News » Rockets vs. Cavaliers It's no big deal The Rockets' undersized front line shrugs off the challenges of competing against taller

Rockets vs. Cavaliers It's no big deal The Rockets' undersized front line shrugs off the challenges of competing against taller

Rockets vs. Cavaliers It's no big deal The Rockets' undersized front line shrugs off the challenges of competing against taller COMING UP LARGE

The Rockets' big men have more than held their own against the league this season, but the Cavs present a sizable test:

Rockets' points in the paint

Per game Rank Percent of offense Rank

48.2 447.3 4

Rockets' Second-chance points

Per game Rank Percent of offense Rank

15.3 4 15 6

Cavaliers' points in the paint allowed

Per game Rank Percent of offense Rank

33.5 1 35.8 1

Cavaliers' second-chance points allowed

Per game Rank Percent of offense Rank

12.4 7 13.314

Cavaliers at Rockets

7:30 p.m. today at Toyota Center.

TV/radio: FSH; 610 AM and 850 AM (Spanish).

LIVE BLOG: Follow tonight's visit from King James and Shaq while interacting with other fans.

Chuck Hayes belted out a laugh at the news.

He was told that research conducted by the Elias Sports Bureau uncovered that Hayes is the shortest starting center in NBA history. He did not mind the label, and it was not much of a revelation. He already knew that as NBA centers go, he is short.

He did not, however, need the reminder today.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers in town, the Rockets' miniature frontcourt - with apologies to slender 6-11 backup David Andersen - will go against the Cavs' wealth of size and strength, starting with Shaquille O'Neal's almost unprecedented combination of both.

While the Cavs back the 7-1, 325-pound O'Neal with 7-3 Zydrunas Ilgauskas and 6-11 Anderson Varejao, the Rockets will counter with all 6-6 of Hayes and 6-9 forwards Luis Scola and Carl Landry.

They do not seem to mind.

"It's all about heart," Landry said. "If you want to get a rebound, you're going to get a rebound. If you want to make a jump shot, you can make a jump shot. I don't think it's all about the size."

That might not be just talk. The Rockets are fourth in the NBA this season in second-chance points and points in the paint, measures often associated with teams blessed with far greater size. The Cavaliers rank 20th in points in the paint and 28th in second-chance points.

Some of that may be because the Cavs don't miss often, taking away their chances at second-chance points. They shoot so well from the 3-point arc (.427, second best in the NBA) that they don't have to score inside as much.

Comfort level important

For the Rockets , however, the numbers show that even without Yao Ming, they have not been anywhere near as short-handed inside as many would have thought.

"It's about players," Scola said. "It's not about big guys or small guys. There are some small guys I feel really comfortable playing against and some big guys I feel really comfortable against. And some guys who are small, like Chuck, are the worst. I feel really uncomfortable playing against him. There are guys, even though they are small, they are strong, or they know how to use the body or use their hands."

O'Neal might not be so concerned with his two meetings with Hayes this month. Hayes did not sound as if he looked forward to it but did not seem to mind the challenge either.

"I don't dread it," he said. "I like it. I just know I have my work cut out for me. That's a big fella. Man, I'm just going to do what I can.

"He's going to use his leverage right back, and his is a lot heavier than mine. I just have to push him out as far as I can and make him finish. He's still a factor. But he's not demanding the ball and scoring like he used to in his career. I'm going to respect him, hope my teammates give me good dig (reaching in at the ball when O'Neal dribbles) and do my best to keep a body on him."

That attitude might be the key to the Rockets' relative success despite their size disadvantages. There have been many times they have double-teamed down low when they would not have done so with Yao Ming. But mostly, they have seemed to like the challenges of matching their strengths with the strengths of the relative giants.

"Who wouldn't want to guard one of the best players of all time?" Landry said. "I would. You dream of playing in the NBA, playing against Kobe (Bryant), LeBron (James), Shaq. Even if you're out of position, you wouldn't want to guard a guy like Shaquille?

"I'm smaller, obviously, probably quicker. I feel on the offensive end, I have an advantage."

Earlier tests incomplete

In many ways, however, the Cavaliers might offer the toughest test for the downsized, Yao-less version of the Rockets this season. Against the Lakers, they faced 7-foot Andrew Bynum, but 7-foot Pau Gasol was out. The Trail Blazers had 7-footers Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla, but they did not play together. And none of those teams match 7-footers with a small forward like the 6-8 James, who might weigh more than any active Rockets player, though he's listed at 250 pounds.

"We're probably the same," said Hayes, who is carrying 265 pounds this season. "That's a big guy. I don't know if I can move that fast. If he weighs more than that and moves that fast, that's unbelievable. Nah, I don't think he's that much."

Mostly, Hayes did not want to think that he is outweighed by a high-flying small forward, even if there is no denying that he looks opposing centers in the chin. At least tonight, his teammates will know how it feels.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 11, 2009


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