The Rockets finished off an eight day stretch with 4 wins on the road and just one loss at home against the Mavericks. Yao Ming sat out for the game against Dallas and the Rockets looked horrible without an inside presence. Yao Ming’s absence may have been a blessing in disguise for the team. In the 3 games since his return, the Rockets appear as if they want to run the entire offense through him. All year long the Rockets have been playing one on one basketball, dribbling around the court, not moving the ball, and players are looking for their own shot instead of working as a team to get the open look. Could this be a new Rockets team?
Rick Adelman likes to use a big man as a passer in his offenses. Yao Ming is a great passer and standing at 7’6", he can see over most defenders. Since Yao’s return, I have seen him wait on the double team to come to him instead of passing quickly as he had been earlier in the year. When you move the ball around out of a double team, you need to have good quick passes, but when you have a "big" like Yao, he has to hold the ball a bit longer to get the defense out of position, and then move that ball around swiftly while the defense scrambles to react. The Rockets seem to have grasped this concept, and in the 3 games since his return, they have shot 46 percent as a team, which is around 6 percent higher than their season average. Running the offense through Yao also has always been beneficial at the end of games. In the past week, the Rockets have closed games instead of blowing them in the 4th quarter, like we saw vs. the Spurs.
The Rockets played decent offense last week in their games. They shot 47% in away games, and a lowly 37%at home, averaging 45% for the week. It has been said that the Toyota Center is not a shooter friendly gym and that most players shoot below their average there, including Tracy McGrady. I would say that our "Big 3" raised their game last week. T-Mac shot 46%, Artest 43%, and Yao Ming 65%. Rafer Alston continued to struggle, shooting just 38% last week, which was 2% higher than his average for the season. What really blows my mind is that he and Artest tied for the most shots in the last 5 games at 65 shots a piece. Now I don’t really mind Artest getting that many shots, but Rafer Alston, who has shot the ball at 36% for the year doesn’t need to be taking that many shots. The Rockets dominated the boards in all the games they won, and lost the rebounding edge in the loss against the Mavericks.
There was also some good news last week in the return of Shane Battier. Battier is getting on the floor running 5 on 5 now, and building back the stamina in his foot and ankle. With Ron Artest on the team, I think the Rockets will not rush Battier back into play, but instead will keep him out until he’s 100% to minimize the chance of him aggravating his injury. It will be interesting to see how Battier affects the line up in his return. I think Brent Barry will be the one to see his minutes decline the most followed by Chuck Hayes. Barry does have veteran leadership, but he hasn’t shot the ball well for most of the season. I think we will see him a little more towards the end of the season after he finds his shot. Chuck Hayes seems to be our back up at the Center position, but with Battier and Artest on the floor, I think the coach might run with Carl Landry more as the back up since you can put Artest at the PF. We will see what he decides to do, but we still need a 7 footer on the team; we are just too small after Yao.