Warriors lead 3-2

How the Rockets can still beat the Warriors

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Falling behind 3-2 in a series when you are the road team is tough. Winning two games in a row against the defending champions is impossible enough, but doing it without homecourt advantage in a possible Game 7 is asking a lot. There's no denying that the Rockets have become the firm underdog in this series heading into Toyota Center on Friday.

However, it's certainly not impossible. In fact, the Cavaliers were down 3-2 when they were going back to Cleveland for Game 6 of the 2016 NBA Finals. It's been done before. To do it however, the Rockets need to be on their A game and treat Game 6 as the end-all-be-all. To do that, a few things have to happen.


1) Clint Capela has to show up

The Rockets have gotten very little out of Clint Capela in this series. In this series, Capela is averaging 8.6 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 0.6 blocks on 55.1% true shooting. The Rockets have been a negative 13.9 per 100 possessions with Capela on the floor. Draymond Green has virtually took away his lob game and defensively, Capela's been played off the floor.

The best version of the Rockets involves Capela in the floor in crunch time situations. Head coach Mike D'Antoni knows this and it's why he continues to give Capela playing time late in games. Playing P.J. Tucker at center has worked out great, but the Rockets have been their best all season with Clint Capela closing games and being a consistent release valve for the offense.

2) Chris Paul has to score

It sounds like such a dumb, simplistic thing to say, but the Rockets need their 9-time All-Star to play like a 9-time All-Star. Eric Gordon has done a fantastic job at picking up the slack on the offensive end, averaging 22.2 points on 61.0% true shooting. However, there are spots on the floor that Gordon can't get to that Paul can.

Paul has been plenty impactful in this series without the scoring, but the Rockets need every bit of vintage Chris Paul they can get if they want a chance at bringing this series back to Oracle Arena. Playing great defense, facilitating the basketball, getting key deflections, and grabbing offensive rebounds is great but 14.6 points on 53.8% true shooting isn't enough for a star of Paul's caliber. It's possible he's lost a step, but Paul can still create separation for tough mid-range jumpers better than anyone on the Rockets.

3) Houston has to dominate the glass

The reason the Rockets won Games 3 and 4 is simple: they won the rebounding battle. Every game this series, the team with the most rebounds has won the game. Giving extra offensive possessions to the best offensive team of all time doesn't make much sense.

The Rockets had several key moments down the stretch of Game 5 where they could not secure a defensive rebound and it cost them dearly. This series has largely come down to a few possessions every game, which is why having as many as you can benefits the Rockets.

4) James Harden, P.J. Tucker, and Eric Gordon have to continue doing what they're doing

Other than a few possessions here and there, James Harden has largely been fantastic in this series. Averaging 34.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals on 59.8% true shooting, there's not much more you could ask for from Harden. He's answered the bell in every way.

P.J. Tucker has been an absolute monster in this series. As a small-ball center for a good percentage of this series, Tucker has grabbed 9.0 rebounds per game with 2.6 of those being offensive. Tucker has been tasked with the job of defending Kevin Durant and has matched up admirably with him and Houston as a team has defended an incredible 19.8 points per 100 possessions better with Tucker on the floor. Tucker is also shooting an insane 47.4% from three-point range in this series.

And Eric Gordon is just stealing the show in this series. Gordon isn't shooting the three-ball very well, but his driving to the rim has kept him extremely efficient. Because of the poor three-point shooting (33.9%), Gordon may be the only one from this group who has room for improvement incredibly enough.




5) Luck

It's unfortunate that we have to talk about injuries being the possible swinging force for a team, but they play a factor. According to Shams Charania, Kevin Durant suffered a right calf strain during Game 5. The Rockets would rather beat the Warriors at full health, but if Durant were to miss Game 6, you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody from the Rockets complaining about not having to play Durant.

Of course, luck doesn't have to come into play with a missed game from Durant. It could also come in the form of a poor shooting night from Klay Thompson or Steph Curry. It could come in the form of hot three-point shooting. Whatever the case, having a little luck go Houston's way would go a long way in tying up this series.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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