Happy Birthday | Yao Ming’s last card in the playoffs before his injury

May 4, 2009. The Rockets travel to Staples Center as an underdog. The Texans know that it will be very difficult for them to win a round of the conference semifinals, a stage of competition they have not known since 1997, in Los Angeles. Phil Jackson’s men, who beat them four times in the regular season, have also dropped only 5 games at home (in 44 outings) since the start of the campaign.

Tracy McGrady still stuck in the infirmary for weeks, Rick Adelman gave full powers to his pivot, just as fragile, Yao Ming. This one, to respond to the Kobe Bryant – Pau Gasol duo opposite, teams up with the future Laker, Metta Sandiford-Artest, Aaron Brooks, Shane Battier or Luis Scola.

The visitors started this Game 1 well but in the fourth quarter, when the team was leading by eight points, it was a cold shower: Yao Ming, grimacing, on the ground, after a knee-to-knee shock against Kobe Bryant. Back to the locker room. Already gone the Texan dream of shaking the leaders of the West (65 victories, 12 more than them)?

Not yet because the pivot finally returns to the floor a few moments later. ” I don’t know what our trainer did to Yao. It was like Rocky coming back into the ring. We really needed him on the pitch », described after meeting Rick Adelman. “ I was so proud of him. He showed so much courage “, completes the one who still calls himself Ron Artest.

“My knee is fine, thank you”

The Chinese giant came back into play to finish the job. He succeeds, with eight additional points, despite falling again on a rebound. He does not tremble once on the line (10/10) and Houston ends up snatching this first round thanks to his 28 points (9/17 on shots) and 10 rebounds. ” My knee is fine, thanks for asking. No need to worry about it. I just need to put some ice on it “, Then reassures the pivot, welcoming the defensive work of Ron Artest and Shane Battier on Kobe Bryant (32 points but 14/31 on shots).

We were hungry to win this first game, as we did in the previous series (4-2 against the Blazers). We know we have to respect them. They will come back strong in the second game “, already predicts Yao Ming, aiming right. Los Angeles will react in the next match and recover the advantage of the field from the third meeting, in Houston.

A terrible Game 3 for the Rockets since their star player is again hit in the left foot. The Chinese may assure that he will be present for Game 4, the doctors are formal : fracture of the left foot and an estimated absence of at least two months.

But Houston does not disassemble. Aaron Brooks plays his career best basketball to force a Game 7, ultimately won by the favorites, en route to a new title. Without knowing it, Yao Ming, who is going to experience a white season in 2009/10 due to his foot operation, had just played his last matches in the playoffs.

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