First Chuck Hayes, now Kirk Snyder. Let's hope it's not another one of those years.
The Rockets did something they hadn't done in a while, taking over late in the fourth, as they bumped off the Knickerbockers 97-90 at Madison Square Garden Monday night.
That was the good news, with the bad coming before the final horn: Snyder broke his right hand in the second quarter and should be out of action for the next 10-12 weeks.
You knew it was a bad break (literally and figuratively) when Snyder shot his free throws and had a hard time getting the ball in to the painted circle, much less within 5 feet of the rim ... and that's on both of his shots.
Vassilis Spanoulis saw action in Snyder's place. This alone is a breakthrough for Rocket coach Jeff Van Gundy, who apparently forgot momentarily that V-Span is a rookie. I'm sure he will be reminded of that fact between now and the Wizards game.
Still, I love the defensive energy and hustle that Spanoulis brought in 12 minutes, with his big play coming with 5:46 left and the Rockets up 5. Stephon Marbury tried to blow past Spanoulis, but he caught up to him and took a charge. We'll see if he can keep his turnovers in check.
Yao Ming certainly didn't have the shooting touch that he showed the last time he faced the Knicks, but he still led all scorers with 26 points to go with 9 boards and 3 blocks. Unfortunately, the play you will see replayed over and over is 5-foot-9 Nate Robinson's block on a Yao dunk attempt, which looked a little like an Oompa Loompa revolting against Mr. Wonka.
Tracy McGrady added 24 points and hit 3-8 from long range, which these days is pretty damn good for T-Mac. Rafer Alston added 17 points.
Speaking of Rafer, I don't know what Rockets announcer Bill Worrell was on tonight. After Rafer finally made a three-pointer, Worrell said Alston had 2 so far ... and in the final minute when Rafer hit his second in seven attempts, Worrell said Rafer was on fire with his fourth triple.
The Rockets held the Knicks to just 37.2% shooting. Eddy Curry and Quentin Richardson combined to go 5-20 from the floor.