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Rockets suffer first loss of the season, lose to the defending champs

I hate moral victories.  I hate them with a passion.  They leave you with a certain loser feeling.  Mostly that's because you have to lose to have them.  But, I can't shake the feeling that losing this game was actually encouraging. 

Yao Ming - 4-14 for 8 points and only 1 offensive rebound on a night where the Rockets missed 53 shots

Ron Artest - 3-16 for 15 points and since he was 3-10 outside the arc he somehow missed every shot inside it

The Rockets 34-87 for 39.1% vs.  The Celtics 40-77 for 51.9%

In no way should we have only lost by 4 with those stats occurring.  Think of it this way.  If Yao didn't miss a dunk and Tracy hit that free throw at the end, we would have been shooting for the win in the last few seconds.  I know, the Celtics could have done things differently as well, but this is my blog and we play my game!!  Plus, the Celtics shot 52 percent, had more rebounds and more assists, they were doing a lot more right than wrong. 

Tracy McGrady played fantastically.  I don't want to say he was the Tracy of old, because that's just not who he is anymore.  He hit more jumpers than layups, but the drives to the basket he had were very good.  He gets a bad rep for not winning the big games and the playoffs, but let's be honest, his stats are phenomenal in those games.  He effectively played Ray Allen to a stand still on a night when Allen was back to being who he was 3 years ago.  I always liked Jesus Shuttlesworth, just not when he plays like that against my team.

Enough cannot be said about how poorly Yao and Crazy Pills played last night.  Yao had absolutely no explosiveness, and I'm talking about not having the ability to jump, well, let's do the math.  He's 7'6 with a 9'8 inch reach.  When he missed that dunk he had to jump back a little, so we'll call that an extra 5 inches of jump needed.  A basketball is about 10 inches in diameter.  So he has to get his hands above the rim about 8 inches to dunk it.  Subtract 8 inches from 9'8 and you get 9' now subtract the extra 5 inches and you get 8'7, so Yao has to jump 17 inches to dunk the ball.  I have a vertical of around 2 feet and I'm only 6'3 and grossly out of shape right now.  That's not good.  His vertical has been said to be around 26 inches, and this injury, along with rushing his recovery and him still not being in game shape is really robbing him of the little vertical he had. 

Ron Artest was another story; his athleticism and health are just fine right now.  His shot selection left a lot to be desired.  He's been hitting that reset three, but he should have realized it wasn't falling last night.  I do understand that no other team besides San Antonio has put that kind of defensive intensity on the floor, but still.  Let's take a deep breath and use your strength to bull your way to the hoop.  He did get to the line 9 times, had 7 rebounds an assist and a steal, so it wasn't as awful as it seems, but it was still a very poor performance.

After all that, the Rockets lost by 4.  Tom Thibodeaux knows how to play Yao most effectively, and while I do not believe that fronting him will do you much in the long run, doing it right now with him still not in game shape can shut him down for a night here and there.

Can you really get encouragement when 2 of your 3 best players play this poorly?  I'm saying yes, but I had to talk myself into it.

Shane Battier, can you hurry back please?  kthxbai