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Fans Get Red, Rockets Play Dead
Houston offense grinds to a halt as Artest, Rockets squeak out opening win
By Clutch

Tracy McGrady played in the opener, scoring 16 points on just 7-18 shooting
As bad as the Rockets offense was, their defense did a good job containing the Grizzlies -- in particular their long-range shooters. Memphis took 13 shots from beyond the arc and missed every one of them.
36.8% shooting, 10 assists total, T-Mac taking bad shots... this was not a game that Rick Adelman will show video of at any of his coaching clinics.
Ron Artest was picking pockets, Tracy McGrady was hitting threes and Yao Ming was throwing down jams -- and that was just the first 3 minutes.

Indeed, the Rockets soared right out of the gate Wednesday night, opening the 2008-09 season with a bang in taking an early 11-2 edge.

Then ... nothing.

The Rockets offense just caved in on itself -- so badly in fact I actually scanned the bench to look for Jeff Van Gundy. Houston shot under 37% from the floor and the ball movement was so bad that the team had 10 assists total.

Sure, they won 82-71 -- narrowly escaping the Grizzlies at home in a game that was decided in the final minute -- but the Rockets looked lost and off-target against a vastly inferior opponent.

Yao led the Rockets with 21 points and 10 boards and didn't look like he was ready to take a backseat in minutes -- playing 38. T-Mac and Artest popped in 16 each to go with 3 steals a piece as well. Luis Scola added 12 points and 13 boards.

After that, slim pickings.

I loved what Carl Landry did in the preseason, but he was overmatched in this one. The length of the Grizzlies seemed to give Carl problems. The guy we thought back in June (for about 10 minutes) was going to be Landry's replacement, rookie Darrell Arthur, finished with 11 points and 15 boards.

Rafer Alston did hit the game-icing triple with 37 seconds left, giving Houston a 78-71 lead, but his shooting night was just dreary. 2-8 from the field, 1-6 from long range and just 2 assists in heavy minutes. To be honest, all of Rafer's box score lines are kind of blurring together for me, really.

Brent Barry struggled in the preseason and didn't do much to buck that trend, missing both of the shots (threes) that he took.

One game (a win at that), so it's no reason to panic. However, there's really no reason for the offense to look this bad. This is Year 2 of Adelman and Ron Artest knows the system well. The Rockets are going to have to look a lot sharper than that to beat the Mavericks Thursday night in Dallas.

Gene Peterson
Let me add a few notes from having a ticket to this one: I got to say -- whoever does the Rockets player introduction videos is kicking serious tail. They do a great job pumping up the fans. Starting with the 2006-07 playoffs, the Rockets have cranked it up a notch in this department.

I'm going to guess that retired Rockets radio broadcaster Gene Peterson, who was in attendance for the game, didn't get the "GET RED" memo. He and partner Jim Foley were sitting courtside and it looked like Geno skipped the wardrobe check altogether -- he was sporting Memphis Grizzlies blue.

Here's something pretty bizarre: With 2:28 to go and the Rockets up just 3 points, Memphis called a timeout. I noticed many fans got up and headed for the exit. What in the name of Rafer's jambalaya is up with that? I can understand when the outcome is virtually locked, but this isn't preseason and the game was nowhere near decided. Just seemed out of place.

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