Hall of famer Elvin Hayes weighs in on Rockets-Thunder, NBA playoffs

Composite photo by Jack Brame

I had a chance to connect with basketball royalty, "Big E" Elvin Hayes. 12x NBA All Star, NBA HOF, and NBA Champion.

SportsMap: What grade to you give commissioner Adam Silver in his handling of the pandemic/creation of the bubble?

Elvin Hayes: I think he has done an excellent job of getting basketball back where it needs to be. I'd give him an A. He gets a 10 out of 10 in my book.

SM: Would you have adapted to the bubble as a player ? Would you have thrived with it being the same court, same atmosphere each night, etc?

EH: No I wouldn't have. I think that is a very difficult situation for teams playing in one place. I wouldn't have been successful in that situation. I preferred going city to city. To me, it's more like a scrimmage than a game.

SM: There's a cloud of uncertainty with Russell Westbrook. Realistically how far can the Rockets go if he's limited?

EH: Houston can't go far without Russ. He's come in and taken them to another level. Without Westbrook, the Rockets will be really hurting.

SM: So for the first round matchup vs. the Thunder, these teams know each other really well. Does Chris Paul control the tempo of that series, or does James Harden rule the day?

EH: I'm a big fan of CP3. Chris has a very positive effect with Oklahoma and I've seen him this regular season elevate his teammates to play better. OKC has defeated Houston in the past because of Chris Paul. He's the key to that series. He's a floor general. James is a great player, but Chris guides that OKC team and will give the Rockets a hard time.

SM: Who do you think wins the NBA Title?

EH: Milwaukee. This will usher in the Giannis era of basketball.

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Carlos Correa had a big home run Saturday night. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

With four wins in a row, including the first two of this series, Houston had a chance to keep their momentum going to lock up a series win on Saturday in this four-game set. Although Texas would make it interesting late, the Astros would hold them off to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 5

Astros' Record: 23-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Luis Garcia (1-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dane Dunning (2-3)

Action in the first

After getting trounced the night prior, the Rangers managed to grab early momentum with a run to start the scoring Saturday night against Luis Garcia. It came after a one-out triple set up a sac fly, giving Texas a 1-0 lead. Houston quickly took control back in their favor, though, putting up four in the bottom of the inning on a two-RBI single by Alex Bregman and a two-run homer by Carlos Correa, making it 4-1 Astros.

The scoreboard went quiet after that inning, with both teams slowing down at the plate. Garcia put together a decent night, allowing just the one run over five innings of work, erasing some runners throughout the night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 94 P.

Rangers tighten it up late

Bryan Abreu was the first reliever to enter for Houston, taking over for Garcia in the top of the sixth. He worked around a leadoff single, keeping it a three-run game, then returned for a 1-2-3 top of the seventh. Correa led off with a double in the bottom of the inning, setting up a two-run Kyle Tucker homer, extending his recent hot streak and the lead to 6-1.

Ryne Stanek took over on the mound for Houston in the top of the eighth but worked himself into trouble with a single and walk to set up a three-run homer by Joey Gallo to make it a two-run game at 6-4. He would manage just one out before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Brandon Bielak. Bielak would allow a run while getting the final two outs, making it 6-5.

Astros secure the series

After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, Ryan Pressly would try to notch another save and close the door on the Rangers. He would get the job done, sitting the Rangers down in order, keeping Houston's winning streak intact.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game set will start at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Lance McCullers JR. (3-1, 3.10 ERA), fresh off of a recent gem, will look to continue his success for the Astros, while Kyle Gibson (3-0, 2.28) will try to stay perfect on the season for the Rangers.

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