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Chron:Rockets can't finish script...

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by 12stonestool, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. 12stonestool

    12stonestool Member

    Jun 29, 2002
    Likes Received:
    Looks like the Rox might make the playoffs after all and what is JVG hinting at in his statement towards the end. I love hearing the last word from Tmac he sounds determined he does not want to be a loser.
    Jan. 28, 2006, 1:41AM
    Rockets can't finish script for comeback win
    Two late-game missed shots give T-Wolves reprieve

    Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

    The Rockets had been buried, but climbed out. They had been whipped by the Minnesota Timberwolves' guards, then stopped them. They had absorbed all of Kevin Garnett's closing-stretch greatness, but came back.

    They had done all they had to do to put a win — or at least overtime — within reach. But having come so far over such rough terrain, they could not take the last, relatively unobstructed steps.

    The Rockets came up short in the last half-minute and fell to the Timberwolves 96-92 before 14,408 at Toyota Center on Friday night, dropping the Rockets back to last in the Western Conference. But they were not beaten until they could not make plays easier than the ones that got them there.

    "It's hard to swallow when you fight so hard to get back in the game and down the stretch you lose it on the little things — loose balls, key rebounds and free throws," said Rockets forward Stromile Swift, who had 19 points after missing the previous nine games with conjunctivitis. "It's always hard to lose games like that."

    Finally, the Rockets got the stop they had to have — only to have the rebound bounce right to Swift and David Wesley and then out of bounds.

    Finally, Tracy McGrady was freed from the double team of a sticky defensive specialist and a long-limbed 7-footer — only to rush his shot and leave it short.

    Finally, down to their last chance, the Rockets expertly ran a play to get the most wide-open of 3-pointers for their best 3-point shooter — only to have Wesley's last chance at overtime bounce away.

    Great looks
    "We gave ourselves a great chance to win the ballgame," McGrady said. "We got great looks. The ball just didn't bounce the way we wanted it to. We just couldn't get over that hump."

    The Rockets led by as much as eight before the Timberwolves went with an offense they knew Ricky Davis, acquired in a trade from Boston less than 24 hours earlier, would know. They put him on the low blocks and told him to go to work.

    Davis had 13 points in his first 14 minutes with the Timberwolves. Rookie Rashad McCants took over to score 16 points, his career high for a game, in the second quarter. When Davis pulled up for a 30-footer to beat the shot clock midway through the third quarter, the Timberwolves led by 15.

    But the Rockets put on some defensive clamps against the Timberwolves, who were feeling the sting of blowing a 19-point lead in losing to the 76ers on Sunday. The Rockets began the fourth quarter with a Swift three-point play and treys by Wesley and McGrady to pull into a tie at 71.

    That signaled Garnett to take over, scoring 15 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter. With 2 1/2 minutes left, after he put the Timberwolves up by six, the Rockets rallied. Wesley passed to Swift for a slam. Lonny Baxter stole an inbound pass. And Swift followed a Baxter miss to put the Rockets within 90-88 with less than two minutes remaining.

    That's when the Rockets could not finish.

    When Garnett missed from 14 feet, Wesley and Swift lost the rebound and Davis hit a jumper with 68 seconds left for a four-point lead. Swift made two free throws and blocked a Trenton Hassell drive. But when McGrady made a move for a jumper to tie the game, he pulled up and missed.

    "I picked up my dribble too early," McGrady said. "I could have kept going. I didn't realize how wide-open I was. Those guys were hanging off me all night. I didn't have much space to work with."

    Moves in phone booth
    Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy said he (McGrady) was making moves in "a phone booth" because of the Rockets' lack of a 3-point threat this season. So when they had another chance, needing a 3-pointer to force overtime after a Garnett free throw, the Rockets went another way.

    Wesley took a pass, faked a handoff to McGrady, and when Hassell and Marko Jaric followed McGrady, Wesley turned for an open 3. A 39.3 percent 3-point shooter this season, Wesley had made four of eight. He missed his last attempt.

    "I knew that if I got the ball, that there was a good chance on the possible handoff that they would roll over to Mac and they did," Wesley said. "It was as good of a look as I could have asked for. If Mac is open, give him the ball, obviously. As soon as I even thought about handing him the ball, they both took off. It was an easy read, but I just missed the shot."

    With that, the Rockets had come all the way back — only to tease themselves by coming up tantalizingly short.



    Rockets Summary

    Howard missed
    The Rockets got two players back from medical conditions. But as has been the case many times this season, with every step forward there is a step back.

    Forward Juwan Howard missed Friday's game with flu-like symptoms.

    Though the timing could have been worse with forward Stromile Swift cleared to return after missing the previous nine games, in that stretch Howard averaged 16.1 points and 6.9 rebounds while making 46.2 percent of his shots.

    Swift had hoped to return Wednesday, but he was not cleared until Friday's medical exam.

    With Howard out, Swift got his fifth start of the season, although he did not seem terribly confident about returning against Timberwolves star Kevin Garnett.

    "I thought I was going to be back the other day," Swift said. "It's not perfect timing because I still have to work my way back into the swing of things. I've been out for a while."

    Counting Howard, 11 Rockets players have missed games because of injury or illness, costing them a combined 175 games.

    Bowen cleared
    Forward Ryan Bowen, who missed the last two games because of an irregular heartbeat, was cleared to play after a test showed no negative side effects from the medication he was prescribed.

    Blood tests on Rockets center Yao Ming showed no complications in the treatment of his toe infection.

    The team is still targeting Wednesday for his return, though that timetable could be as contingent on the time prescribed after that type of surgery and treatment as his current condition. Yao has been going through workouts for more than a week.

    Many worries
    With so many issues surrounding the team — from forward Tracy McGrady playing with a face mask to the 10-day contracts of Chuck Hayes and John Lucas III expiring — Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy found himself concerned with issues beyond Friday's game entering his team's thoughts.

    "We have a lot of stuff swirling around us right now that we can't let interfere with getting ready to play the game," Van Gundy said. " Juwan ( How ard's) sickness. McGrady's deal. Guys coming back (from injuries) — are they going to be in the rotation? Ten-day contracts running out. A trade happened for the other team. You don't know who is going to play and not going to play. We can't get focused on anything but our own play."

    Van Gundy, however, said he had no specific reason to be concerned.

    "Just the things you always think about," he said.

    McGrady wore the face mask Friday against the Timberwolves after getting hit on the nose in a play against the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday. McGrady ditched the mask in the second half.

    Prior to the game, McGrady had said he likely would wear the mask for two or three games.

    "It's uncomfortable, but you get used to it," he said. "It's just been that type of year, knees, back, now the nose. It feels a lot better. It's still swollen, still sore every time I touch it.

    "The mask is definitely necessary."

    Last word
    "We never should have been in that situation, anyway. We came out of the gates strong and kind of let our guard down. Those guys (from Minnesota) got confidence and just took off."

    — Rockets forward Tracy McGrady

    By the numbers
    • 16 — Rashad McCants' points in the second quarter.
    • 15 — Rockets points in the second quarter.
    • 10 — Timberwolves blocked shots, the most against the Rockets this season.
    • 19 — Stromile Swift points, his second-most this season.
    • 30 — Timberwolves points off the bench, with the Rockets getting 16.

  2. barryxzz

    barryxzz Contributing Member

    Jan 18, 2005
    Likes Received:
    Poor tmac. :( Maybe the mask made it harder for him to see around?
  3. Hippieloser

    Hippieloser Contributing Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Likes Received:
    He didn't wear the mask in the second half. It was just a rare mistake by TMac. He literally hadn't been that open all night.

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