The Palillog

Despite nice win over Lakers, no end in sight for Rockets title drought

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General Manager Daryl Morey's preseason assertion that the Rockets were the favorites in the Western Conference was dubious when he said it, and in hindsight, ridiculous. The Rockets confirmed as much with the trade that shipped Clint Capela and a first round draft pick to Atlanta with the Rockets netting Robert Covington and the already ex-Rocket Jordan Bell. The Lakers and Clippers are not shaking in their sneakers, despite Russell Westbrook's brilliance leading the Rockets to a doozy of a win over the Lakers in L.A. Thursday night.

The Rockets had, and have, a good team, but not a great one, and certainly not one to take seriously as an NBA title contender. They weren't going to win the West with what they had, so they roll the dice with super small ball, which in all likelihood won't be good enough to do the job either. They'll continue to jack up three point shots like no other team, too bad they've not acquired one close to elite three point shooter. The Rockets were a bad rebounding team with Capela's nearly 14 boards per game. It should be a worse rebounding team without him. The Rockets now have zero legit shot blocking or rim production. Their mediocre defense likely remains, mediocre.

It's also obvious that Morey had marching orders from owner Tilman Fertitta to dump some salary going forward and avoid the luxury tax this season. No one likes to pay taxes they can avoid. And remember, Morey's moral but for business moronic China tweet is costing Fertitta millions of dollars.Capela has more than 50 million guaranteed dollars guaranteed left on his contract after this season. Covington has about 25 million. Nene and Gerald Green outgoing, simply salary dumps.

Two seasons in a row the Rockets have passed on using their mid-level exception. Two seasons in a row the Rockets have had a below average bench. In the coming weeks they will shop the buyout market from which last year they added Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert. Yippee.

This June will mark the 25 year anniversary of the Rockets having last played in the NBA Finals. Who next plays for their sport's championship first: the Rockets or the Texans?

Seems a good time to note the Astros open spring training next week.

Another body

In what amounts to a meaningless swap the Rockets traded Jordan Bell to Memphis for Bruno Caboclo, who has shown basically nothing to suggest he's an NBA player. When the Toronto Raptors drafted Caboclo in the first round ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla had the great line "he's two years away from being two years away." Fraschilla said that over five and a half years ago.

XFL, part deaux

The second version of the XFL launches Saturday, including the Houston Roughnecks playing the Los Angeles Wildcats. An eight team, 10 game late winter-early spring football league can be of only limited interest, but the Roughnecks will not arrogantly and/or absurdly have a closed roof for any of their home games. They'll play at UH's stadium. The XFL is trying some interesting rules. Among them, offenses can throw two forward passes on the same play provided both passes are made behind the line of scrimmage. There will be no kicks for points after touchdowns. The scoring team can go for one point from the two yard line, two points from the five yard line, or three points from the ten yard line.

Chiefs set the standard

So the Texans had a 24-nothing lead over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. Hail to the Chiefs for snapping Kansas City's 50 year drought between Super Bowl victories. Next season, Houston will probably make it 0 for 50 in pursuit of winning a Super Bowl. Probably 0 for 50 in getting to a Super Bowl. The Oilers were 0 for 31. The Texans are 0 for 18.And counting. Only three other existing franchises have failed to reach a Super Bowl: the Browns, Lions, and Jaguars.

Or just maybe next season, the Texans produce a little football miracle. Hey, the 49ers went from 4-12 last season to the Big Game the just concluded season. For your planning purposes, Super Bowl LV will be played in Tampa.

Watt vs. The Emperor

Which is funnier: J.J. Watt's Saturday Night Live host performance, or the idea of Bill O'Brien coaching a Super Bowl winner? J.J. was okay in the comedy realm. O'Brien delivering a Super Bowl seems more the science fiction realm. However, keep in mind It took Andy Reid 21 seasons as a head coach to finally clutch a Lombardi Trophy. Bill O'Brien has 14 seasons left to beat that! Of course, Emperor O for eternity is more likely.

Buzzer beaters

1. Maybe the Roughnecks win the XFL championship this spring! 2. Good in town hoops doubleheader Sunday: UH-Wichita St at 2, Rockets-Jazz at 6. 3. Worst tasting vegetables: Bronze-kale Silver-peas Gold-lima beans

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

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With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.

Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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