Rockets take 2-0 lead, bury Jazz 118-98

3-pointers from Rockets Game 2 versus Utah

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Houston squared off against the Utah Jazz Wednesday Night for game two of their Western Conference Quarterfinal matchup. The Rockets started strong and, despite a lull in the third quarter, capably blew out the Jazz for the second straight game to take a 2-0 series lead.

Hot Start

Have you ever put too much lighter fluid on a BBQ pit and stood too close to light it? The result is essentially what the Utah Jazz experienced shortly after tip-off. Houston fired 46% (6-13) from three point range in the first quarter, while Utah continued their abysmal long range performance from game one with an 8% (1-13) output. Stifling defense in addition to James Harden's 17 points contributed to the Rockets jumping out to a 39-19 lead after the first quarter.

Doing it all

As one can safely assume, Harden wasn't finished scoring after the first. Utah continued to push the left-handed Harden to the right in order to slow him down, a tactic that proved wildly unsuccessful. Harden keyed off of Jazz defenders shading to the left and instead of his typical step back three-pointer, he simply stepped to the right. He used his dribble toward the basket to once again find open teammates, and attacked the boards with intensity. Harden finished polishing off the Jazz with 32 points, 10 assists, and 13 rebounds, good for his third career playoff triple-double and the eighth in Rockets playoff history.

Outmatched from three

If the Jazz fail to advance the narrative will center around their inability to convert from beyond the arc enough to keep up with the Rockets. Houston finished an impressive 40% (17-42) on the night while the Jazz conversely could only manage 21% (8-38). It's impossible to keep up with the Rockets when shooting that inefficiently, and if it continues Saturday night, the Jazz will almost certainly find themselves in a 3-0 hole.

Rockets player of the game

James Harden: 32 points, 10 assists, 13 rebounds

Jazz player of the game

Ricky Rubio: 17 points, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 4 steals

Next up

The Rockets travel to Salt Lake City for game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Saturday at 9:30 pm, central.

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The Astros will look to bounce back after a tough week. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After a 6-3 record to start the season, the Houston Astros had a tumultuous week to say the least. They were swept by the Tigers, lost 2 of 3 games to the Seattle Mariners and placed five players on the COVID injured list.

The Tigers' new manager AJ Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park for the first time since the Astros let him go after the cheating scandal in early 2020.

The Tigers swept the Astros and outscored them 20-8 over their three matchups.

Before the 3rd game of the series, the Astros found out they would be without five players on their active roster. Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado and Robel Garcia were all placed on the COVID-19 injury reserved list.

"It's hard on the team but you have to carry on. The show must go on," manager Dusty Baker said. "And it went on today with some younger players we have here."

Garrett Stubbs, Taylor Jones and Abraham Toro were called up as well as Alex De Goti and Ronnie Dawson who made their major league debuts last week.

The Tigers were able to score runs early on Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers and Jake Odorizzi (who made his Astros debut) and none of these starters lasted more than five innings in the outings.

Yuli Gurriel was the one Astros bright spot against the Tigers as he had 7 hits and drove in 2 runs. He is still continuing to hit the ball consistently as he finished the series with a .429 batting average.

After a 1-5 home stand the Astros looked to bounce back on the road against the division leading Seattle Mariners (you read that correctly).

Friday night proved to be the Astros' best offensive performance since their home opener on April 8th against the A's.

They scored five runs on Yusei Kikuchi through 7 innings behind good hitting from Aledmys Diaz, Chas McCormick and De Goti who drove in two runs on his first major league hit.

The Astros had a 5-2 lead at this point, but Seattle was able to score 4 unanswered to win the game.

Bryan Abreu, Blake Taylor and Ryne Stanek were credited with those four runs.

Ryan Pressly tried to clean up the bottom of the 9th inning after Stanek put the first two batters on base. His effort was unsuccessfully as Ty France hit a game-ending single that scored J.P. Crawford from second to secure a Mariners victory.

Saturday was the best game of the week for the Astros as they finally broke their six-game losing streak.

After failing to pitch more than five innings on Monday against the Tigers, Zack Greinke threw eight shutout innings with 91 pitches.

He struck out six batters and gave up only 4 hits.

"That's what aces do," Astros manager Dusty Baker said. "Guys like (Greinke) ... they stop the bleeding and we're about bled out."

Greinke finished the game with 2,705 career strikeouts. He is now third amongst active players in strikeouts behind Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

Ryan Pressly got some redemption too as he threw a perfect 9th inning giving him his first save of the year.

The Astros won this game 1-0 as Taylor Jones drove in the game's only run with an RBI single.

Sunday's game ended the Astros week with a whimper, as the Mariners bested Houston 7-2.

Jake Odorizzi got off to a good start, but he gave up three hits and was pulled after Mitch Haniger's fifth-inning triple made it a 3-2 lead over the Astros.

Odorizzi is now (0-2) with a 10.57 ERA after two starts with the Astros.

Houston's offensive woes continued Sunday, as Aledmys Díaz had their only hit, an RBI double in the second inning that fell in when outfielder José Marmolejos lost the ball in the sun.

"It's tough to take when you only got one hit and the one hit we got was lost in the sun," Baker said.

UP NEXT: The Astros (7-8) will finish their road trip with a two game series against the Rockies who have the worst record in the league (4-12) before starting an eight-game homestead.

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