THE PALLILOG

Here's what the Rockets-Lakers series could come down to

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

The late college basketball coach Jim Valvano coined the phrase "survive and advance" to characterize all that matters in the NCAA Tournament. The Rockets borrowed "survive and advance" in getting past Oklahoma City to earn their shot at the Lakers in round two of the NBA Playoffs starting Friday night. A first round elimination at the hands of Chris Paul and the Thunder would have been a disaster for the Rockets. Would have been.

It is no miracle if the Rockets take down the Lakers to reach the Western Conference Final for the second time in three years, but the Lakers are better. At 35 years old LeBron James remains an amazing force, but it's Anthony Davis for whom the Rockets have zero answers. If A.D. is on his A game he'll destroy the Rockets inside and out. The Rockets are a poor rebounding team, so is Oklahoma City. The Lakers are one of the better rebounding squads in the NBA.

There are beacons of hope for the Rockets' cause. The Lakers do not have a physical and quick guard a la OKC's Luguentz Dort to disrupt James Harden. Their best perimeter defender is Avery Bradley, who opted to skip the NBA bubble. Harden's tremendous block of Dort's shot that could have ended the Rockets' season saved Harden from being pilloried for another elimination game woeful offensive performance. Maybe that which did not kill him makes Harden stronger.

The Lakers are not a good three point shooting team. Neither are the Rockets, who bank on decent mega-volume three point shooting to swing the math in their direction. As always, in a short series of games the big picture stats can be rendered irrelevant.

Lakers in six, to set up an all L.A. in Orlando Western Conference Final vs. the Clippers who should make quick work of the Nuggets.

Astros hit the road

The Astros want to win their division but compared to normal seasons it just isn't a big deal. Getting and keeping Alex Bregman healthy is much more important. Jose Altuve has been horrible in this short season, but his leaving Thursday's game and needing an MRI of his surgically repaired right knee is not good news. After four games in Anaheim this weekend against the awful Angels over the Astros have a five game series with the A's in Oakland. Win three of five or better from the A's and the Astros could reclaim the division. If not, probably not. But the Astros are a virtual lock to make the eight team American League field and that's all that really matters.

NFL is right around the corner

With no preseason games (yay!) and the NBA and NHL playoffs ongoing, the NFL regular season seemingly sneaks up on us more than ever before. The Texans have the toughest opening threesome of games in the league starting at the Chiefs, home for the Ravens, then at the Steelers. At Kansas City probably means the Texans start 0-1. They did win at Arrowhead Stadium during the regular season last year. You may recall it worked out differently in the playoff game. The Chiefs are allowing 22 percent seat usage for their first three home games. Normally one of the loudest crowds in the NFL, fewer than 17-thousand on hand this time make one part of the Texans' task simpler.

I don't know if there's an over under for games played by J.J. Watt this season, but he better go over. Without him the Texans defense is simply weak. With the now 31-year-old Watt the Texan D won't be special, but he is still usually a difference maker. I doubt Watt needs fuel added to his fire for a season opener, but lest he or anyone else have forgotten, 99 was a zero in the playoff embarrassment at K.C. Zero sacks, zero quarterback hits, zero solo tackles, zero assisted tackles. He did tip one Patrick Mahomes pass.

As ever the Texans look no better than a B-list contender in the AFC. If Philip Rivers gives the Colts above average quarterback play I take them over the Texans in the AFC South. Who knows what level Ryan Tannehill settles in at after performing wildly over his head for Titans relative to the rest of his pro career. The Jaguars are a laughingstock. Reminder: over Bill O'Brien's six seasons as Texans' Head Coach, three AFC South franchises have reached the AFC Championship game. Then there are the Texans.

Buzzer Beaters:

1. What an annoyance that Rockets-Lakers game 4 will go head-to-head with the Texans-Chiefs opener.

2. My annual proselytizing for the NHL playoffs: pretty much every year the most intense second by second postseason in sports. Two decisive seventh games Friday, another Saturday!

3. Best Canadian cities (when they let us visit again) Bronze-Vancouver Silver-Montreal Gold-Toronto

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM

TEXANS TRAINING CAMP WATCH

11 Texans training camp observations from August 7th

Houston Texans insider dishes on why Derek Stingley Jr was the right pick

The Houston Texans had a “vanilla” day of light work. Here are 11observations from the workout.

1. It was a light day for the Texans. Some would say sluggish, I wouldn’t agree with that. Did it look like a day off was in order? Yes. Did anyone make mental mistakes because of their energy level? Not that I could see. With it being a lighter day, it might be worthwhile to focus on some of the depth on the roster.

2. Isaac Yiadom (pronounced YEAH-dum) has had some moments in training camp. With rookie Derek Stingley having a light day, Yiadom played opposite Steven Nelson. Yiadom has had a few pass breakups and seems to be physical in coverage. He has a little speed to him, or he’s shown the ability to stick with wideouts. He is a top preseason game target to watch.

3. Phillip Dorset had a very nice back-of-the-end zone catch. It might have, likely even, been a sack for the defense in a live rep or team rep, but Davis Mills ripped the ball out as the whistle was starting to sound. Dorset with two feet in the back after juking a defender. He is squarely behind other wideouts having missed time but being a veteran should catch up quickly.

4. Wideout Connor Wedington had a few nice plays on Sunday. He has an uphill battle to make the roster, but Davis Mills’ former teammate might squeeze his way into the conversation. There are opportunities for him with a few other wideouts banged up.

5. Rookie tight end Tegan Quitoriano bodied his way for a touchdown. The rookie hasn’t done much in camp, but his size is clearly an advantage. Game reps and more padded practice will be important for him this preseason.

6. Chris Moore is a veteran taking yet another swing at making this team. If the Texans played tomorrow, I would have him on the roster. Probably even starting at slot wideout. He had a very nice leaping grab today.

7. Versatility for a couple of backup offensive linemen may lead to them making the team. Well, it certainly won’t hurt their case. Justin McCray has played all three interior offensive line spots. The veteran could start if needed, but I have to imagine he is a key backup inside. Scott Quessenberry (yes related to former Texans lineman David and current fullback Paul) played guard on Sunday. He is a factor to be Justin Britt’s backup at center.

8. Charlie Heck was not a pick I was in love with when Bill O’Brien selected him a couple of seasons ago. Heck has grown a lot in his game and physically and is surely the backup tackle for this team. He can play left and right tackle.

9. Tae Davis plays linebacker and wears 19. It is the strangest thing to see a linebacker in that number. It has not been strange to see Davis make a play here or there in practice. The linebacker room is loaded but Davis is making the most of his chances.

10. Ka’imi Fairbairn HAMMERED a ball right down the uprights after Davis Mills had led the team into field goal range on a last-minute drill. Mills easily moved the team down the field without the normal group of linemen or weapons. Good finish to practice.

11. Jonathan Greenard did some pushups after he couldn’t replicate history. Greenard almost had his second interception of Davis Mills, but the ball fell incomplete. Greenard has been a force in training camp.

Bonus Quote of the Day: “I was a fat guy last year” said Pharaoh Brown as he talked about his leaner and quicker frame compared to last year.

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome