Rockets crumble, lose 111-106

3-pointers from Rockets loss to Lakers

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets kicked back into action Thursday night against the Los Angeles Lakers following an extended All-Star break for everyone not named James Harden. The Rockets shook off a sloppy start to the contest to pull away with as much as a 19 point lead late in the third. Fueled by LeBron James, however, the Lakers would ignite a furious rally, ultimately defeating the Rockets 111-106. Houston is now 33-25, first in the Southwest Division by one half of a game, and fifth in the Western Conference.

Bad Sign

Blowing a 19-point lead at the end of a game is a terrible way to start a playoff push following the All-Star break. Perpetuating a losing streak, however, is even worse. This marks their third loss out of their last four, with their only win coming against a sub .500 Dallas Mavericks team. Their previous loss was dealt by a sub .500 Timberwolves squad, and a week before that we watched yet another meltdown where the Rockets blew a 26-point lead at home against the Thunder. Clint Capela's return to the center position should stabilize things in time, but the Rockets are beginning to look more like a first-round playoff exit candidate than an actual contender.

Good Sign

In spite of the loss, the Rockets' box score became noticeable for the first time in ages. With Clint Capela returning to action and Chris Paul back in rhythm, Harden wasn't leaned on to produce to the degree he has been asked over the past two months. Paul relieved him with a 23 point, 10 rebound, 9 assist performance, while Capela added 12 points and 11 rebounds in his return. In addition, both players contributed over 30 minutes in the contest. Harden was dreadful from three (2-10), but ended up 11-24 overall from the field to finish with 30 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. The effort extended Harden's streak of consecutive 30+ point scoring performances to 32 straight, placing him in sole position of second place behind Wilt Chamberlain's legendary 65.

The catch up game

Houston will have little time to recover from the disappointing loss before they take on the defending champs Saturday night. Based off recent history, the odds don't look too great for the Rockets against the Warriors, even if they have yet to lose to them this season. The Warriors are healthy, angry, and this time they'll be throwing DeMarcus Cousins at Houston. Once they get past Saturday, the schedule eases up considerably with contests against Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami. Sporting a combined opponent winning percentage of 42 percent, it's not out of the realm of possibility to assume that the Rockets should be able to gain some of the ground they've lost over the past two weeks

Rockets player of the game

Chris Paul: 23 points, 9 assists, 10 rebounds

Lakers player of the game

LeBron James: 26 points, 6 assists, 11 rebounds

Up next

The Rockets stay on the road to face the Golden State Warriors Saturday night at 7:30 pm.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.

Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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