It's a crying shame that Jeff Van Gundy didn't have a Ralph Sampson to turn to on his bench.
The Rockets trailed by just one point with 16 seconds to go, and got off a shot you have to be happy with, but when Jim Jackson's three-ball ended up just a hair short as time was expiring, Game 1 had gone to the Lakers.
This was painful. The Rockets -- thanks to their defense -- set themselves up to steal one, seize a 1-0 lead in the series, but the golden opportunity slipped right through their fingers.
You can just about bank on Karl Malone not playing this poorly in any other game in the series. Cuttino Mobley certainly played his heart out defensively against Kobe Bryant in a performance that should have made every Rocket fan proud, but it's not likely that Kobe is going to go 4-19 from the floor again in the series.
When Kobe missed badly a fading three-ball, defended perfectly by the Rockets, you thought Houston just might do it, they just might shock the world here in Game 1 and take down the mighty Lakers.
Alas, more deception leading to heartbreak.
Shaquille O'Neal beat Yao Ming badly, got in perfect position to snare Kobe's airball, went back up, slammed it over Yao and picked up Yao's 6th foul.
For those not emotionally attached to the outcome, the game being finished off was a mercy killing as it was some kind of ugly ... like crackhead ugly. Sure it was intense, but an eyesore just the same. The Lakers shot 32.9% from the floor... and won. That should pretty much sum it up.
First off, Yao vs. Shaq. Big advantage L.A. in Game 1. Yao is looking more and more overpowered by Shaq and isn't providing as much on the offensive end. 4-11 shooting for Yao for 10 points and 11 boards while Shaq went for 20 and 17.
One thing is for sure, Van Gundy will need to adjust on this matchup. Often Yao is left to guard Shaq alone and the Diesel took advantage at times. Playing Kelvin Cato more on Shaq could have a positive effect on Yao's game on both ends.
Secondly, turnovers. Sure, same old story, but horrendous just the same. I had to laugh when ESPN analyst Bill Laimbeer said that Rockets fans have to be asking themselves at halftime what is going on with Steve Francis and the high turnover rate in the first half.
Bill, you do realize that asking ourselves that question is so "2001", right? The 2004 question is who can we trade the turnovers to?
Mobley and Francis combined for 14 cough-ups together. These are the guards.
There was a lot to be proud of. The defensive effort was there all night. Francis played like garbage until the middle of the third quarter, but picked it up after that and I thought his penetration and kickout to Jackson in the final seconds was a very solid play. Maurice Taylor made some big shots in the game.
In essence, they made a team with 4 Hall of Famers take notice.
However, in the end, the problems that have plagued the Rockets all season hurt them as well in their first playoff game in 5 years.