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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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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