THE PALLILOG

It's not just the Rockets with something at stake this weekend

Composite photo by Brandon Strange

Quite a week as it pertains to sports. The Milwaukee Bucks opting to not play their scheduled playoff game Wednesday created an unprecedented domino effect of others choosing to do the same across multiple sports. The hope is that the one game pause will be means to a long game end of fixing some of America's ills such as police brutality against black people. Those who don't see nobility in the objective are largely beyond hope. The players pulling the plug on the season would have been foolhardy and financially catastrophic for them. Hence, plug unpulled. Principles should always matter. Principal usually does.

It is an American disgrace that so many on each side of the political aisle so often adhere to a "we're 100 percent right and they're 100 percent wrong" attitude. The casualization of lying is its own epidemic.

Rockets relaunch

And now back to the games. The additional time off between games four and five of their first round playoff series certainly isn't a bad thing for the Rockets. Despite Russell Westbrook's absence they seemed in control with a two games to none lead over Oklahoma City. That edge disappeared as the Rockets squandered leads in games three and four. Westbrook had been upgraded to questionable for game five had it been played Wednesday. An extra 48 hours or more of rehab time for Westbrook's injured quad could well make the difference on the will he or won't he play front, and if he will then his of level of explosiveness should benefit. The Rockets could get through this series without Westbrook. Against the Lakers they'd have little chance without him. That is unless LeBron James or Anthony Davis went down injured.

If two weeks ago I told you that Westbrook won't have played through four games of the series and that James Harden thus far would be maybe the fourth best guard in the Western Conference this postseason, you'd probably think the Rockets were in dire straits. It's not as if Harden is having a bad series. Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Denver's Jamal Murray have been spectacular and then some. Dallas's Luke Doncic may have produced the single best all-around game anyone will put up in the bubble.

Astros get another shot at the A's

The Astros and A's open a three game series Friday night at Minute Maid Park that is both huge and of little significance, and that is within a purely baseball context. If the Astros hope to win the American League West for a fourth year in a row, it's just about a must that they take at least two out of three this weekend. The A's lead is four and a half game with only a month to play. If they increase that lead here, it's close to curtains for the Astros AL West hopes. That's the huge part of the series. The insignificance comes in that the Astros are probably better than 95 percent to make the expanded playoff field by finishing at least second in their division. The Rangers, Angels, and Mariners are all terrible. It's extremely unlikely the Astros drop below any of them in the standings. About the only way it could happen is if the Rangers whip up on the Astros over the 10 head-to-head matchups they have in September.

The A's have been a lot better than the Astros in this short season to date, most notably sweeping them out of Oakland a couple of weeks ago. The Rockies swept three from Arizona this week to creep a game over .500. That means the Astros in their 31 games to date have four wins over teams presently with a winning record, their four over the Rockies last week. The only good teams the Astros have faced are the A's, Dodgers, and Padres. Against those three teams the Astros are 0-8. But none of that matters when the playoffs start.

With the Astros' schedule disrupted by the Hurricane Laura scare and the A's skipping their scheduled finale in Arlington as part of the social injustice protest, the pitching matchups for Astros-A's get tweaked. Chris Bassitt isn't Jacob DeGrom or Gerrit Cole but he has been the A's best starter so far. Bassitt was to have pitched against the Rangers Thursday. Instead he'll open vs. the Astros and Lance McCullers. Mike Fiers will not pitch in the series for the A's.

Out of tune

Anyone else wonder how much Elton John freaked out (not in a happy way) at Ivanka Trump using "I'm Still Standing" as her intro music before speaking Thursday night?

Buzzer Beaters:

1. Inside two weeks now to the Texans at Chiefs regular season opener. The Chiefs are favored by 10. Taking the points. Lukewarmly.

2. MLB's seven inning doubleheaders are silly.

3. Reginald Dwight's best songs: Bronze-Saturday Night's Alright Silver-Bennie and the Jets Gold-Someone Saved My Life Tonight

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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