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Bzdelik's retirement is the biggest blow yet to Rockets defense

Jeff Bzdelik's retirement comes at a bad time for the Rockets. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Jeff Bzdelik is retiring as the top Rockets assistant coach under Mike D'Antoni. With a little less than 10 days before the start of training camp, the timing of this move seems strange. My first thought is to hope this was purely a personal decision made with fumes in the tank and no desire to grind out another year of extensive travel and tape study. You hope there is nothing wrong health-wise with him or his family and pray that he can walk away from a lifetime of basketball completely at peace with his accomplishments.

He has had just about every job within basketball operations and administration. He has scouted in small gyms and broken down tape until the wee hours of the morning. He has been the low man on the totem poll and the top dog as a head coach, on both the professional and collegiate levels. He has always been known as a hard worker that is willing to put in long hours in a thankless profession in which you are only as good as your last game and rarely outlive your last contract. He carved out a niche as a defensive guru and used that reputation along with his long standing relationships within the game to make himself a "lifer" in a sport he has always loved.

Pat Riley said that there is no one in the NBA that has more knowledge, wisdom or experience in defending today's NBA than Jeff Bzdelik. If you have any doubts as to how valuable and how good Jeff Bzdelik is as a defensive coach, look no further than his last coaching job as the "Defensive Cordinator" of the Houston Rockets. Before Mike D'Antoni brought him to H-town as his top assistant, the Rockets were 20th in Defensive efficiency and 21st in defensive rating, as well as being last in the entire league in defensive rebounding rate.

Houston gave up a little under 106 points per game and had little understanding of team defensive concepts, rotations, rebounds or helping the helper when the ball was in thier opponents hands. In his first year at the helm as the Rockets Secretary of Defense, he got them to climb to 16th in the NBA in defensive rating and this past year they had soared all the way to 6th.

Taking it a step further, over the last two months of the schedule they were the third best team defensively in the entire NBA and thier defensive rebounding had sky rocketed into the top 5, sitting firmly at number 3. The team was a top 2 offense and a top 6 defense and that was enough to set the franchise record for regular season wins with 65 victories. If Chris Paul doesn't pull a hamstring, we all know the Rockets very well could've been sitting on fire trucks, cruising towards city hall, while hoising the Larry O'Brien trophy. As good as Mike D'Antoni has been in leading this team, they would be nowhere near the unit they were without the defensive mind of Bzdelik.

Looking forward, the question now becomes, who will the Rockets get to replace him? After all, this was a guy that has a great rapport with all his players including new addition Carmelo Anthony, as Bzdelik was his first NBA head coach while the two of them were in Denver. He got the team to buy in to what he was selling and sell out to achieve the results they needed to get stops on a consistent basis. On top of needing to be a good communicator and someone that can be trusted, whoever succeeds him has to put the time in necessary to get the roster to respect them and listen to them on a daily basis. All of that takes time and time is not on the Rockets side.

We all know this team can score points with the best of them and D'Antoni has total control of the offense. Coaching defense in the NBA is a lost art and there are very few coaches that have the resume or are as highly respected as Jeff Bzdelik and what he did with Houston. Considering the fact that most of the good coaches that fit the bill and have similar skill sets already have jobs this close to the start of training camps opening in the NBA, Houston could be hard pressed to find a suitable replacement.

After losing 2 of their 5 best defenders this off season and not replacing either Trevor Ariza or Luc Mbah a Moute with anyone close to their ability to get stops, you thought it couldn't get any worse for a team that desperately needs to prevent their opponents from attacking the rim and getting wide open shots. Who knew the biggest blow to their defense was yet to come? Let's hope D'Antoni and Daryl Morey have a good list of unemployed coaches that can step in late in the game and provide the defensive master mind the team desperately needs, because you wanted Bzdelik on that ball, you needed him on it, and now he is gone.

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Yordan Alvarez provided the offense to back up more stellar pitching by the Astros as they took ALCS game 6 to advance to the 2021 World Series. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of this series in Houston then falling behind in the series 2-1 by dropping the first of three games in Boston, the Astros took over the ALCS in Games 4 and 5, sending them back to their home crowd with a chance to finish things off in Game 6 at Minute Maid Park. After another stellar performance by their pitching staff and more timely hitting, they would accomplish that mission, winning the series and moving on to the 2021 World Series.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 0

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston wins 4-2

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Houston strikes first to start tightly-contested Game 6

After a scoreless top of the first inning by Boston's offense, the Astros capitalized on a chance to be first to score in the bottom of the frame. Alex Bregman started the two-out rally, reaching base on a single against Nathan Eovaldi for the first hit of the night. Yordan Alvarez followed, delivering his sixth RBI of the series with a double to put Houston on top 1-0.

That did not spark further immediate scoring, as the one-run score held while both starting pitchers provided solid outings for their team. For Eovaldi, he was able to limit Houston to just that single run through four frames. He returned in the bottom of the fifth, facing two batters, allowing a single, and getting a strikeout to end his night.

Garcia impresses in big start

For the home team, they were recipients of another expectation-exceeding performance from one of their young arms. Only anticipated to go a handful of innings, Luis Garcia worked efficiently and effectively against Boston, keeping them scoreless and hitless through five innings. He continued in the sixth, getting two more outs before allowing a two-out triple, ending his night as Phil Maton would enter to strand the tying run. Garcia's final line: 5.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 76 P.

With both teams dipping into their bullpens, the Astros took advantage of Boston's as Yordan Alvarez's dominance went on display once again. He led the inning off with a triple, then scored on a double-play ball to extend Houston's lead to 2-0. Kendall Graveman took over on the mound in the top of the seventh and worked himself into a big moment. He gave up a one-out walk, followed by a single, which put runners on the corners for Boston. He continued to struggle with the zone, falling behind the next batter 3-1, but was able to battle back to get the strikeout paired with a terrific throw by Martin Maldonado to cut down the runner from first trying to steal second, ending the inning and maintaining the two-run advantage.

Astros headed to the World Series

Ryne Stake was Houston's next reliever, and he put Houston three outs away by getting a 1-2-3 eighth. With Ryan Pressly warming, he watched and hoped that his offense could give him some more insurance to work with when he went to the mound in the top of the ninth. His wish would be granted, as after getting two on base, Kyle Tucker would put a major exclamation point on the night's offense, hitting a three-run opposite-field homer to the Crawford Boxes to push the lead to 5-0.

Pressly, now with the five-run lead, came on to try and start the celebration by getting the final three outs. Against the tougher part of Boston's order, he would get a 1-2-3 inning, giving the Astros the American League pennant, which along with those won in 2017 and 2019, puts them back in the World Series for the third time in five years.

Up Next: The Astros will have three days off before The Fall Classic kicks off. While Game 1 will be on Tuesday, October 26th, nothing else has yet been determined as Houston awaits to see which of the Dodgers and Braves will advance out of the NL, which will also dictate if the Astros will host or travel to World Series Game 1.

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