The Hornets beat the Rockets

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Published: January 13, 2008

Sweet. The Hornets just extended their road winning streak to seven games with a hard fought win over the Rockets in Houston. Here's how it all went down…

Pregame

Houston are riding a season-high five-game winning streak coming into this one, despite the absence of Tracy McGrady. He's missed the last nine games due to a knee injury and won't play today.

Cox ain't showing this game at all, so I'm tuning into the Rockets broadcast on League Pass. (FYI: Cox will show every Hornets game from here on out, save for March 5th vs. Atlanta.) The Rockets announcers are Bill Worrell, Clyde Drexler, and former Hornet scrub Matt Bullard. They list their keys for a Rockets victory this afternoon…

  • Contain Chris Paul off the dribble
  • Control the paint
  • Balanced offense

Yao vs. Chandler. Epic.

First Quarter

The Hornets start with their usual fab five, while the Rockets begin with these dudes: Rafer Alston, Luther Head, Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes and Yao Ming.

For his first trick, Chris gets in the lane and tosses an oop to Tyson, who can't quite dunk it but makes the bucket. At the other end, Yao answers with a turnaround over Chandler on the low block.

8:10 – Fast pace so far. On the break, CP delivers a nice lead pass to West who finishes. Tied at 8.

5:52 – West challenges and Chris rebounds Alston's miss on the Rockets break. Going the other way, Chris spots Peterson open for three and he cans it. 15-12 Hornets lead. A stop later, and Tyson gets fouled on another attempted opp from CP, but somehow the refs don't see it as a shooting foul. Timeout Houston.

The Hornets are playing well so far. The Rockets are going mostly to Yao, and he's hit a few hooks and jumpers over Chandler. Mo-Pete has started helping out a bit, caving on Yao from the perimeter, but it needs to be a team effort if we want to slow the big foreign dude. David West's help D is pretty much non-existent. Offensively we're doing well, mixing it up a bit. Everyone but Chris has scored. The pace is up-tempo and that seems to be working better for us, especially with Yao on the floor.

4:20 – Peja works hard to deny Battier a post feed but ends up committing the foul. Worrell, the Rockets announcer, tells us "that might be the first time in a few years that Peja has tried to play some defense." Hardy har.

Bobby Jackson, the hero in Friday's win over Miami, checks in during the stoppage and picks up where he left off, getting in the lane and dropping a tough runner. We lead 21-16.

2:09 – Chris comes up with a great steal, diving into the passing lane to swipe it. He breaks against Alston, gets to the lane and shifts down a gear to let Rafer fly by. Easy layup. At the other end, Yao is called for an offensive foul on Chandler. Nice. The help D on Yao has been better since that last timeout, and all in all the Hornets are kicking ass so far.

0:28 – Bobby Jackson misses a three. Nothing makes sense any more.

The quarter ends with Chris Paul dropping a three and Aaron Brooks in his face. Tough.

We lead it 26-18 after one.

Second Quarter

Rockets: Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Brooks, Bonzi Wells and Alston. The first three are all rookies.
Hornets: Bowen, West, Jackson, Pargo and Ely.

9:39 – Bobby Jackson dribbles out the last 10 seconds of the shot clock before throwing up a desperate three. Not good. Timeout Hornets. The Rockets reserves have been killing our second unit. A 7-2 run by the home team has reduced our lead to three points.

Chandler back in out of the timeout, then Alston drops a three over Jackson to tie this one up. Weak defense. At least get a hand up, Bobby.

8:30 – Bobby turns it over, and takes a seat. CP back in.

7:45 – Chandler vs. Landry in the post. Landry fouls him hard and Tyson almost loses his cool, raises his elbow a bit, but nothing comes of it.

6:51 – Pargo hits a tough three off a kick from Chandler. 35-30 Hornets.

5:58 – Bowen hits his second straight jumper, and the Rockets' announcers say he winks at Bullard as he runs back down the floor. Ryan Bowen is gangsta.

5:43 – Out of a timeout, Yao, West and Peja all get back in the game. Both teams are having trouble with the whole scoring thing, which is apparently fundamental to the game of basketball.

3:34 – Chris runs the pick and roll with Tyson, and hits the cutting big man in the head with a pass intended for West. Ouch. Out of bounds to the Rockets.

2:48 – Yao travels. Nice D by Chandler. Timeout Rockets, we lead by two.

2:28 – West goes to work, nice back down and spin on Scola, then he sinks the short jumper. 14 points already for West. All our starters are back in the game now. The Rockets have Brooks guarding CP, and Alston on Mo-Pete.

0:40 – Rocks mess up a fastbreak and West glides past Yao for the layup at the other end.

Tyson splits a pair of free throws to end the scoring this half. We're ahead, 46-39.

