Friday night loss to Pelicans is only blemish on a 3-1 week for Rockets

Mike D'Antoni and Chris Paul are looking ahead to a big week.

After a week of statement games The Rockets entered this past week on a four game winning streak and a fully healthy squad for the first time of the new year. Houston would add two more wins to extend the streak early in the week before ultimately falling to the Pelicans Friday night. Sunday would be a bounce back game and the Rockets would finish 3-1 for the week.

Houston is now 35-13, and remain second in the Western Conference. Golden State leads the conference by four games.

Game 45: Rockets vs. Miami Heat (W, 99-90)

Fresh off of a pivotal win Saturday night against the Golden State Warriors, the Rockets hosted the fourth best team in the eastern conference, the Miami Heat. The Heat pounded the ball inside early and often, and pulled ahead of the Rockets early. The lead stretched as far as 14 points in Miami’s favor partly due to yet another cold shooting night for Eric Gordon from beyond the arc (0-7 for the night, as well as 0-9 Saturday versus the Warriors). The Rockets continued to fire from deep to counter the Heat’s inside dominance (finishing 56-34 in the paint against the Rockets), and it would not be until midway through the third quarter that the lead would swing back in Houston’s favor. It would remain a tight game as the lead switched back and forth, and with a slim three-point lead and 39 seconds remaining, Chris Paul pulled up and nailed a two-point dagger to seal the win for the Rockets. Paul would finish with 16 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds. James Harden led the team with 28 points and 5 assists, and 2 blocks.

Game 46: Rockets at Dallas Mavericks (W, 104-97)

To the surprise of literally no one, the Rockets--at full strength--took the victory at American Airlines center. Houston relied on a 38-point first quarter to survive a 13-point second, as the three point shot went from hot to cold. By the third quarter, the game was already well out of reach. The Rockets would cruise to their sixth straight victory behind Harden’s 25 points and 13 assists. Trevor Ariza would follow with 23 points on 5-14 from three. Gordon finally shook his yips and finished 4-7 from three with 17 points on the night.

Game 47: Rockets at New Orleans Pelicans (L, 115-113)

New Orleans is a big team, surrounded by guys who understand that their job is to either get the ball to their bigs or space the court and knock down kickouts. So when the Rockets play the Pelicans it's all about whether their dominating inside presence can outlast Houston’s three-point air assault. Friday night, however, the Rockets were ice cold in the first half from beyond the arc and Anthony Davis and company jumped all over the opportunity. After trailing by as much as 21 early in the second half, Houston shook off their cold start behind a pair of deep threes by Gordon and came roaring back. They eventually tied the game at 104 with 2:34 to go in the fourth, but clutch shooting--including a game-sealing offensive rebound and putback by Demarcus Cousins--would proved to be too much to overcome. Paul led the Rockets with 38 points and 8 assists. Gordon added 27 off the bench, and Harden finished with 23 points and 11 assists.

Game 48: Houston vs. Phoenix Suns (W, 113-102)

The Suns arrived in Houston Sunday looking to end a three-game losing streak during the Rockets’ first afternoon game of the season and came out of the gates swinging. Thirty-six seconds into the game Trevor Ariza was fouled hard going up for a layup and soon exited the game with a hamstring injury after making his free throw attempts. Sloppy ball handling and an unusually large amount of time stoppages prevented the Rockets from getting in sync at any point during the first half, which allowed the Suns to remain competitive throughout. It wasn't until a 32-24 third quarter that Houston was able to pull away and seal the victory. Harden paced the Rockets with 27 points, 8 assists, and 10 rebounds. Chris Paul ended with 17 points and 5 assists, and Clint Capela added a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Looking Ahead:

Fewer games, but tougher opponents: The Rockets are back in action Tuesday at the Toyota Center against the Orlando Magic before heading west to San Antonio on Thursday, followed by a Saturday showdown with LeBron James and the Cavaliers in Cleveland. Orlando could catch Houston looking ahead into the week, but the Rockets should be able to take the win. San Antonio on their home court will prove a much tougher test as well as the nationally televised Cavaliers game. I expect the Rockets to take the Orlando match and split the rest of the week, finishing 2-1.

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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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