The good and bad about the Rockets

How can the Rockets maneuver through the wild wild West?


Well the beginning of the season has been a struggle, but there cannot be any excuses if the Rockets want to survive this season. The Western Conference has officially taken steroids for this season.

The first problem is the Rocket's defense.

If the Rockets want to survive this season, the defense must improve. It has way too many breakdowns for them to be successful. The Rockets rank 30th in points allowed in a game. This stat is very shocking because the addition of Russell Westbrook. Their pick 'n' roll and transition defense has been terrible too. Another bad situation that keeps occurring is the misuse of PJ Tucker. He is repeatedly guarding players that are bigger than him. Monday night, Tucker played the center position for defensive purposes against the Memphis Grizzlies. D'Antoni's defensive schemes must be better before they play bigger opponents like the Los Angeles Lakers. He does lack a defensive background in his coaching career. Amar'e Stoudemire, former NBA vet, who plays in Israel now, said on a the Knuckle Head podcast that D' Antoni never went over defense in practice when he played for him in Phoenix. The Rockets gave up 46 points in the first quarter against the Miami Heat Sunday night.

Last season, the Rockets brought back Coach Jeff Bzdelik to fix the defensive problems they had. Sadly, his contract ended in May of this year. Hopefully this coaching staff can figure things out before they play LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard, or Luka Doncic. Even Devin Booker and the Suns are looking pretty impressive in the West. The Rockets have struggled with mediocre teams this season so far. Tracy McGrady, ESPN NBA analyst, mentioned on the NBA Jump that the Rockets defense needs to be fixed soon.



Here is the bright side of the situation, James Harden.

Ever since James Harden's slow start, he has been on fire for the last four games. Harden is not surprising anyone by the leading the league in scoring. Right now he is averaging 36.6 per game and heading to free throw line frequently. He is able to get to the free throw line 16 times per game as well. Harden is the reason why the Rockets were able to skate by the Wizards and Grizzlies. Even though Harden is only shooting 38% from the field, he is still able to manage games correctly. Harden has also done better by creating opportunities for his teammates when he attempts to go to the paint. Another thing Harden has gotten better at is not holding the ball to the final digit of the shot clock. The ball is leaving his hands much faster this season. Harden has been extremely aggressive ever since he mentioned playing soft in the first game of the season. As basketball fans see, Harden is improving from last season. Hopefully Harden sustains this play.



Even though things seem ugly right now, the Rockets will figure things out.

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Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

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