Tuesday, December 28, 2004

ockets Keep Clippers at Bay

from NBA.com
Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming got the Los Angeles Clippers back to familiar territory.

McGrady scored 21 points, Yao added 20 and 11 rebounds, and both players blocked three shots to lift the Houston Rockets to a 96-79 triumph over the Los Angeles Clippers, who fell below the .500 mark for the first time this season.

After starting the season a promising 11-7, the Clippers have been beset by injuries to the likes of Kerry Kittles and Shaun Livingston and have lost six of their last seven games.

"It's one of those things," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "You know what you have to do as a team, and you have to go out and do it. It's a silver lining for guys to come off the bench and to step up and help our team. Injuries are part of the game."

"We are missing players, but that just means the other guys have to step up their game," Clippers forward Elton Brand said. "We have to get improved scoring from the other guys on this team."

The Rockets defeated the Clippers for the eighth consecutive time by seizing a lead they never relinquished early in the first quarter when they went on a 12-0 run, led by Yao who scored 11 in the first quarter.

"We dictated the rhythm all night and cut down on our turnovers," said Yao, who posted his third straight double-double. "Our defense was very good, too. We limited their scorers' ability."

The Clippers rallied in the third, cutting the lead to 52-49 with 7:50 remaining on a jumper by Corey Maggette, but Jim Jackson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers en route to a season-high 21 for Houston.

"I think we played at a good energy level," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I thought Yao got us off to a good start, and I thought guys did a good job finding him. Everyone did their part. Jim made a lot of threes and we defended well."

McGrady said Wednesday's disappointing loss to the Bobcats had little effect on the Rockets' play against Los Angeles.

"I don't think the last game had anything to do with it," McGrady said. "I think everybody kind of cleared their heads just a little bit. I think some teams probably have a tendency of coming out flat that first game after the holidays. Our intensity was high and our focus was there."

Maggette scored 23 points for Los Angeles, but both he and Brand, who mustered just 11, did not play in the fourth quarter.

Maggette, who wasn't bothered by sitting out the fourth quarter, said the Clippers simply ran into a better team.

"This is a tough team, and they should have a better record," he said. "They are searching for their chemistry, and when they get it, they will be a tough team to beat."

Monday, December 20, 2004

Bobcats 101, Rockets 100, OT

Jenna Fryer / Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
Okafor had 23 points and 17 rebounds, his 12th consecutive double-double, to lead the expansion Bobcats to their first winning streak with a 101-100 overtime victory against the Houston Rockets on Saturday night.

Okafor sent the game into overtime with a dunk over Dikembe Mutombo with 3 seconds left in regulation, then helped Charlotte win its second straight game by battling for a loose ball late in the extra period that sent him to the sideline with a bloody nose.

"Emeka Okafor is a definite star in the making in this league," Houston's Tracy McGrady said.

Clinging to a 98-97 lead, Okafor missed twice on a pair of putback attempts that Charlotte was certain he was fouled on. The Bobcats argued as the Rockets pushed the ball up the court, but Okafor stayed with the play.

Jim Jackson missed a 3 for the Rockets, Mutombo got the rebound and missed on a jumper and Okafor scrambled for the ball. He took an elbow to the nose as the ball bounced out of bounds, but teammate Gerald Wallace was fouled by Bob Sura to go to the line.

Wallace made one free throw for a 99-97 lead with 19 seconds to play and Okafor out getting his nose plugged. He returned as McGrady missed for Houston.

Jamal Sampson was fouled and made both free throws to put Charlotte up 101-97 with 3 seconds to play, a large enough margin to make McGrady's 3-pointer at the buzzer meaningless.

Okafor, the NBA Rookie of the Month for November, has scored in double figures in points and rebounds 16 times this season.

But afterward, he was mostly in awe of Houston's Yao Ming, who had 16 points and 19 rebounds against Okafor before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

"He is so tall," Okafor said. "You see him on TV, and you have no idea. Then I got up against him and I was like 'Dang!' I have no idea how to stop him."

But once Yao went out, Okafor only had Mutombo to deal with and did just fine.