Halftime Thoughts

  • The Houston marathon is on today apparently.
  • I like a couple of these young Rockets. Brooks looks good, kinda like a poor man's Leandro Barbosa with that speed. Of course, he also looks like he's 12 years old. Only the facial hair saves him. Scola is nice too. He's got the hustle of Bowen but he seems way more polished offensively. He's been doing all he can to stop West, but our boy is on a different level these days.
  • I have no idea where the Rockets rank in the League regarding attendance, but on TV the Toyota Center appears a little empty. Some obvious patches of empty seats in the lower bowl.

    ("Heh, look at the Hornets fan commenting on another team's attendance. What a tool.")

  • It's been all good for the Hornets except for the bench, although I guess they've played better offensively than usual. Bowen and Pargo have hit some shots. They couldn't stop the Rocks reserves though.
  • West has 16 points in the first half, doing his usual thing. His lack of effort on D is starting to bug me though. He could be great if he just tried, but it seems he has no interest in guarding the pick and roll or crowding the lane from the weak side. I wonder when was the last time he took a charge.

    That said, he's unreal on offense, so I'll happily take the bad with the good.

  • Tyson has been doing okay on Yao. The help D picked up after Yao's fast start. Chandler can keep him out of the lane, but he needs help to stop Yao turning and shooting those hooks and jumpers over him.
  • The Rockets don't have any real scoring options beyond Yao right now. They have some guys who can put the ball in the hole, but you wouldn't exactly call them scorers.

West reels one in

Third Quarter

Yao hits one over Chandler to start. No help.

Mo-Pete misses two triples in the early going, Hornets having trouble scoring.

8:38 – The Hornets are 0-of-6 from the field this quarter, but then CP gets in the lane off a pick from West, goes up against Yao, hangs, bumps and scores. Man, that was some funky shit. Chandler picks up his 3rd foul at the other end.

7:40 – Tyson throws up a couple ugly ones on Yao, and gets blocked twice. Not nice. 48-45 Hornets lead it. The Rockets turn it over at the other end. Ugly quarter by both teams so far.

6:37 – West and CP take turns scoring in the lane. We're back up by seven, and Rick Adelman wants a timeout. Some super-hot Rockets cheerleaders dancers dunk off a trampoline during the break. It's amazing.

5:15 – Mo-Pete lays a solid foul on Yao on the break. No chance of a three-point play there. Yao splits the free throws. 54-48 Hornets.

4:30 – Chris finds Peterson on the break for a layup past Yao. 10 assists now for CP.

3:50 – Tyson posts against Yao again, comes up short. Why are we going to that? Surely we have better scoring options than Tyson trying to shoot over a giant. Let's get Peja some shots. He's been on the floor this entire quarter and he's shot the ball once. Or let's go back to West, who's unstoppable right now.

3:33 – Jackson, Ely and Bowen are back in, teaming with CP and West. Let's see if we can maintain the lead with this unit.

2;42 – Alston cans a three off nice ball movement by the Rockets. Our lead shrinks to one.

1:29 – West hits a fadeaway from the baseline, over Scola. He's got 22 points now, and I'm real glad we're looking for him with this unit on the floor.

Other end, West fouls Yao. Count the basket. Rockets up two after Yao sinks the freebie. He's got 20 points and 8 rebounds.

0:46 – West gets a good challenge on Alston's 18-footer, but it banks home. Lucky bastard. Rockets by 4 now.

At the other end, Bowen misses a jumper along the baseline. Houston really wants him to take that shot. Ely then fouls Yao and we're in the penalty. That Worrell dude keeps pronouncing Ely's name as "E-lee," which is like, wrong and stuff.

We don't get a good shot off to end the quarter, and entering the fourth we're losing, 63-58. The Rocks put some big runs together and outscored us in the period 24-12.

Fourth Quarter

Before we get going again, I get a text message from Mikey SeasonTickets, who actually made the trip to Houston to catch this game. Legend. He can't believe we just had a 12-point quarter.

Rockets start out with Scola, Brooks, Yao, Wells and Head. We got Bowen, Pargo, Tyson, Ely and Jackson.

The quarter starts with Yao blocking Bowen, and Brooks sinking a jumper. We go another two blank trips, and the Rockets build up their biggest lead of the game, 66-58 after a Brooks free throw.

10:03 – Bobby Jackson knocks down a baseline jumper, then steals and scores on the break. Hmm. Nice work Bobby. With two solid games in a row you're really spoiling us.

8:50 – Ely gets it in the post with the shot clock winding down. He's got Yao on his back, and Wells comes to help. This could be the ugliest thing anyone has ever seen. But no! Ely turns baseline and hits a funny one. Wow.

8:08 – Bobby's not done yet. He hits a tough three over Luther Head's head. We're within three for all of 20 seconds, as Head answers with a long bomb of his own.

7:22 – Pargo drops a triple. Damn. The bench is filling it up.

6:41 – Chandler has been back in the game for a few minutes, but Ely is still checking Yao, using up those fouls. Yao seems to be playing big minutes. West is back in now, too, and he goes right at Scola again. Money.

