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Rockets Fizzle in Opener
Defense, free throws kill Rockets in 107-97 season-opening clunker in Utah
By Clutch

Yao picked up two fouls in the first 1:24 of this game, and I thought 'here we go again' ... but Yao finished with 22 points, 9 boards and 2 blocks.
There are many who could fill this spot comfortably today, but it starts with the head honcho. McGrady didn't take it to the rack nearly enough yet he dominated the offensive attempts, going 8-24 from the floor and 8-13 from the free throw line.
Alas, the 2005-06 season apparently continues.

There were so many disturbing things about the Rockets season-opening 107-97 loss to the Jazz in Utah Wednesday night that the temptation for me is to chalk it up as a clunker and move on. After all, even if it is the opener of an expected-to-be breakout season, it is just one game and Bonzi Wells wasn't a part of it.

However, I'm having a hard time ignoring some of these problems as flukes.

  • The Defense
    Where was it? It's supposed to be the backbone of this team, yet the Jazz went pyro and torched the Rockets for 35 in the first quarter and 60 by halftime. Overall Utah shot 52.7%. Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in the preseason anymore.
  • The Free Throw Shooting
    The Rockets missed 13 shots from the charity stripe, but let's not condemn the whole team for what was primarily T-Mac and Kirk Snyder's problem. McGrady was just 8-13 from the line and missed badly on a few while Snyder was 4-8. If this game and the preseason is any indicator, T-Mac has regressed badly at the line.
  • "Hi there, I'm Yao Ming"
    Yao Ming was 8-12 from the floor for 22 points and 9 boards. In attempting to "guard" the Great Wall, Mehmet Okur, Jarron Collins and Paul Millsap looked like circus clowns trying to distract a bull. Yet, Rafer Alston (0-6 in the first half) put up more shots than Yao and McGrady made the same number of shots in twice as many attempts. I'll get back with you when this starts to make any shred of sense to me.
  • Power Forward Position
    Shane Battier is Jeff Van Gundy's starting power forward, but the Rockets paid dearly for that on the interior as Carlos Boozer went for 24 and 19 boards. Either Juwan Howard is injured or Van Gundy has lost faith in him as Battier picked up two fouls early in the first quarter and JVG didn't pull him. Sure enough he picked up his third later in the period. Howard never played. Hmm, I wonder if the Grizz will part with Stromile Swift.
  • Van Gundy doesn't trust rookies
    The Rockets looked loaded and deep in the preseason, yet Wednesday night Scott Padgett played nearly twice as many minutes (21) as any other Rocket off the bench. Padgett? I didn't think he was going to even make the team a week ago. Preseason sensation Steve Novak was given just 9 minutes and despite the fact that Rafer Alston played as poorly of a first half of basketball as about humanly possible, Van Gundy didn't turn to Vassilis Spanoulis once. I understand Spanoulis right now is a human turnover vending machine, but when Deron Williams (18 points, 10 assists) and Derek Fisher (13 points, 5-7 shooting) are lighting up Skip like a chain-smoking Christmas tree, it couldn't hurt to see what Spanoulis could do. If Bill Parcells can turn to Tony Romo, there is hope yet for Van Gundy's disdain for NBA inexperience.
The Rockets have a brutal schedule to start the season, so you can't hit the panic button after every loss -- there will certainly be more in November. But this was a team that the new-look Rockets should have beaten and beaten badly.

I'll be at the game Saturday against Dallas - let's hope the team can make a statement then.

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