NBA PLAYOFFS

Fred Faour: 5 thoughts on the Rockets Game 4 win over the Wolves

James Harden brought his offense in the third quarter. Kevin C. Cox

The Rockets took a 3-1 lead with an easy 119-100 win over Minnesota. Here are five thoughts on Monday’s game:

  1. Defense! Defense! The Rockets locked down on the Wolves in the second half. They blocked passing lanes. They took away everything the Wolves were doing right and turned the fourth quarter into garbage time.

  2. Oh, Harden. The MVP went nuts in the third quarter, blowing the game open with 22 points en route to a 36-point game. He sparked a 50-point third quarter.

  3. Chris Paul did not suck. The Rockets had both of their stars playing well, and it made all the difference. He finished with 25 points, 6 assists and 5 steals.

  4. Remember all the panic? Oh, the Rockets aren’t playing well. They could be down 2-1. Bleep that. They will close out the Wolves in five and move on. Nothing will matter until they face Golden State, but they took care of business.

  5. Flash Gordon: Eric Gordon finally had a good game off the bench. The Rockets played well, but not outstanding. And they crushed the Wolves. Despite a meaningless fourth-quarter surge by Minnesota, Houston coasted. Gordon finished with 18 off the pine. With Harden and Paul crushing, this game was over. The Rockets shot over 43 percent from the field, and just over 37 percent on 3s.

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Houston's winning streak is up to nine

Astros secure series over Orioles as winning streak continues

Zack Greinke provided another long outing for his team on Tuesday. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After continuing their recent dominance with a lopsided win over this Orioles team on Monday in the rain-plagued opener, the Astros eyed number nine in a row if they could do it again on Tuesday. Though not as one-sided, the Astros would get the victory to secure the series win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Orioles 1

Astros' Record: 45-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (8-2)

Losing Pitcher: Jorge Lopez (2-9)

A tame start for Houston's offense

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Myles Straw started the scoring with two outs in the top of the second, sneaking a ball off and over the left-field wall just out of the grasp of Austin Hays for a solo homer to put Houston ahead 1-0. After Baltimore tied the game in the third, the game remained gridlocked 1-1 until the top of the seventh, when Chase McCormick would reach on a one-out infield single then raced around to score on a Myles Straw RBI single, putting Houston back in front 2-1.

Greinke pitches into the eighth

Over that span, Zack Greinke was getting efficient innings against Baltimore's lineup. He allowed that trying run in the third, which came after a one-out walk moved to third on a single, then scored on a sac fly. That was one of his few moments with runners in scoring position, as he erased a single in the first, a single in the fourth, and a double in the seventh to maintain the new 2-1 lead.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth but came away with only one run of insurance on a McCormick sac fly, making it 3-1 as Greinke returned to the mound to continue working. He allowed a leadoff single then retired the next batter before Dusty Baker would come out to get him as the left-handed portion of the lineup was due up and a better match for Brooks Raley, who had been warming. Greinke's final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 91 P.

Astros make it nine in a row

Raley completed the eighth for Greinke with two strikeouts to strand the inherited runner. With it still a two-run game in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save. He erased a two-out single to finish things off, giving Houston their ninth win in a row and securing the series with a chance at the sweep in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set will be another 6:05 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will be on the mound for Baltimore to face the Astros, while Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) will start for Houston.

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