Basketball’s two best heavyweights went at it again Tuesday night, the two best centers on the face of the earth.
As has been the pattern when these two meet, Yao had his way, scoring 20 points on 8 of 13 shooting and grabbing a game high 16 rebounds. Howard, on the other hand, was 5 of 11 for 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Yao’s domination of Howard is not the exception, it’s the rule. In their eight head-to-head meetings, Yao has averaged 24 points on 55.6 percent shooting, with 2.1 blocks per game. Howard, on the other hand, averages 12.1 points on 45.1% shooting and 1.5 blocks. Howard’s numbers are across the board lower than his season averages against Yao,
Most importantly, Yao’s team is 7-2 in those contests, including Tuesday night, when the Rockets won 93-85 and cotrolled the game throughout.
Yao’s game plays to the weaknesses of Howard’s. The Magic’s center doesn’t like to stray too far from the painted area on defense, and Yao has a pretty polished game and shot out to about 15 feet (he often shoots technical free throws for the Rockets). If he gets the ball in the high post or out on the wing, he can turn and face up and Howard is not comfortable coming out on him. Plus, Yao is the only player in the NBA who can actually shoot over Howard if he wants.
Yao is a fundamentally solid player, he boxes out fairly well and negates (as much as anyone can) Howard’s ability to grab offensive rebounds. Plus, Yao is one of the few centers in the league strong enough to body up Howard on the low block.
The one difference:Yao is at the peak of his performance and Howard is still maturing, his game is developing and improving. In a couple of years Howard will be the better player.
But today, Yao is still the heavyweight champion of the world.