Make It 22 Straight For Houston

By Ralph Cooper
Updated: March 16, 2008

HOUSTON — As many watched on national television Sunday afternoon, a record crowd of 18,409 packed the Toyota Center as the Houston Rockets showed the basketball gods they are No. 1 in the National Basketball Association as of Monday morning.

When the final bounce of the ball happened on this cloudy afternoon, the Rockets had won 104-92 over the Los Angeles Lakers. They accomplished two things: first, they extended their winning streak to 22 in a row and second, they took over sole possession of the first place spot in the Western Conference.

The 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers with Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and head coach Bill Sharman hold the best win streak record in the NBA with 33. Are the Rockets of 2008 better than the holders of the all-time NBA win streak record? I saw both teams and the 1970s Lakers were better.

But let’s talk 2008 NBA. The great thing about the current Rockets is they are now. They are giving an unknowing basketball following a chance to experience history.

Make no mistake about the effort the Rockets are making on the court. It is not an easy thing to win 22 games in a row! The NBA has existed since the 1940s and only one other team has a longer streak than the Rockets.

Before shutting down the Lakers to win No. 22 many of the so-called NBA experts said look at the Rocket victories during the win streak. They didn’t play the best teams.

I will not hold my attempt to hold my breath waiting for Charles Barkley or Kenny Smith, or Stephen A.Smith or Bill Rhoden to acknowledge what the Rockets are doing on the basketball court.

Sure the Lakers rolled into Houston on Sunday afternoon , March 16 without the services of all-star Paul Gasol and Andrew Bynum. But remember the Rockets were playing without rookie sensation Carl Landry and all-star center Yao Ming. Ming is out for the season after ankle surgery.

When his season ended the Rockets had won 12 in a row. Although the team is enjoying success now, Ming has been missed and will be missed more later.

On an afternoon when Tracy McGrady, the player many Rocket fans think is the NBA MVP, several Rockets stepped up on the court. McGrady was 4-of-16 from the field with eleven points ,three rebounds, and six assists.

Take it from a journalist who greeted the Rockets when they moved here in 1971 from San Diego, it was a team effort that led Coach Rick Adelman and his staff’s team to a mugging of the Lakers.

Shane Battier scored 14 points in 46 minutesand frustrated Kobe Bryant all afternoon. Dikembe Mutombo, rumored to have been a “greeter” in Zaire (now the Congo again) during the 1974 Muhammad Ali-George Foreman world heavyweight championship boxing match started and played 16 minutes with nine rebounds.

Just acquired and under a 10-day contract, Michael Harris had six rebounds along with veteran Chuck Hayes who grabbed six rebounds. Luther Head pumped in seven points.

But again I’ve watched the Rockets since 1971 and what the much criticized Rafer Alston and veteran Bobby Jackson did was a scene that will not be forgotten. I’ve witnessed some great nights by former Rockets and opponents.

Players like Elvin Hayes, Hakeem Olajuwon, Clyde Drexler, Pete Maravich, Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, and many more.

What Rafer Alston and Bobby Jackson achieved on Sunday, March 16 will long be remembered by all watching in person or on television. Pacman Jones is known for another type of “making it rain”, but when it came to raining three-pointers, the combo of Alston-Jackson or RA-BJ was blazing.

That goodness it was a cloudy day in Houston because if the temperture had been soaring with heat, the Toyota Center may have burned down. Alston had 31 points while recording eight three-pointers.

He played 40 minutes and added five assists. Jackson came off the bench has hot as a smoking oven. He ripped the nets for 19 points total with six rebounds. The pair was awesome. Jackson tore the nets with key three-pointers at critical-pressure points in the game.

Take nothing away from Kobe and his teammates. They played hard. Things didn’t roll their way this afternoon. Bryant was 0-4 from three-point range with 24 points in 47 minutes.

Lamar Odom had eleven rebounds and 17 points. Second year Ronny Turiaf fought for eight rebounds and 13 points before fouling out late in the contest.

I’m aware the season isn’t over. The playoffs haven’t started. But to the basketball experts who continue to turn their noses up on the Rockets and scream about the schedule, the last time I looked the Rockets were No.1 and rolling with 22.

Go back to your computers and figure it out. Also thank goodness, Jeff Van Gundy, the previous Rocket head coach was at courtside sharing his thoughts as part of the ABC-TV broadcasting crew.

He gets credit for the defensive effort of the current Rockets but you can take this to the “crib” this team never would’ve won 22 in a row with him at the helm. But Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Stephen A.Smith, Bill Rhoden, and that group would probably disagree but hey the impression is they don’t think this is credible NBA basketball in Houston.