He tied it at 92 with a turnaround jumper over Mutombo with 28 seconds left in regulation, and after McGrady hit a 20-foot jumper that put Houston up 94-92 with 7 seconds to play, Okafor didn't back down. Brevin Knight fired the ball inside, and Okafor jammed it in over Mutombo to tie it with 3 seconds left.

"He hustled," Mutombo said of Okafor. "That's been part of his game since college, trying to go after any loose ball. He did a great job ... I give him all the credit for their win."

Keith Bogans finished with 19 points for Charlotte, Wallace had 15, and Sampson had 11 rebounds for the Bobcats, who won their fifth consecutive game at the Charlotte Coliseum.

McGrady scored 29 for the Rockets, who blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter. Houston had 23 turnovers - 18 were Charlotte steals - and was outrebounded 53-43.

"We lost the game on turnovers and bad fouls in the fourth quarter," Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I'm very disappointed in the way we played." Bahamas and a Mercedes. ... Wallace took it a step further, giving Christmas gifts to an underprivileged 13-year-old after the game. ... Mutombo had three blocks in the first quarter, including one on Wallace that drew a hearty laugh from fans behind the Charlotte bench. ... Charlotte's Jason Kapono made a halfcourt shot at the end of the first quarter that was waved off. ... It was clear how popular McGrady and Yao are by the 100 or so fans lined up for autographs during warmups.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Hornets-Rockets Preview

by the Associated Press, from Foxsports.com
GAME: New Orleans Hornets (1-14) at Houston Rockets (7-11).

TIME: Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. EST.

Tracy McGrady is starting to take on more of a leadership role for the Houston Rockets.

McGrady looks to lead the Rockets to back-to-back wins for the first time in more than two weeks when they host the lowly New Orleans Hornets.

McGrady, acquired in a blockbuster trade with Orlando during the offseason, had a long talk with coach Jeff Van Gundy last week about his place on the team.

"I understand what he wants me to do now, which is to be aggressive, the way I was in Orlando," McGrady said. "I was (being) passive."

After that discussion, McGrady went out and scored 48 points Thursday, but the Rockets had their losing streak extended to five games with a 113-106 overtime defeat to the Dallas Mavericks.

Houston returned home to face Philadelphia on Saturday, and although McGrady had one of his worst shooting nights of the season, he found his range when it counted most.

McGrady had 17 points, including the winning basket with 25 seconds to play, as the Rockets ended their skid with a 77-76 win over the 76ers.

McGrady missed 16 of 22 shots before hitting the big one.

"I got the shots I wanted tonight, I just couldn't knock them down," said McGrady, whose worst shooting night this season was a 1-for-11 game against Denver on Nov. 27. "But it's not how many you miss. It's the ones you make, and I made the last basket of the game."

Van Gundy got his 300th career coaching victory in his 100th game with the Rockets.

"I thought the more significant baskets he made were when we were down by eight and he made some offensive rebounding plays," Van Gundy said of McGrady. "Those are will plays, and will usually beats skill.

"But obviously the last play of the game was big. He got separation and space and made it after a tough night."

Houston hasn't won consecutive games since Nov. 20-21.

New Orleans dropped its sixth straight and fell to 1-14 on the season with a 92-69 loss to the defending champion Detroit Pistons on Saturday.

All-Stars Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire are out with injuries, along with free-agent pickup Rodney Rogers. Then, less than two minutes into Saturday's game, David West, who had become a recent starter, sprained his right knee and did not return.

"We're real thin right now with the injuries." New Orleans coach Byron Scott said. "But that was not the biggest problem. Our lack of intensity was our big problem. This is the first time all season we came out and played scared. We looked like we were afraid of that team. We were scared to compete."

The Hornets have a 3-12 record in Houston.

STANDINGS: Hornets - 5th place, 13 GB, Southwest Division. Rockets - 3rd place, 8{ GB, Southwest Division.

PROBABLE STARTERS: Hornets - F West or Chris Andersen, F Lee Nailon, C P.J. Brown, G David Wesley, G Junior Harrington. Rockets - F Juwan Howard, F Jim Jackson, C Yao Ming, G McGrady, G Bob Sura.

TEAM LEADERS: Hornets - Magloire, 14.1 ppg and 9.1 rpg; Wesley, 4.1 apg. Rockets - McGrady, 21.8 ppg and 5.8 apg; Yao, 8.3 rpg.

