Charlie Pallilo: Rockets suddenly find themselves in a series, Astros struggle, new gig for Witten
So a series has broken out between the Rockets and Utah Jazz. If they are to win the series the Rockets now must win a game in Utah. It’s a mildly daunting challenge but one a championship-worthy 65-win team should be able to conquer. A pitifully low defensive intensity start ultimately got the Rockets what they deserved in Game 2 Wednesday -- a loss. There was also the simple fact that the Jazz shot tremendously, making 15 of 32 three point shots. Coupled with the Rockets shooting a bricky 10 for 37 behind the line, the outcome was not a surprise. If both teams drift toward their overall shooting profiles, advantage Rockets. Covering Joe Ingles would be a good idea. Some stereotypes are true. Generally, white perimeter players in the NBA can shoot well! Ingles buried seven of nine threes in game two. He’s made 44 percent each of the last two seasons.
The Jazz is very good. It closed the regular season winning 29 of its last 35 games, then dispatched Oklahoma City in six games. The Rockets winning Game 1 so easily no doubt hurt their focus for game two. Shame on them for that, but it happens. If the Rockets lose Game 3 they’re not in deep trouble. If they lose Game 3 and then also drop Game 4 Sunday…
Even a 3-1 deficit wouldn’t necessitate doom though. The Rockets would find themselves in the spot they were in against the Clippers in 2015. Chris Paul can tell you how that finished. Speaking of CP3, a concern now and if the Rockets intend to give him megadollars for four or five more seasons, is that his individual defense has slipped. Paul turns 33 Sunday. He is not as quick afoot as he used to be. So says CPme.
Whatever happens to the Rockets Friday night, they’ll be in better shape than the No. 1 seed in the East finds itself. The Toronto Raptors choked away Game 1 then cratered in Game 2, both on their homecourt. A little reminder: at 33 LeBron James remains the most devastating overall force in the game. He sure shut up Drake. God’s Plan may still include LeBron making an eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance. Coming out of the East has been the easier path over this stretch, but there is no current player who if swapped for LeBron over the past seven seasons, would have gotten his team to the Finals every year.
No offense, Astros, but...
The Astros have a reeeeeally good team. They have virtually all of the core back from the 101 win World Series Champions, and to the starting rotation added Tom Seaver. Um, I mean Gerrit Cole. Despite a 98 win pace 20-13 start however, they just haven’t played all that well so far. The just completed homestand finished up a poor 4-6. Wiith scuffling teams, when one leak is plugged another springs open. Thursday against the Yankees the Astros’ impotent offense finally showed some life, only to have the bullpen fall apart in the ninth inning for the second time in three games.
Ten times already the Astros have finished a game getting shutout or scoring only one run. No offense has been that futile more often this season. All of last season they managed zero or one a total of only 20 times. The Astros still have yet to win a game they trailed after six innings. Last season they won 14 times when down after six. Carlos Correa is their only everyday player playing at close to the level he performed at overall last season. Not saying Jose Altuve is having a bad season, but he is thus far markedly down from his 2017 MVP level. George Springer is down too. Alex Bregman also. And Josh Reddick. Marwin Gonzalez has been lousy. Yuli Gurriel has been weak since getting a late start to his season. Evan Gattis has been flat out pathetic at the plate, which is much better than Jake Marisnick. Derek Fisher has not hit like someone who belongs in the big leagues. Over 162 games water finds its level. The Astro attack should pick up, just as the starting pitching is extremely likely to taper off some.
Catching on with a new gig
Good for Jason Witten, retiring after a 15 year career with the Dallas Cowboys for the (critics aside) safer haven of the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. Witten missed one game in his NFL career, that in his rookie season. Almost certainly a future Hall of Famer, Witten was the Cowboys third round pick in 2003. Second round of that same draft, the Texans picked tight end Bennie Joppru.
1. Career receptions: Witten 1152, Joppru 0. 2. Big surprise, the NHL playoffs have been terrific. 3. Best ever HBO comedies: Bronze-Veep Silver-The Larry Sanders Show Gold-Curb Your Enthusiasm