Following Sloppy Road Loss, Rockets' Need For T-Mac Evident

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IApril 30, 2009

HOUSTON - APRIL 24:  Guard Tracy McGrady #1 of the Houston Rockets during play against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game Three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center on April 24, 2009 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Houston Rockets are fine without Tracy McGrady, right?

After all, the Rockets have made a run to the playoffs, even a run at the No. 2 seed in the West, without the man they traded for way back in 2004.

Up 3-1 on the Portland Trailblazers, the Rockets had a chance to finally close a series in the first round of the playoffs, especially since it wasn't Carlos Boozer and the Jazz the Rockets were facing.

Alas, Houston blew Game Five in Portland, 88-77, giving up a 15-0 run by the Trailblazers in the fourth quarter.

Yao Ming was shut of the game for most of the first half and for stretches in the second.  The "Great Wall" finished with 15 points, but it wasn't nearly enough.  

Shane Battier finished with a measly four points after a 16 point explosion in Game Four.

Ron Artest had another rough shooting night with only 10 points.

Okay, Rockets fans, it may be time to admit it, as painful as it may be.  Houston NEEDS Tracy McGrady on the court at playoff time.  It hit me last night. 

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Sure, Luis Scola is a fine player who is quite capable on offense and can carry the Rockets for long stretches when Yao decides he doesn't want to play down on the post, but where is the consistent scoring going to come from in the event that the Rockets do advance?

Scoring by committee has been the Rockets' approach to this series, and it has worked for the most part, but does head coach Rick Adelman really want to rely on Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry, and Von Wafer when Yao, Scola, and Artest aren't scoring?

Lowry, Landry, and Wafer have all been extremely effective against Portland, but what the Rockets need back is the offensive presence McGrady offers.  He averages 28 points and seven rebounds per game for the Rockets during playoff time.  Any way you look at it, that's pretty solid.

If anything, the Rockets need the fear McGrady instills rather than him actually scoring in bunches.  If teams were forced to take T-Mac in to account, guys like Yao and Scola could have much better looks at the basket.

Prior to this season, the Rockets dropped three straight series to Utah in the first round.  Sure, there were games when McGrady played poorly, but for many of them, it was T-Mac bailing Yao and others out of slumps on both ends of the court.  Of course, McGrady will take the blame for the Rockets' failures in the first-round losses, but it was the others around him who failed to step up.

McGrady is a ball hog, a questionable shot taker, and tends to hit shooting dry spells.  However, he is the missing link of a Rockets team that hopes it can close out Portland and finally advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Without him, the Rockets may finish off Portland, but they really don't have a legitimate chance to go toe-to-toe with the Lakers in a seven-game series.  I don't expect Von Wafer to hang with Kobe Bryant in the points category, either.

The Rockets have done an admirable job with the players they have.  Many of the younger guys like Aaron Brooks have answered the call and have been clutch.  The only thing that is keeping Houston from being really, really good is the third piece to the Yao-Artest-McGrady triangle that was subject to a lot of hype last offseason.

It didn't exactly take shape due to problems with Yao's foot and T-Mac's long absence. 

The Rockets, as they are, are a good team on the verge of being really good.  They play great defense and are pretty good on offense when Yao is scoring in the post and the team is making its threes. 

Add in a Tracy McGrady at 100 percent health (which is quite rare, unfortunately) and you have a force to be reckoned with in the West other than Kobe's Lakers.

The question is, will Tracy even be in Houston next year?  It's the last year of his contract, and rumors surfaced early this season, before his injury, that the Rockets were looking to deal him somewhere else.

If he isn't, it would be in the Rockets' best interest to grab a big name in the offseason to fill the scoring void they so desperately need.  

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