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Rockets, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: March 11; Rockets, 97-86. At Houston, the Rockets took a 20-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but had to quell a mild charge led by Davis, who hit 16 of his 30 points over the final 6:38 as New Orleans got the deficit down to seven with 51 seconds to play.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Hornets - 1-6 on the road; Rockets - 3-5 at home.

INJURIES: Hornets - C Magloire (finger); G Davis (back); F Rogers (knee); F Jamal Mashburn (knee). Rockets - F Bostjan Nachbar (undisclosed); G Tyronn Lue (knee); G Charlie Ward (knee).

Monday, November 29, 2004

Anthony Injured; Nuggets Win

from NBA.com

Back-to-back games can be beneficial when you're trying to put a bad one behind you. The Denver Nuggets did exactly that when they outran and outrebounded the Houston Rockets for an 82-76 victory.

"We played a horrible game last night (an 89-75 home loss to San Antonio) and came back with a lot of energy," said guard Andre Miller, who led the Nuggets with 20 points and seven assists.

Kenyon Martin had 19 points and 13 rebounds and Marcus Camby added 13 and 14 as they outplayed Rockets All-Star center Yao Ming, who managed just eight points and six rebounds.

"We wanted to try to run him, tire him out," Camby said. "His stamina is not the best. He's a big guy carrying a lot of weight. Once his stamina gets up to speed, he's going to be dominant."

"I think I did a bad job," Yao said. "I was waiting for the rebounds to come to me. I hope this is the most frustrating I've been in my life. I hope there's no more frustration."

The Nuggets have won five of their last six games and play their next four at home, where they recently went 4-1 in a five-game stretch.

The Nuggets used an 11-0 run in the first quarter, sparked by Miller and Carmelo Anthony, to take a 19-7 lead they never relinquished.

"We were disappointed in our effort (Friday night), our inability to play well," Denver coach Jeff Bzdelik said. "We made sure we went out early (tonight) to warm up, so we had a good sweat going. Our starts have not been good."

Camby knew the running game was the key to beating the plodding Rockets as well as wearing down Yao.

"This team doesn't like to go up and down," Camby said. "I played for Jeff (Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy in New York). I know how good his defense can be once they get set up."

The Nuggets didn't give them a chance, even though they lost Anthony to a sprained right ankle with 2:21 left in the third quarter while leading, 62-48. He was helped to the locker room, where X-rays were negative. He is listed as day-to-day.

Rockets guard Bob Sura wrapped up Anthony to prevent an easy layup and the two fell to the ground.

"It looked like the hard foul carried into Sura trying to prevent (Anthony) from getting hurt and they got tangled up," Bzdelik said. "I don't think it was a flagrant act on anyone's part."

"It should have been more than just a personal," Martin said. "Who am I to say?"

Martin said plenty with the way he played, particularly for someone who had been bothered by a chest cold. He played only six minutes and failed to score in the loss to San Antonio.

"I feel better today," he said. "I got some rest, got some medicine in me, some fluids."

"I ran into Kenyon's mom at lunch and told her to go get some chicken soup and deliver it to Kenyon," Bzdelik said with a laugh.

Martin's mother, Lydia Moore, saw the former New Jersey Net play for the first time in person as a Nugget.

"Mom brought me a little love from Dallas," Martin said. "She (has) been a little under the weather."

The Nuggets outrebounded Houston 19-5 in the first quarter, including 7-0 on the offensive board, and led 25-13 after one period.

The Rockets lost their third in a row and scored a season-low 76 points, despite getting a lift from Sura and Scott Padgett, who scored a season-high 14, half of them in the fourth quarter.

Sura, activated before the game, played his first contest of the season after being sidelined with a herniated disk that required lower back surgery September 21. He played 21 minutes and had six points and six assists.

"I haven't played in six or seven months," Sura said "But considering that, I feel like it went all right. I feel like I brought some energy, some toughness and made some plays for some other guys."

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Rockets Come Up Short

from NBA.com
Lamar Odom and his Los Angeles Lakers teammates helped coach Rudy Tomjanovich make a successful return against his former team.

