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Game 9 Open Thread: Houston Rockets @ SA

This is the most excited I've been for a Spurs game since opening night. HOU is one of the few teams that actually have a prayer of knocking off the Spurs in the playoffs. The game can be seen on TNT, which explains the 8:30 central starting time.

Starting lineups:

HOU (3-4, 2-2 away)
PG Rafer Alston
SG The Basketball Player Formerly Known as Derek Anderson
SF Tracy McGrady
PF Juwon Howard
C Yao Ming

SA (6-2, 3-0 home)
PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili
SF Bruce Bowen
PF Tim Duncan
C Rasho Nesterovic

You know what I don't understand? All this Yao Ming backlash. He's continuously labeled as soft, overrated and a bust. For example, here's what Sports Guy had to say about him in his NBA preview:

So fine, his regular-season stats should climb this season ... but does that mean he won't disappear in the playoffs again? Personally, I think he's too nice -- Yao seems like the kind of guy who would take a cheap-shot elbow, then apologize for hitting the guy's elbow with his teeth. Don't you need a little bit of a mean streak to be a franchise center? Remember, even Kareem had a nasty side at times, and he was an absolute ninny. At the very least, couldn't Yao grow a wispy fu manchu or something?

I certainly agree on the need for a fu manchu, but "disappearing in the playoffs?" 21.4 PPG on 66% shooting is "disappearing?" Plus 2.7 BPG. Yeah, his 7.6 RPG left a little to be desired and he often found himself in foul trouble (but still averaged over 31 MPG).

Compare those numbers to these: 21.5 PPG on 59% shooting. 2.8 BPG and 13.2 RPG. Definitely a better performance, but these numbers are at least comparable. The second set of numbers belong to Shaq in the 03-04 playoffs. His 04-05 numbers were considerably worse, theoretically due to injury (which was theoretically due to him being a fat ass).

Am I saying Yao is in Shaq's league. Absolutely not. But the guy takes WAY too much flak (he just turned 25 people!) and the "disappearing" comment was better suited to an exaggerative blogger or Boston radio personality desperate for attention.

Barry and Finley will once again not suit up tonight. The Spurs, looking to fill out the bench, signed Alex Scales today. He's a 27 year old 6'-2" SG who's more scorer than defender. The Spurs have looked at this guy previously.

Tonight's line: SA -7.5
Tonight's total: 178
My pick: HOU
Matty da Blade's picks: HOU | Under
The Spurs are 5-3 ATS this year with an average margin of +1.1. I am 1-7. Seriously. That's not a typo. Luckily I am not putting my money where my mouth is.

This is an open thread. If I get comments from 30 different people I will get take copious amounts of crystal meth and do a one man reenactment of the classic film Steel Magnolias.