Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Yao Line 01.05.08: Skip Saves

Yao: 31:09 min | 10-18 FGs | 6-7 FTs | 10 rebs | 4 PFs | recap
Howard: 33:44 min | 5-11 FGs | 6-10 FTs | 8 rebs | 6 PFs

Yao continues to play well against the Eastern Conference's best center, helping the Rockets end Howard's streak of 15 consecutive double-doubles. It was a team effort, one that limited the league's leading rebounder to just 8 boards.

This is a guy who's grabbed 20+ rebounds in 3 consecutive games from Dec. 28th to 31st. But Howard is as good as advertised, add a jumper to that repertoire and he's unstoppable. Rockets simply did their best to contain him and Rashard Lewis never found a groove (other than that late three to tie it up).

The offense continues to look good and this time it translated to a win against one of the Eastern Conference's best, one that had beaten the Rockets just last month with Yao and T-Mac, though McGrady left early with that sore knee. Skip continues to roll, building his confidence (and stake in the offense) in McGrady's absence. With team's so focused on stopping Yao late in the 4th, the Rockets will need him to be a player in crunch time. And on that subject, the Rockets still need a closer. Or, as Matt Bullard mentioned on the broadcast, the Rockets need to get craftier with getting Yao the ball, meaning later in the possession with the defense out of position.

They did for one possession in the final minutes, running the play away from Yao and then getting him the ball late in the shot clock right under the basket, which seemed to indicate they recognized the same thing. But they followed that possession with another direct force-feed to Yao. Yao can be the go-to guy late in games because he can hit free throws, but every low-post closer needs another closer on the perimeter, someone who can find ways to make big shots. And it doesn't necessarily have to be one guy, the '93-'95 Rockets had a bunch of guys who hit big shots late in the game. Alston stepped up in this one, which bodes well for Houston, pulling off a feat the Rockets have rarely seen this season, taking it right down the pike and finishing at the basket to win. And with a very Nashy lefty finish at that, start rooting for Skip again.

Now that T-Mac is going to be out for at least a few more games, I'll start listing a set of pros and cons for each game he's out, one each that's been particularly illuminated in the contest.

T-Mac Con: too many jump-shots in the crunch.
T-Mac Pro: better than a turnover.

Somebody work with Luther Head on the entry pass. It's not that he can't, it's that it's gotten in his head, a case of "the yips," like Chuck Knoblauch in a Yankee uniform. Hopefully, Head can get it right before Knoblauch did, which is to say never.

Pic courtesy of YMM.

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