THE ROCKETS REPORT

As Carmelo rumors swirl, Rockets finish week with 2-2 mark

James Harden and Clint Capela led the Rockets to a win Sunday night. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets began last week’s slate of four games riding a two game winning streak. After securing a statement win in Indianapolis, Houston was embarrassed by the Thunder. They would go on to lose a close battle with the Spurs before blowing out the Pacers in their rematch to close out the week 2-2. Houston is now 5-7 on the season, good for fourth place in the Southwest division and 12th in the Western Conference.

Game Nine: Houston at Indianapolis Pacers (W, 98-94)

At this point, Houston had finally strung together two wins, albeit against awful teams. The Indianapolis Pacers represented an opportunity to prove whether or not Houston could compete against a playoff caliber team. Pacers star guard Victor Oladipo was intent on ruining the Rockets’ night, and very few of Houston’s shooters seemed to be able to do anything about it. Harden provided just enough offense to power Houston past the finish line, however. Contrary to Houston’s reputation as an elite offensive unit, it was their defense late in the game that secured the victory. Harden led the Rockets with 28 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, and 3 steals. Oladipo led the Pacers with 28 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists.

Game 10: Houston at Oklahoma City Thunder (L, 98-80)

Having pushed their win streak to three games, Houston was slowly beginning to regain confidence. Oklahoma City, meanwhile--having suffered a similar slow start to the Rockets - would be entering their Thursday matchup against Houston without their star point guard Russell Westbrook. It seemed, by all accounts, another winnable game to stretch the Rockets’ win streak to four. That is, until tip-off. Houston was run off the court, unable to defend inside the paint, and unable to buy a bucket. The Rockets would go 11-42 from three, and a 15-point third quarter would all but seal their fate. Harden led the Rockets with 19 points, outscored by the Thunder’s Paul George who was good for 20.

Game 11: Houston at San Antonio Spurs (L, 96-89)

The confusion continued Saturday night for anyone trying to figure out this Houston team. Looking to shake off Thursday’s nationally televised beating, the Rockets looked poised to take advantage of an injured opponent. It was more of the same, however, as the Rockets dropped their second straight contest. Flashes of offensive competence could be detected, as Harden and Eric Gordon poured in 25 and 23 points respectively, but it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the team’s collective 33 percent field goal rate. The matchup was closely contested throughout until San Antonio rode an 8-2 run late in the fourth to victory.

Game 12: Houston vs Indianapolis Pacers (W, 115-103)

By Sunday night rumors were swirling regarding Carmelo Anthony’s future with the team, and questions surrounded the Rockets as to where they would turn their focus after missing out on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes. It seemed like Houston had had just about enough of it and if they were taking their frustration out on the Pacers, it certainly worked. The lid was finally taken off of the bucket and the Rockets delivered a lights-out break-neck offensive spectacular the likes of which hadn’t been seen since last season. Shooting 20-of-47 from beyond the arc, Houston turned the matchup into a track meet that Indianapolis was simply unable to keep up with. Clint Capela was fed to the tune of 18 points, while Chris Paul finally resembled his all-star form with 26 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals. It was Harden, however, who stole the show in Houston’s first home win of the season with a spectacular 40 point, 9 assist, 7 rebound masterpiece.

Looking ahead

The Rockets will need to ride whatever confidence they gained from Sunday night’s blowout victory into this week’s matchups, as they’ll face off against two juggernauts and an early season surprise. On Tuesday Houston will travel to the 9-4 Denver Nuggets before returning home to take their first crack at Golden State on Thursday, then finishing the week against a surprising upstart Kings team. This will be the toughest week the Rockets have faced this season, and even if their offensive woes were, in fact, left behind in San Antonio, it’s possible that Houston’s record will get worse before it gets better. Once again, until the Rockets can consistently perform like they did offensively Sunday night, it’s tough to take Houston in any of this week’s matchups. I expect a win against the Kings if they can keep up with the young team, but not much else. I see a 1-2 week.

 

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Houston's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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