NBA PLAYOFFS

5 observations from the Rockets' Game 3 slaughter of the Utah Jazz

Chris Paul and the Rockets were not messing around with Utah. Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Remember all that panic when the Rockets lost Game 2 at home to Utah? That it happened on the same night the Astros lost to the Yankees just put the city in a tizzy. Well, the Astros beat the Diamondbacks 8-0 Friday night, and the Rockets destroyed the Jazz to take a 2-1 series lead. Five observations from the win:

Taking control early: The Rockets came out on fire, and this looked a lot like Game 1, as they rolled to a 70-40 halftime lead. They would extend that even more to 80-43 at one point. Utah's methodical, spacing offense had no chance to get them back in the game. If the Rockets are that efficient early, the Jazz simply can't compete.

Old fashioned way: The Rockets did not shoot the 3 well, which is usually a recipe for disaster, hitting just 11 of 36. The Jazz had just as many made on fewer shots. It is a little scary what this game might have looked like if they had shot closer to 40 percent.

Balanced attack: James Harden led the way with 25 points (and 12 assists), but all Rockets starters finished in double figures except P.J. Tucker, who had nine. Harden and Paul got help throughout the lineup, including a nice effort of the bench from...

Eric Gordon finally showed up: Gordon had been awful most of the playoffs, but something about being in Utah woke him up. He scored 25, including 8 of 13 shooting. The Rockets need him to be a key factor, and he finally was.

Turning the tide: Even in the Game 2 loss, the Rockets have been winning the turnover battle, and Friday was no exception. The Jazz had 17, while the Rockets only had eight. The Rockets also shot 48 percent to 41 for the Jazz, flipping that stat from Wednesday night.

All in all, it was a strong effort from the Rockets, who put it away early and coasted to the finish. It might have been the ugly Jazz jerseys that inspired them. Who knows? Another effort like that in Game 4 will make the eventual ending of this series even more inevitable.

 

 

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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