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Rockets Outlast Bobcats, 91-86

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Hey, man. What you gonna do when Yao so thoroughly dominates that he's making a clutch three and missing only two shots from the field, both of which nearly dropped and just barely rimmed out? You grit your teeth and accept the 91-86 loss so you can move on.

Not only did Yao have his way on the offensive end, but he frustrated Emeka again and again on the defensive end (insert your own epithet about referees perpetuating the star system) such that Okafor ended the night shooting 3-11 from the field, with only 8 points and 8 rebounds in 29 minutes.

Meanwhile, Boris Diaw was sitting out 20 straight minutes in the first half with two fouls. The silliness of keeping Boris out for, essentially, the entire first half was summed up nicely by Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don't Lie a week and a half ago:

This is what passes for conventional wisdom in the NBA, and I have news for you ... it's not all that wise.

You see it all the time, mainly with Larry Brown disciples (Mike Brown, by extension, is one), and it never seems to make any basketball sense.

Coaches lift players because of the threat of them getting in foul trouble. The point of avoiding foul trouble is to avoid having to remove your players from the game, so to avoid foul trouble these coaches (say it with me) remove their players from the game.

[Snip -- stuff about Delonte West]

Larry Brown is the absolute worst at this. No matter the player, no matter the context, no matter the reason, he will pull a player in the first half who has two fouls, and refuse to play him for the rest of the half. This makes no sense, at all. Even if the player does pick up that dreaded third foul, this means ... what? That he's due for six fouls over the course of a game?

That, even if he continues at this rate, you could still lift him with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter after he picks up his fifth, only to plop him back in with two minutes to go for crunch time?

I made a casual comparison to video games in the game thread, but this is the kind of thing that demands closer examination. Boris played every minute of the second half. Even when the Cats needed a foul in the final seconds and he had 5. When Scola wasn't shoving him out of his legally obtained space, Boris played very well. The thing is, if we'd gotten ten more minutes out of him spread over the first half and second half, the substitution pattern changes dramatically and everyone else plays as they've normally played.

It's something gamers are detached enough to have figured out for themselves. When a starter has two fouls in the first quarter, maybe you take him out until the second quarter, but you play him as usual until he gets that third foul, at which point you remove him and wait until the second half to bring him back in. It's not rocket science, but I think the instinct that says this is the right thing to do comes from Brown's college experience and the phenomenon of coaches making decisions that absolve them from blame even if it's not the best move to win. In college, with 5 fouls available over 40 minutes, that second foul might be cause enough to remove a player until late in the first half, or even the second half. And in a video game, your emotions usually aren't as involved as live coaches are, so you're less likely to be risk-averse, and you'll make decisions that are always conducive to winning, your ego be damned. We see this in football all the time, when coaches punt in the third quarter even though they're down 35. Removing Boris didn't lose us the game, but it didn't do anything to increase our chances of winning.

Raymond and Raja both struggled shooting, going 6-19 and 6-18 from the field, respectively. That's a ton of misses. VladRad's 4-8 shooting and Boris's 4-6 were admirable, and Gerald's 7-10 in 40 minutes led the way, but when the guards are shooting so much and missing so much, and the starting power forward is on the bench for very long stretches with "foul trouble", the Bobcats are going to lose to good teams.

Yao's second career three pointer. A terrible off night shooting from Raja exacerbated by being hounded by Shane Battier (he started 2-12). We're not good enough to emerge from such a battle.

The Knicks won, but everyone else in the crowded race for the East's eighth playoff spot lost.40 wins is just a 12-5 run away.