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11/4/2006 - Houston Chronicle
Rockets take one step back in defeat
Allergic to Hornets
Rockets can't sustain momentum from home opener, fall in New Orleans 96-90
By Clutch

It was almost like a light went off in Battier's head that this team is going to need him to put up shots. After shooting just 6 times in each of the first 2 games, Battier put up 13 shots -- 11 of them from three-point range -- for 18 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals.
It's getting pretty bad over here. It's still early and way too premature to think he's lost it, but the "I'm hesitating" excuse doesn't work when you can't even hit your free throws. Right now, McGrady just can't shoot well from anywhere ... guarded or not.
Bill Worrell calls it Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and I would have to agree.

After doiminating the Mavericks on Saturday, the Rockets were not near as sharp Sunday and could not contain Chris Paul (12 points, career-high 16 assists) in a 96-90 Hornets victory in New Orleans.

The very large problem for the Rockets right now is Tracy McGrady. T-Mac looks unable or unwilling to take the ball hard to the rack and his jumpshot is ridiculously off. On Sunday he missed 10 of his 15 shots, including all three triple attempts. He also turned it over 5 times, with a couple of the cough-ups being of the amazingly boneheaded variety.

"I'm not feeling like myself," said McGrady after the game. "I'm not just reacting and pulling the trigger right away. I don't know when I'm going to come around, but it's really frustrating."

This puts McGrady's numbers through 3 games at less than 16 points a night on 34% shooting, 12.5% from long range and 57.1% from the free throw line.

Bottom line right now: T-Mac can't shoot, and unlike what we saw against Dallas, the Rockets couldn't get the same kind of impressive performances from Rafer Alston and Yao Ming to cover for T-Mac.

Rafer had more turnovers (4) than assists (3), going just 2-7 from three-point land. On the other hand, Yao (17 points, 10 boards in 28 minutes) continues to get in early foul trouble, and tonight it cost the Rockets. As a result of two first quarter fouls and later a third, Yao played just 5 minutes in the entire first half.

Major props though to Shane Battier, who was pretty damn solid. 11 of Battier's 13 shots were from three-point range (hitting 5) as he was not shy about spotting up baseline and taking feeds for the trey. He finished with 18 points, 7 boards, 5 assists and 3 steals without a turnover in heavy (44) minutes.

The Rockets came out in this one pretty flat. Rafer was 0-4 in the first 3 minutes of the game, including 3 misses from three-point land, and once again T-Mac (1-7 in the first half) could get absolutely nothing going.

Throw in Yao's early foul trouble (just 5 minutes total in the first half due to 3 fouls), and the Rockets were in trouble, down 11 after the first period.

But Van Gundy mixed things up -- in the second quarter he brought out Kirk Snyder, Luther Head, Bonzi Wells, Juwan Howard and Battier. That lineup got the Rockets right back in the game.

By the middle of the third quarter, the Rockets actually had led by 7, but a three-point play by Desmond Mason (which should have been travelling) followed by another Peja Stojakovic triple (he was 5-8 for the night) were enough for the Hornets to seize control of the game.

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