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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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