The Rockets were smoking hot, but when they ran in to the Heat, they went ice cold.
Miami's defense shut down Houston's outside shooters and kept the ball out of Yao Ming's hands as they beat the Rockets 95-81 in Miami.
The loss drops the Rockets to 26-18, a half-game ahead of Memphis for #6 in the West.
Jeff Van Gundy is going to have to do some evaluating after this one. Yao, coming off a career-high, finished with just 12 points and 6 boards and could get off just 9 shots.
Is that his teammates' fault? I would say not entirely. Miami's defense was stifling the Rockets, but the game plan for Yao was about perfect.
For starters, Brian Grant pushed and pounded on Yao as if he was a tackle dummy and the refs gave him a lot of leeway. However, when it came for the Rockets to get the ball in the post to Yao, they had trouble. The big man would fight like hell for position and get it, but Miami was poised for the steal in all directions. Grant would push on Yao's side and almost front him, Rafer Alston pressured the passer and the 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom, with that long wingspan, lurked in the post to catch any post passes over the top.
So the Rockets had to knock down outside shots to take the pressure off Yao, and that did not happen.
Jim Jackson and Steve Francis combined to go 3-21 from the floor. Cuttino Mobley wasn't much better at 4-13 shooting. That really should sum it up. Jackson gets a mulligan here since he's been smoking hot lately and was due for a stinkbomb, but Francis just continues to struggle with his shot.
His shooting percentage continues to hit new career-lows, now at 39.5% (see Season Stats), and while the team has played well as of late, one has to wonder if his personal confidence is taking a big hit. He also had just 3 assists in the game.
Throw in the fact that the Rockets defense, on the second night of a back-to-back, wasn't too sharp and the Heat were flaming hot (51% shooting against the best defense in the league statistically), and it was a disaster. Miami hit 11-23 from long range and busted open a close game in the third, outscoring the Rocks 29-15 in the period.
They never really looked back from there.
Maurice Taylor led the Rockets with 16 points and also on the glass with 10. Eddie Jones led the Heat with 27 big points while Odom finished with 20 and 15 boards.