Charlie Pallilo: Plenty to see at the NBA Finals, what's next for the Rockets and Astros-Red Sox

What Lebron has done is incredible. Gregory Shamus

So, do you care about these NBA Finals? If not and you are a basketball fan you should, despite the major letdown of knowing it was sooooo close to being the Rockets against the Cavaliers. Alas, it’s the Cavs-Warriors quadrilogy. A lot of basketball fans probably have had enough of Cleveland-Golden State, but you know what? Meritocracy rules. They earned their way back, so deal with it. Or ignore it. It’s the first time ever in big league sports the same teams play for the championship four years in a row. Game 1 was a doozy. The almost incomparable LeBron with 51 points, but the Warriors got the victory aided by an all-time NBA moronic moment courtesy of the Cavaliers’ J.R. Smith.

Versus the Rockets Golden State was a 2-1 favorite. The Warriors were better than 7-1 favorites over the Cavs. The Warriors are bidding to strengthen their dynasty stature with a third title in four years. James is trying to add for a fourth title to his personal dynasty. That would still be two shy of Michael Jordan’s six ring haul, but James has led his team to nine NBA Finals, three more than did Michael. And Jordan never took a team with as weak a supporting cast to the Finals.

Before you say “the East stinks, LeBron has had it easy!” consider the following: What other player at his current playing level if swapped for James over the last eight seasons would be making an eighth straight Finals appearance?  Durant? Curry? Davis? Harden? Stop it already. The correct answer is there isn’t one. Jordan himself may well have done it. But it’s not as if MJ slayed all sharks while LeBron has beaten only guppies. Those Knicks teams Jordan battled in the 90s? One Hall of Famer, Patrick Ewing. The Pacer teams? One Hall of Famer, Reggie Miller. And the Jordan Bulls never in the Finals faced a team with at least three (maybe four) future Hall of Famers like this Warriors team has, or an individual opponent as great as Tim Duncan.

If James pulls this off, as unlikely as it is, he will very arguably have had as great an NBA career as Jordan.

On the Rockets…

Phenomenal season, hugely disappointing ending with the unanswerable what if…Chris Paul’s hamstring didn’t give out? But be real, that the Rockets definitely would have won with a healthy Paul is silly. They may well have won. Just as if Golden State hadn’t lost Andre Iguodala, it’s plausible the Warriors would have wrapped the series in five.

Going forward, Paul is not worth a full maximum contract.  His skill level remains sensational. But 5 years about $205 million for a 33-year-old point guard with a history of breaking down physically? Not smart. Daryl Morey is smart. The most Paul could get from another team is four years a little over $150 mil. No way should the Rockets offer beyond that.

Clint Capela is not worth a max contract, but with his restricted free agent status the Rockets are at the mercy of any team crazy enough to offer him one (or close to one). Capela’s max would start at about $25 mil the first season. Still, the Rockets almost have to match whatever comes Capela’s way. At least he’s only 24 years old.

Battle with Boston

It would have been a lot of fun to have Rockets-Celtics games one and two going on here while the Astros and Red Sox were playing up the street. Still, Astros-Red Sox as a stand-alone HTown-Beantown battle is pretty good. The Sox rolled into Minute Maid Park as the best team in baseball. Mookie Betts is the only other player in the Majors on Mike Trout’s level this season, and Boston’s addition of former Astros’ prospect flop J.D. Martinez has been brilliant. Betts-Martinez is the best one-two punch in the bigs this year, and to this point there isn’t a close second.

The Astros gave up on Martinez in spring training 2014, and not unreasonably so. J.D. had stunk for two years, was 26 years old, and offered little value beyond whatever his hitting ability was. Since then, you don’t need a third hand to count players who’ve been better in the batter’s box. Context: this will be the fourth time in five years Martinez’s OPS is higher than Jose Altuve’s. We can’t reasonably presume that if given more time Martinez would have figured it out as an Astro.

Buzzer Beaters

1. June is busting out all over. Good chance Carlos Correa will too. Despite homering in the last game of May Correa’s batting average for the month was just .192.  2. The Capitals-Knights Stanley Cup Final thus far has been spectacular. Watch some! 3. Tastiest sugary cereals: Bronze-Frosted mini-wheats Silver-Lucky Charms Gold-Raisin Bran.


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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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