A Yao-less Game 4, plus some Mommy's Day Tunes!
Under the best of circumstances, the Houston Rockets would be treating this afternoon's Game 4 as part of an uphill battle, the Lakers having clearly established themselves during Games 2 and 3 as the superior team predicted by most to roll through the series. That's not to take anything away from Houston's fight and determination, but honestly speaking, L.A. is the more talented team, and the Rockets are a team dependent on forging a sum greater than their parts. And now, they're forced to battle without their biggest part, whether measured literally or by importance. That would be 7'6" center Yao Ming, on the shelf with a broken foot.
So how do the Rockets go about turning this lemon into the most scrumdilicious of lemonades? Well, according to even those living and dying Rox... they don't. The good folks over at the Dream Shake may still bleed red and white, but loyalty doesn't require ones head to get buried in the sand. Thus, no attempt to sugarcoat truth:
I'm sorry, I want to stay optimistic. In fact, I'll be there with Dave tomorrow cheering my heart out. The Rockets could even pull one out. But it is very likely that this series is over in 5 or 6. For those of you thinking I'm not a real fan because I'm not blindly following my team, I just kindly disagree. I love the Houston Rockets, heck, I paid 90 bucks to sit in the upper deck for Game 4. I just see what I see. And the differences in this series were Kobe for the Lakers and Yao for the Rockets. Yao won that battle in game 1, Kobe won it in games 2 and 3. Without Yao, the Rockets cannot conceivably beat the Lakers in a series. A game? Sure. A playoff game? It remains to be seen. I'll still be there, Rockets red pumping through my veins.
Prediction: My hearts already broken for Yao.
That achy breaky heart, by the way, doesn't extend to Rockets Coach Rick Adelman and his quest to successfully coach a shorthanded squad. In fact, David Clark would argue it's Adelman's fault Yao's down for the count in the first place:
Sleepy strikes again. Between the refusal to adjust his rotation, to the refusal to play
the "hot hand," to the undying loyalty to his starters (even when that
included Tracy McGrady), Adelman has steadfastly refused to pay
attention to the events unfolding before his eyes. It was funny when
the Rockets were winning in spite of him, but now it's indirectly
caused a major injury to the franchise center. This is unacceptable.
Beyond whatever blame games are played, there's also a bigger issue... wait for it.... afoot. Is Yao destined for a career spent nursing injuries?
For those actually curious about an X's and O's take on the Ming-Free day, David Thorpe of ESPN/Scout's Inc. has your back:
When Yao played, he laid back on ball screens in their "contain"
strategy, and it really hurt Houston. By staying back and having Shane Battier
trail Kobe coming off the screen (he can't go under and give up the
three) it immediately put Los Angeles in a 5-on-4 situation, with the
ball in an attacking Bryant's hands. It's hard to conjure up a more
dangerous set than Kobe leading a 5-on-4 action.
With Yao now out for good (after already losing backup Dikembe Mutombo), Luis Scola or Carl Landry will guard Pau Gasol and maybe they will hedge or blitz these ball screens. Los Angeles consistently uses the ball screen action, so Houston will have to deal with it one way or another. Yao showed strong one time, and it surprised Kobe into taking a bad jumper. If the big does it again in Game 4, Kobe will likely attack him, as he often does in the 5-on-4.
So there's a little pregame analysis. But we'd be remiss in our duties as sons of a wonderful mother if we didn't take time out to acknowledge all the moms out there. Happy Mother's Day to all, and we leave you with a few topical-ish tunes before the game...
- I'll always love my mama, by the Intruders.
- Dear Mama, by Tupac Shakur
- Mama, by Genesis (a little dark, but a good song nonetheless)
- Mama told me not to come, by Three Dog Night
- Mama said knock you out, by LL Cool J
- Mother, by The Police
- Your Mother Should know, by the Beatles
- Mothership Connection, by Parliament (A stretch, to be sure, but suuuuuucch a great song)
And finally, the theme from Mama's Family. Man, I hated that show.