Oh so close! This game was right there for the taking, but the Rockets are the ones who came away with it. I'm not sure whether to credit the Rockets for playing well, or the five Suns not named Steve Nash, Amare Stoudemire, and Shawn Marion for leaving their shooting accuracy in the lockerroom (OK, Brian Skinner gets a pass too for making his one attempt).
This was kind of a strange game. The Suns never got their running game going, which means they weren't able to run Yao Ming off the floor. As a result, Yao shot 12-of-19 for 31 points, grabbed 13 rebounds, and was able to get back on defense in time to help clog up the middle. The Rockets shot 52% to the Suns' 41%, and out-rebounded the Suns by 13. And yet, the Suns were right there at the end and had a chance to take the lead before a missed three by Leandro Barbosa turned into a made two by the Rockets, effectively finishing things off. Missed shots by LB were kind of a recurring theme, as he went 2-of-11, and missed all three of his three-point attempts. But he wasn't the only one. While the Suns' "big three" combined for a very respectable 25-of-51, the rest of the Suns shot 9-31. So was it just good defense by the Rockets? I'm not sure. It really looked to me like the Suns just weren't playing with energy tonight. For the most part, they seemed content to play the game at a pace Yao could handle. It will be interesting to hear what the players have to say in the postgame quotes.
One thing of note, though. I vaguely recall both Leandro Barbosa and Grant Hill taking some hits in the first half. It looked like LB landed funny after taking a shot, and after Grant got knocked to the floor on one play, the announcers mentioned he was holding his back. Perhaps this played a role in their combined 21% shooting tonight. But it could also be due to the Rockets defense, which packed it in and forced a lot of passing around the perimeter instead of the usual drive and kick. Either way, the ugly shooting from most of the non-"big three" was pretty much the straw that put it out of reach.
Player of the Game: Yao Ming. Easily the best I've seen him play against the Suns.
Runner-Up: Steve Nash. He came darn close to pulling off one of his MVP-type takeovers there at the end.
Grading the Game: I'm going to leave this one to the readers tonight. I just can't decide.
Your turn to grade the game
This poll is closed
A - Awesome!
B - Better than average
C - Could be better
D - D'oh!
F - Flush it.