Saturday, March 15, 2008

21 wins in a row...and I was there!

Yesterday evening I finally got to attend my first Houston Rockets game at Toyota Center. In the process, I got to witness a little bit of basketball history being made. The Rockets defeated the Charlotte Bobcats, 89-80, to win their 21st game in a row. With that win, the Rockets now own the second-longest winning streak in NBA history.

Lori's friend's husband had won four free tickets to last night's game, and they graciously invited Lori and me to attend. I had been inside the Toyota Center for other events, but this was the first time I had attended a Rockets game there. Our seats were upper-level nosebleeds behind the basket - the vertical depth of the arena is a lot larger than what one would anticipate by looking at the building from the outside - so we certainly didn't have the best view in the house, but we could still follow the action easily enough.

A continual lament of local sports fans is the fact that wealthy corporations have apparently brought up all the prime seats in the arena but do not use them. I got to see for myself that this is indeed true. While the entire upper level and the lower-level seating behind the baskets was packed, a lot of the lower-level sideline seats - the best seats in the house - sat empty the entire game. I know that the owners of these seats are free to use, or not use, them as they wish, but given the importance of last night's game it did seem like a waste.

The game itself wasn't exactly pretty. The Rockets were having trouble finding the basket in the first half, and that along with some uninspired defense allowed the Bobcats to creep out to what at one point was a 18-29 lead. The crowd fell silent through much of the first half and I couldn't help but think that it would just be my luck that my very first Rockets game to attend in person would end in a streak-breaking loss. However, the team began to get things together in the second half, making better shots, playing better defense and regaining the lead by going on a 26-11 run to start the third quarter. The Bobcats cut Houston's lead to 2 at the end of the third quarter, but the Rockets started the fourth quarter with a 19-9 run and, from there, coasted to victory in front of a delirious crowd. Tracy McGrady ended the game with 30 points, and Dikembe Mutombo had four blocked shots, two of which took the life out of the Bobcats towards the end of the game.

Will the Rockets be able to continue their winning ways and make it 22 in a row? Tomorrow's showdown with the Los Angeles Lakers - the team with which the Rockets are currently tied for first place in the Western Conference and, incidentally, the team with the NBA's longest winning streak at 33 games - is going to be very tough, and the schedule doesn't get any easier after that. And even if the Rockets can somehow keep this streak going, it will mean absolutely nothing if they once again fail to make it past the first round of the playoffs. The team has been playing well without the loss of Yao Ming so far, but sooner or later his presence is going to be missed.

Nevertheless, yesterday's outing was a lot of fun. Getting to finally see the Rockets play in person - for free, no less! - was great in and of itself. Being able to witness them make a little bit of history in the process made it all that much better.

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