to get hurt one day.

After the hack in the face, Yao kept his cool, and drained two free throws to make it 103-94 to put the game out of reach, and finish with an incredible night 35 points on 15-of-21 shooting.

Although Yao committed 8 turnovers, you can’t complain much considering the other columns in his boxscore.

Speaking of boxscore, the Rockets had all five starters plus Luther Head score in double-figures, with all players shooting 54.8% collectively. Luther, who was sort of the “forgotten man” during all the preseason hype about new players joining the team (Steve Novak, Vassilis Spanoulis, Shane Battier, Kirk Snyder, Bonzi Wells) continues to amaze from three-point territory, hitting 3-of-4 shots.

And Chuck Hayes (10 points on 4-of-4 shooting, 6 rebounds) continued to impress on offense. One of those scores was a whirling dervish spin move in the lane for a layup that would leave even LeBron James impressed.

Battier (12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 5 assists) was also huge, blocking out and tipping a rebound to Yao late in the game on a key possession. But my most favorite play of Shane’s was when he took a charge with 6 minutes remaining, and the entire Rocket bench got up to salute him! When teammates are applauding each other for taking a charge, you know the defense that Jeff Van Gundy is emphasizing must be working.

I could keep going on with this game and Yao’s dominance, but I’ll stop here and recommend you read some of the quotes from Yao in this Houston Chronicle story.

Yao and Rockets rout Mavericks

Sunday, November 5th, 2006
by John

I was able to watch the Rockets beat up on the Mavericks, then I pulled an all-nighter doing some work on another project. Now I have to head to the airport and won’t be online all day Sunday, but I will provide some analysis late Sunday night after the Rockets-Hornets game.

In case you missed it Saturday night, the Rockets looked unbeatable in a 107-76 win over Dallas at Toyota Center. I can’t believe how well everyone (well, almost) played. These guys played like they wanted to make an early statement that they will be a force in the league this season. Yao scored 36 points on 12 of 16 shooting, and made all 12 of his free throws.

I can’t contain my excitement after this one. Good thing I have to shut down my computer and head to the airport, or I would be writing for hours!

Rockets right ship against Warriors, Yao scores 30, grabs 14 boards

Friday, April 7th, 2006
by John
Yao grabs one of 14 rebounds Friday night at Golden State.  He also scored 30 points in leading the Rockets to a 100-93 victory, thanks to help from his teammates' outside shooting.Yao grabs one of 14 rebounds Friday night at Golden State. He also scored 30 points in leading the Rockets to a 100-93 victory, thanks to help from his teammates’ outside shooting. Click here for more photos from the game from sina.com.

by John

FRIDAY, 4/7/06 – Despite a disappointing season that had so much promise at the beginning, the Golden State Warriors drew to their game Friday night against the Rockets over 19,000 fans, many who came to see Yao make his second visit to one of the most highly anticipated NBA games of the season for the large Asian-American coningent in the Bay Area.

Yao didn’t disappoint, showing he is almost unstoppable on his way to 30 points on 12-of-22 shooting, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks. The Rockets also managed to finally make some clutch plays down the stretch – something they couldn’t do against pathetic Portland on Wednesday night – and pull out a 100-93 victory in Oakland to break a 3-game losing streak.

It didn’t matter, though, in the Rockets’ miniscule playoff chances. They were eliminated from the race after Sacramento also won on Friday night. Too little, too late.

But it was nice to see a glimpse of how the Rockets’ offense is supposed to work when Yao gets support from his outside shooters.

Late in the fourth quarter with the Rockets down 96-91, Yao got the ball down low in the paint, but then kicked it out to a wide-open Rafer Alston behind the three-point line, and Alston nailed it for the lead. Then the next time down the court, Yao got the ball deep in the paint again, threw another perfect strike to Luther Head standing behind the arc, and bingo! Luther drilled it to put the Rockets up 96-91 with 1:49 remaining, and that was basically the ballgame.

It wasn’t all peachy about 45 minutes earlier when Jeff Van Gundy pulled all five of his starters in the third quarter after they had blown a 10-point halftime lead. When asked about it after the game, JVG replied, “It was pathetic effort by all five of them (the starters). We played three very good quarters. It was unfortunate that it was marred by an irresponsible third quarter.”

That move must have been a wake-up call for the starters, who ended up outscoring the Warriors 27-17 in the fourth quarter, thanks to 8 points by Yao and 11 points by Alston. Even though Alston finished strong and scored 16 points and dished 9 assists for the game, the big star of this game (if you look past Yao, who you now expect to have a big game all the time) was Luther Head.

Luther showed once again that he could be a very good starting shooting guard for the Rockets next season, scoring 26 points on an incredible 8-of-9 from the field, and get this: 6-of-7 from three-point land! On top of that, he grabbed 8 boards and had 3 rebounds.

So although the Rockets lost the scoring punch of Mike James this season, they MAY have made up a lot of that void with Luther in the long run. Talk about lucky – I don’t think anyone thought he would show this kind of potential so early in his career.

Honorable mention goes out to Juwan Howard, who scored 12 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and Stromile Swift, who scored 8 points, including two dunks that were jaw-dropping. His second dunk was a reverse dunk from underneath the basket after a quick spin move around Troy Murphy on the baseline. I had to replay it on my Tivo about 8 times.

Chuck Hayes made the most of his 9 minutes when he was one of the reserves inserted in the third quarter. In that very short amount of time, he scored two points, grabbed four rebounds and had a block, drawing props from Van Gundy after the game.

Forgettable performances were turned in by Keith Bogans, 0-for-4 with no points, and David Wesley, 1-for-6 with 4 points. He did have six assists, though. As a team, the Rockets out-assisted Golden State 27-23, out-rebounded them 46-39, and out-shot them 46.8% to 40.2%. If they could play every game like this one nexxt season, I’ll take it.

john@YaoMingFanClub.com

To see the boxscore from the game, click here.

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