A Look at the Rockets
This is a bad news/good news kind of scenario.
Bad news: We're horribly shorthanded.
Good news: We won the other night without our starting frontcourt in one of the best games of the year.
Bad news: Houston is playing well, having won 11 of their last 15.
Good news: They'll likely be without Tracy McGrady who gives us fits. They're only 2-8 when he plays 7 minutes or fewer in a game.
Bad news: Houston is a pretty good home team at 26-12
Good news: They've lost their last two straight at home.
Bad news: Yao Ming has been on a tear, scoring 39 last Friday against the Lakers and 35 the game after against the Jazz while adding 16 rebounds and four blocks besides.
Good news: He laid an egg against the Warriors in their last game, shooting only 5 times and scoring only 9 points.
Bad news: Yao is still a terror averaging 25 and 10 for the season.
Bad news: He's also drawing fouls like they were dollar pancakes at an IHOP all-you-can eat special. He shot 18 against the Lakers and 24 more against the Jazz. Our men in the middle are slow and foul prone.
Bad news: The Rockets allow a suffocating .426 opponent field goal percentage. They take good care of the ball and don't let you get easy buckets. We're going to have a hard time outscoring them in a hostile environment without easy buckets.
Bad news: They have some very, very nice perimeter shooters and we have problems stopping perimeter shooters...more so if we're trying to give help on Yao.
Bad news: They've got solid players who won't rattle easy (or choke up an unexpected game).
Bad news: Their +5.1 ppg differential is the best in the league outside of the Big Three. They're no fluke.
Good news: Don't tell KP, but a loss could mean more ping pong balls which is not a bad consolation prize.
What I'd Like To See:
- I have a hard time imagining any good coming out of the Magloire-Yao matchup. Jamaal is a bulky, plodding center who makes money basically with his size. Yao is a mammoth, plodding center who also makes money with his size. But Yao is bigger by half. It's like trying to take a trick with the Jack of Diamonds when somebody else has the Ace. At least if we had Lamarcus we could hope his quickness and footspeed might trump Yao. But everything Jamaal does Yao can do better. Perhaps Raef LaFrentz might be a partial answer. If he's hitting from range maybe he could draw Yao outside a little.
- I'm guessing the best game plan is to stay home on the Houston perimeter guys even if Yao has a field day. For all his improvement the big fella still isn't a "strap you on my shoulders and carry you home" type of player. He needs help. If you make it hard on his help he could have an off game. And without McGrady that means the back door to Victory Chalet would be open.
- DO NOT let them shoot open shots from three point land!
- You have to find some way to avoid fouls. When you're playing with 11 guys already even losing two is a major deal.
- I think our jumpers have to fall team-wide tonight to open up the inside. You know Jeff Van Gundy is going to tell them to pack it in tight on defense. If we can make some early and spread the floor it might open up some drives later on. If you do get free in there you better do business quick though. Yao will erase your junk if you let him get near you. And don't be thinking you're going to be drawing fouls on him either. He's gotten 5 fouls only 5 times all season. He's never fouled out. With lowly Portland coming to town packing only moderate quickness in the backcourt and none whatsoever in the frontcourt it's not going to happen tonight. You could bounce off of Yao and crumple to the floor and they'd only laugh.
- When Yao does go to the bench, however (and he still needs plenty of rest) then drive, drive, DRIVE! They don't have anyone else who will bother you. If you do not take major advantage of his union-mandated coffee breaks you will not win the game.
P.S. I'll post the Gameday Open Thread after the contest predictions are in and posted.