Odom had 20 points, 13 rebounds and five assists to help the Lakers hold on for an 84-79 victory over the shorthanded Houston Rockets.

"I'm just glad it's over," an emotional Tomjanovich said. "Next time it will be just another game."

The Rockets honored Tomjanovich before the game with a video tribute. General manager Carroll Dawson, his former assistant, presented him with a framed painting of Tomjanovich coaching, his arms raised in triumph.

"The last time I talked to the public (in Houston) was a sad day for me," said Tomjanovich, who announced his retirement after the 2002 season due to bladder cancer. "I know in my heart you helped me beat cancer."

Tomjanovich spent 34 seasons with the Rockets as a player, scout, assistant, coach and a consultant last season, his final one in Houston.

"Sometimes I take a step back and say this is amazing," he said. "It's like a fairy tale. It was very emotional (tonight). This was great. I feel that every time I walk around Houston, people are so great to me."

Tomjanovich's No. 45 jersey hangs from the rafters, along with the two NBA championship banners that he guided the team to in 1994 and 1995.

"That was special," Lakers forward Caron Butler said. "(Rudy) was happy to be here. The crowd was unbelievable. It tells you a lot about him and the city of Houston.

"Rudy's a passionate guy," Lakers guard Kobe Bryant added. "He's a part of the game. It feels like he's part of the group. He listens to everybody's opinion."

Playing on a sore left foot, Bryant made just 7-for-20 shots but had 19 points and 11 rebounds.

"It was pretty sore tonight, for whatever reason," he said. "Tonight was one of the games I had to turn it up. I got great support from Lamar."

Acquired from Miami in the Shaquille O'Neal trade, Odom made 1-of-2 free throws with 19 seconds left to give the Lakers an 82-79 lead.

"We knew how much it meant to him," Odom said. "We let the other team back in it. But we played a really good defensive game.

The Lakers led 47-35 at halftime and Bryant scored LA's first nine points of the second half, part of an 12-2 run that opened a 59-37 bulge.

The Rockets rallied to take the lead at 76-75 with 5 1/2 minutes left on a 3-pointer by Tyronn Lue, his only basket of the game. But Chucky Atkins scored five points to help the Lakers reclaim an 81-78 edge.

With leading scorer Tracy McGrady sitting out his second straight game with a strained right hip, the Rockets received nearly all their offense from Yao Ming, who scored 32 points on 11-for-21 shooting. But Yao missed a dunk with 58 seconds left that would have made it a one-point game and 1-of-2 free throws with 25 seconds to go.

"His scoring was great," Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "Obviously we need him to make the free throws down the stretch and rebound the ball better."

Monday, November 01, 2004

DerMarr Stars Down the Stretch

From NBA.com

HOUSTON, Oct. 28 (Ticker) -- DerMarr Johnson came off the bench to hit a pair of key 3-pointers in the closing minutes as the Dener Nuggets rallied for a 93-88 victory over the Houston Rockets, their fifth straight postseason win.

With the win, Denver improved to 6-1 in the preseason with a trip to Indiana on Friday. Houston played without All-Star Yao Ming, who underwent an MRI on Thursday that revealed ligament damage in his elbow.

Johnson, who signed with the Nuggets in the offseason and averaged 10.7 points in three preseason contests, hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 left to give Denver the lead for good, 87-86. After a layup by Houston's Tracy McGrady, Johnson hit a second shot from the arc with 37 seconds remaining for a 92-88 edge.

The Nuggets outscored Houston 26-18 in the final period, ending the game on a 9-2 run.

Voshon Lenard was 3-of-4 from 3-point range and scored 13 points for Denver, as did newly acquired Kenyon Martin. Andre Miller and Carmelo Anthony chipped in 12 apiece.

Anthony beat the buzzer in the third quarter with a jumper that helped start the Nuggets' late rally.

McGrady and Jim Jackson both scored 18 points and Juwan Howard added 16 in just 19 minutes off the bench for the Rockets. Clarence Weatherspoon pulled down 13 rebounds as Houston outrebounded Denver 44-34.

The Rockets finished their preseason schedule at 3-4, dropping their last three games. They open the regular season with a visit to the defending champion Detroit Pistons on Tuesday.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Getting started

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