NBA OPENER

Great result for Rockets, but Harden-Paul pairing will be a work in progress

Off the court, James Harden and Chris Paul have been great. They still have work to do on it. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Last night the Houston Rockets upset the Golden State Warriors 122-121 in a thrilling shootout to kick off the regular season. Free agent signings Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker provided a great spark off the bench with 14 and 20 points respectively, to compliment reigning sixth man of the year Eric Gordon and his 24-point effort. It was a great win, and more importantly it was at least the beginning of the answer to the biggest question surrounding the Rockets all offseason:

How will Chris Paul and James Harden look on the floor together?

Well, the short answer is – at the moment – not great. Not terrible, but not great. Paul and Harden seemed to stick to what they know best, which is a lot of iso ball. If one had the ball, the other seemed to sit off in the corner and let them do their thing. Paul went 2-9 from the field (0-4 from 3-point range) for 4 points to go with 11 assists and 8 rebounds, but left the game near the end of the fourth quarter with knee soreness. Harden, meanwhile, dazzled in his debut, turning in a 27 point, 6 rebound, and 10 assist effort.

They ended the game with a combined 21 assists, but the growing pains were fairly evident. Paul found himself in rather unfamiliar territory by playing off ball the majority of the time the two shared the court.

At the moment it’s very obvious that Paul realizes that this is Harden’s team and seemed fine acquiescing the ball handling duties for the time being while he adjusts. Paul was eventually pulled out of the lineup in favor of Gordon near the end of the fourth quarter because of the knee, and when questioned by reporters in the locker room about the benching showed zero frustration. That was a good sign, because it shows that he realizes how talented the Rockets’ lineup is.

At the moment it’s simply too early to grade the Harden/Paul experiment, especially with Paul playing hurt. Injuries are going to be part of the norm with Paul, as they have been throughout his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s still one of the most dangerous point guards in the league.

I personally don’t expect there to be much of an issue. Harden and Paul are far too talented and basketball smart to not make this work.

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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