Yao Ming Out for Game 4

Yao MingHere’s a line from L.A.’s scouting report, amassed by the assistant coaches and video coordinators, heading into Game 4 in Houston:

“As we’ve pointed out many times through the season, an injured animal is a dangerous animal.”

In other words, don’t sleep on the Rockets just because Yao Ming’s out with a broken foot. As dominant as Yao can be at times, Houston remains well capable of playing good basketball, particularly defensively, as both Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes do a solid job both on the weak side and with man-to-man assignments.

Where Houston will miss Yao most is as the initiator of their offense. To make up for his absence, L.A.’s coaches expect the Rockets to more often run a play called the “Paul Pierce Play,” which is an elbow set designed to get Ron Artest the ball in the paint, in addition to more high screen and rolls with either Artest or Aaron Brooks on the ball and Luis Scola setting the screen.

But the bottom line is that Houston will certainly possess an us-against-the-world, rally-around-the-flag mentality, and if the Lakers don’t meet the Rockets competitive level, Game 4 won’t be anywhere near as easy as it looks on paper without the 7-6 Chinese tree in the middle.