Rockets plan for toppling Lakers begins at the free-throw line
In this case, Yao, too, returned in a hurry from his knee injury, but, of course, he didn't beat the Lakers with threes. Instead, he finished Houston's 100-92 upset in Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals by going 6-for-6 from the foul line upon returning from the locker room with four minutes remaining. The Lakers had closed within 85-81 when Yao responded with eight of his postseason-best 28 points in the final 2:24.
Pending the health of his right leg following his knee-to-knee collision Monday with
"The whole key is getting into the bonus," Rockets forward
Battier was basing his claim on stats compiled by the unique front-office staff of general manager
"It's a big factor for us," Morey conceded of Yao's foul shooting. "Yao goes from being a very, very good player to a great player when we're in the bonus."
The issue of Yao's ability to exploit foul trouble is especially relevant in this series because of the vulnerability of L.A. center
The Lakers will need the 285-pound Bynum -- their biggest player by far -- not only in this series against the 7-foot-6 Yao but also in a potential NBA Finals against the top-heavy Cavaliers, who have 7-3
Bynum's troubles also affect All-Star
Another issue to watch throughout this series is the role of the Rockets' young point guards. As much as they helped Orlando by sending
"Part of the Lowry trade was that he's another guy that gets to the line," Morey said, referring to Lowry's ability to draw fouls and put Yao in position to exploit the bonus. "The Lowry trade really clarified how we want to play at both ends. We can push the ball with our point guards up the floor, and if we can't get anything in transition then we get it to Yao [in the half court]. If they're either denying Yao heavily or double-teaming him, we can get spot-up shots out of that. And then late in the shot clock we can run high pick-and-roll with our guards. It's going to be hard to stop."
It's even harder for the Lakers because backup point guard
For all of these issues, the Lakers still had their chances to win on a Monday night when Bryant needed 31 shots for his 32 points. It will be interesting to see how L.A. attempts to free him against the defense of Battier and