Yao Out, still the hottest team in the NBA

I was traveling yesterday, didn’t get the news until I turned on the Rockets vs. Wizards during the 3rd quarter when I got home.

Statistics usually don’t lie (people make them lie, but that is another story). If you look at the statistical leaders in the Rocket’s games before the All-Star game (when the stress fracture apparently happened, or got worse), Yao led the team in points and rebounds (Cleveland, Atlanta, Portland, Sacramento). In the four games after, he led in rebounds twice and did not lead in points.

McGrady led in points in three of those four games after the break (i.e., there is always hope however slim it may be).

The Rockets should win out and be undefeated in February (Memphis is the remaining game). As I said in my earlier post, March will be the Rocket’s hardest month on the schedule, and it obviously just got harder. We all love Dikembe (unless you’ve been creamed by his elbow) and there is a chance that he can give some support for the 25 games left in the regular season plus the playoffs.

And the Rockets will make the playoffs; they are still playing good ball. They just don’t have as good of a chance to go all the way as they did before Yao went out.

The first test of the Yao-less team will be the first four games in March, when they take on Denver, Dallas (on the road) and NO (with Indiana thrown in). Then after three games against some of the least of the East, they hit another tough spot: LA, Boston, NO (road), Golden State (road), Phoenix (road).

We should have a good idea where they stand after that stretch, even with the West as tight a race as it is.

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