5:54 – A tip by Scola puts the Rockets up four, 76-72. Timeout Hornets after we waste 23 seconds of shot clock. CP must come back in now, surely.

Indeed, Chris checks back in out of the timeout, together with some dude that looks like Rasual Butler. Hmm. Where's Peja?

The Hornets turn that one second offense into four shots at the basket. The last one is a 14-foot fade by West. He's got 26 points and we're within two.

4:47 – 4th foul on Tyson.

3:06 – CP finally starts to mix it up, looked like he was almost afraid to go in the lane with Yao there. This time he drives inside, comes from under the basket with the dribble, turns and hits the jumper over Yao. We're down two.

1:56 – We might have got away with foul on Yao, Pargo comes up with it, breaks and finishes nice on his own. Back on defense, Tyson gambles and swipes at Yao in the post. The ball is knocked loose and the announcers go apeshit when there's no whistle. Sorry fellas, but there was more contact on the previous trip. Chris Paul comes away with it and dishes ahead to Butler. Rasual's first bucket of 2008 is a dunk. He also got knocked on the head and the refs give him the free throw. The contact was "just a brush" according to the announcers. Whatever.

Rasual nails the extra point and we're up by three. Giggidy.

1:19 – Yao gets to the middle and makes a tough jumper over Tyson. We'll have to live with that.

After West misses an open jumper, Yao comes down again and is fouled by Chandler. On the floor, no shots. The Rockets inbound and go right back to Yao inside. He backs down on Tyson, and Pargo doesn't drop down to help. You have to go help, man, force the kick out. So Chandler gets too pushy and fouls Yao again. Tyson's just fouled out, and we're in the penalty. Yao hits both free throws, putting the Rockets up one with 34 seconds left.

CP comes down, gets a high pick from West and blows right by Yao to the bucket. Sweet. I seem to recall Chris doing that before. Hornets by one. 29 seconds left. Timeout Houston.

Out of that, the Rockets go back to Yao, West bodies up, might have gotten away with some bumpage, and Yao's hook from the middle comes off. Peterson claims the rebound, gets it to Chris, and the Rockets put him at the line.

Remember two weeks ago, New Year's eve against the Raptors when Chris missed those two free throws late. This time, CP calmly drains both, putting us up three with 14 seconds to go.

The Rockets run a play out of a timeout that sees Luther Head's layup blocked by David West. Who says he doesn't play help D? Oh, that might have been me.

Two more freebies by CP and this one's in the books. Call it an 87-82 win for the Hornets.

Chris blows by Yao for the dagger

Postgame

Mikey calls from Houston, as amped as I am after that performance. He was pissing off the Rockets fans royally by chanting "MVP" for Chris Paul at the end of the game. He also tells me the Toyota Center is like the New Orleans Arena on steroids.

Anyway, back to game talk. It was a gutsy win by the Hornets. We were down entering the fourth and didn't start the quarter strong, yet we fought back and made the big plays down the stretch. Methinks the bench deserves credit for this one. They outscored the Rockets reserves 28-25 and proved they can even be of use against a good team.

Great job by our big three of Paul, West and Chandler, too. Chris seemed a little hesitant all game, but obviously came through in the clutch. He finished with 19 points, 11 assists, and an unusually high 6 turnovers. West was a killer out there. The boxscore will say he shot 12-of-27, but that's a little misleading. He failed to connect on a few tips and things, but when we fed him the ball and let him work he usually gave us a bucket. Scola tried everything he could to stop him, but West just has a billion ways he can beat you. He finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Chandler had his work cut out trying to slow Yao Ming. Yao ended up with 30 points and 16 boards, but nothing came easy for him. Tyson made him work hard for everything. He also chipped in with 7 points and 14 boards of his own.

I'm not sure what the deal is with Peja. He came out of the game late in the third and didn't return. I don't think he got hurt at all, so maybe he was sick or something. He shot 0-of-5 in 26 minutes, finishing with two points, but I don't think he can be blamed for such a performance. I really believe we need to run more plays for the guy. Paul and West can create their own shots. Chandler can get his points by doing the dirty work. But guys like Peja and Mo-Pete (5 points today) need to get freed up to score. I think Peja especially is being wasted this season. I wouldn't be surprised to hear him voice some frustration soon.

Anyways, no squeaky sneaks for Hilton and Marcus today, and it looks like Julian Wright was on the inactive list again. Maybe we'd be better off sending him to the D-League than have him wear a suit to every game.

Linkage to wrap up this one: box | recap | standings

Next in line for the Hornets are the Sonics, in New Orleans on Wednesday. Lots of free tickets on offer for that one so I better see your ass there. We're poised for a nice little run here, with the next five games at home and only Portland on the 23rd looks tough.

25-12 is good right now, but methinks it gets better.

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