CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES

Exclusive: Kenny Smith discusses why he believes the Rockets can make a championship run

Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Houston Rockets haven't played a regular-season game since March 10th. The NBA season was suspended a day later so Rockets fans have had to wait for months for the opportunity to watch their team attempt to go on a championship run.

The question for the Rockets is simple though: Are they good enough to go on a run and contend with the other top teams in the Western Conference?

2x NBA Champion with the Rockets and one of the hosts of Inside the NBA on TNT, Kenny "The Jet" Smith joined SportsMap Radio on The Jake Asman Show and said he believes in the Rockets chances of contending for a title because of the superstar power Houston has with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook.

"This is what Mike D'Antoni envisioned. If he could pick a team, I think he would pick James Harden and Russell Westbrook to run it. The Rockets have the best players on a nightly basis at their positions. Nobody is going to have a better point guard and shooting guard than those two guys. They are always going to have the advantage."

A question that surrounds the Rockets entering the NBA's re-start is the impact that the long layoff and built-in practice time will have on the team's performance? Smith believes that the time off will help the Houston roster gel together after Rockets GM Daryl Morey made several bold moves at the trading deadline to go all-in on playing small-ball.

"I think the layoff also gives players an opportunity to reflect on what they need to do. This is the best team that they could ensemble to play that style."

When asked about his fondest memories of winning two championships with the Rockets, Smith said being part of the cities first-ever championship teams is something that he will never forget.

"Being the first Houston professional franchise to win a championship, I think that is what you remember the most. To be able to unite a city in a different way, to change the name to 'Clutch City' instead of 'Choke City' that to me is probably the most fun."


You can listen to The Jake Asman Show weekdays from 8 AM -10 AM Central on SportsMap Radio.

You can listen to the full interview with Kenny Smith below:

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Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

With the disappointing loss in extra innings late the night before, the Astros returned to RingCentral Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to try and even the series against the A's, who now owned a 3.5 game lead in the AL West over Houston. Here is a quick rundown of the middle game of the series:

Final Score: A's 3, Astros 1.

Record: 6-8, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Frankie Montas (2-1, 1.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Framber Valdez (0-2, 2.04 ERA).

Valdez does his job

Framber Valdez ran into stress early on Saturday, facing trouble in the bottom of the first inning. It started with a leadoff solo home run, putting Oakland up 1-0 before they would record an out. He later allowed back-to-back one-out singles to rack up his pitch count in the frame but would limit the damage to the single run.

He was able to re-focus and settle in during the following innings, getting quick, scoreless innings in the next four. In the bottom of the sixth, a leadoff groundball that likely should have been the first out was instead a single that would come back to bite Houston. That runner stole second and advanced to third on a bad throw, then scored on an RBI-groundout, doubling Oakland's lead to 2-0. Valdez would go one more inning, giving Houston precisely what they needed by helping give their exhausted bullpen a break. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HR.

Houston's offense unable to get anything going

Unfortunately for Houston, Frankie Montas was even more efficient on the other side. Houston was only able to notch two hits against him over seven innings while Montas only had to throw 86 pitches over that span. Oakland would go to their bullpen in the top of the eighth, with the Astros getting just a single in the inning.

Nivaldo Rodriguez would take over for Valdez in the bottom of the eighth and allowed a solo home run to make it 3-0 before completing the inning. Houston would get a leadoff double by Kyle Tucker to start the top of the ninth, and he would come around to score on an RBI-single by Alex Bregman. That's as close as Houston would get, though, as Oakland would finish off the win to secure the series and extend Houston's losing streak to four games.

Up Next: The final game of this series and Houston's nine-game road trip will be on Sunday at 3:10 PM Central. Jesus Luzardo (0-0, 2.31 ERA) will make a start for the A's while Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.42 ERA) will look to continue his success in 2020 for the Astros.

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