Yao limped all around the court in the 2nd half of Game 3 and it was initially reported to be a sprained ankle. No biggie. Then more detailed tests revealed that he had a hairline fracture in his left foot and would be sidelined 8-12 weeks. As in, Yao out for the season. As in, holy crap, this is really bad news for the Rockets.
But as I thought about it a little, strictly on the defensive side of the ball, the Rockets matched up better with the Lakers with a smaller lineup with 2 of the trio of Hayes, Landry, and Scola at PF and C. Pau Gasol is just too quick and crafty from 15 feet and in for Yao to handle. Obviously, the Rockets front line would be smaller, but they would make up for it with quickness and tenacity on the boards.
As we made our way back home from West Houston on Mother’s Day Sunday, I turned on SportsRadio 610 to listen to the game. From the moment I turned it on and throughout the hour-long drive back home, the Rockets jumped all over the Lakers with gritty defense and a 3 point barrage led by Shane Battier. The crowd fed the fire and the Rockets all tapped into that energy by pouring it on and building a very large halftime lead.
I got home midway through the 3rd quarter and got in front of the TV as the Rockets unleashed the smackdown. Actually, Aaron Brooks unleashed the smackdown almost singlehandedly. While I was hoping for a Rockets 3 to close the 3rd quarter, when I got was a freaking unbelievable alley-oop inbounds pass from Artest to AB who jumped like 15 feet into the air to make the catch, turn, and layup off the glass and in with 0.7 seconds on the clock. I had seen a couple of alley-oop dunks from Brent Barry to AB, but nothing quite like the length of the pass, the catch, and the shot all in one motion. For a non-dunk, this was one of the best plays I have ever seen. I believe the Rockets pushed the lead to 29 with that score.
Although the Rockets got outscored by 16 or so in the 4th, they were not to be denied as they cruised to the finish line.
Give the Rockets some f***ing credit. For real. The Rockets even the series at 2-2.
Great defensive intensity, Kobe had to work for his and wasn’t hitting at a high percentage, a bunch of Rockets 3s, and not too many turnovers keyed the victory. The Rockets depth and versatility exposed how weak the Lakers bench is and the high screen and roll killed the Lakers almost every time. AB had a career high 34 and he made it look easy. Artest had a horrible game shooting, but he was solid on defense, the boards, and sharing the ball.
I’m not sure whether a perimeter oriented offense will win in the long run for the Rockets, but it’s pretty much what they have to do with who they have available to play. Interesting how the small-ball Rockets look a lot like the old Sacramento Kings when Coach Adelman had them contending for several years in a row.
3 out of 4 seemed impossible, but now it’s 2 out of 3 and that is certainly within the realm of possibility. Go Rockets!