Houston’s Response…What Problem?

Mar 13, 2008

Image courtesy of Icon SMI

If you are anything like me you more or less wrote Houston off when Yao Ming went down simply because the Western Conference is so strong.  They were in the midst of a 12 game winning streak when the sun set on the big man’s season.  However, nobody told the Rockets that the sun was supposed to set on their season too.  Either that or they just refused to listen.  All they’ve done in the 8 games since losing their franchise center was rip off 8 more victories.  They haven’t merely squeaked by teams either.  Last night’s game was the only one without Yao that they didn’t win by 10 or more points.  Instead they won by 8.  In fact, they have won their last 12 games by 8 or more.  They face Charlotte on Friday looking to break the tie with the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks for sole possession of the second longest streak behind the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers.  Want to know who was on those other two teams?  The Bucks had Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson.  The Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West.  So who is running the show for Houston?  Tracy McGrady and a bunch of role players.  McGrady has led the Lakers in scoring the past seven games and ten of the last 11 during this streak.  They are getting production from guys like Shane Battier, Rafer Alston, Luis Scola, Carl Landry, Bobby Jackson, Chuck Hayes, Luther Head, and Dikembe Mutumbo.  Not exactly your murders’ row of hoopsters.  However, they have done what is needed to just keep winning. 

So who’s the biggest loser in this streak?  It has to be the Denver Nuggets, who remain the 9th seed despite a 38-26 record (.594).  Despite winning nearly 60% of their games they are still 2.5 games out of the 8th seed behind Golden State.  Denver would have the 4th best record if they were in the East.  Talk about a kick in the seeds. 

Houston is only a game behind the Lakers for the best record in the West.  They are going to need a cushion because the road they have coming up could get bumpy.  After Charlotte they face the Lakers, Boston, New Orleans, Golden State, and Phoenix.  There’s your murders’ row.  Golden State’s 0.635 winning percentage is the lowest of the group. 

To get back to McGrady for a second, not only is his team challenging Kobe’s for the top seed in the West, but he has entered the MVP race as well.  There are four legitimate MVP choices.  Kobe, LeBron, Chris Paul, and now T-Mac.  I tend to look at the season as a whole, rather than what someone did over a quarter of the season, so T-Mac is still fourth in my opinion in MVP voting.  However, he wasn’t even in the discussion before the streak.

Losing Yao may still bite Houston in their nether regions come playoff time, but at the present time you can put the “Houston, we have a problem” talk to bed. 

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4 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Luis
    March 13th, 2008 at 11:11 am #

    it is quite an impressive streak, but it really has come mostly against the bottom feeders of the league. the coming weeks have tough challenges ahead… lets see how they net out then, i’m guessing they start to fall back down to earth… i wouldnt be surprised to see them go 0-3 against the hornets, lakers and celtics.

    the playoffs (which are predicated on half-court sets) will also prove a tougher challenge.

  2. Ryan Lester
    March 13th, 2008 at 11:23 am #

    Luis – Golden State, Cleveland, Portland, Cleveland, New Orleans, Denver, Dallas, New Orleans.

    Those are some good teams they beat. You’re right thought his upcoming stretch will tell teh tale.

    Agree about the playoffs being a challenge without Yao. However, when he went down many figured they wouldn’t even make the playoffs. Incidentally, that may be when Shaq starts paying dividends for Phoenix.

  3. NBA Roto
    March 15th, 2008 at 2:51 pm #

    Hey Ryan

    Always enjoy your blog. Now that baseball season is upon us, I’m going to have to ramp up.

    As for the Rockets, I just can’t see them doing any better than 2-3 next week. I think probably they’ll go 1-4. I just don’t know how they can possibly overcome this stretch without Yao.

    If they do it, more power to them. I just think reality is about to him them — and hard.

  4. Ryan Lester
    March 16th, 2008 at 7:16 am #

    Totally agree Roto man.

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