Shooting stars

Joel Blank: It's time to sit back and enjoy the ride with the Rockets

James Harden and the Rockets are a joy to behold. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Your Rockets are off to the best start in franchise history, tied with the 1993-94 championship team. They have the second best record in the entire league and just waxed the Cavaliers in Cleveland with LeBron James and company by 32 points. You should be ecstatic! You should feel like your team is as close to the top of the basketball world as they have been in 27 years, yet Red Nation seems to be as worried and schizophrenic as ever when thinking about this team. Why is that? What gives? Where's the love?

Let me guess, is it because you’ve seen this movie before? Is it hard to trust a team that has tugged at your heartstrings only to deliver a soul crushing defeat year after year? Have you become so spoiled as a fanbase that nothing in the regular season seems to matter and even a division title has no value? Is the only gauge that registers for you how far this team goes in the playoffs, and if they can compete for and win a championship? It seems as though, as long as Daryl Morey is the DJ there is no way that Rockets fans will trust that this broken record will somehow find its groove—come April, May, and most importantly in June.

I get it Rockets fans;  you are hungry for another title, it’s been too long and you have been extremely patient. You have had to endure some of the toughest defeats in the franchises history in the last few postseason appearances. Who wants to remember 2014 and Damian Lillard's buzzer beater that sent the Rockets home from the Rose City? There was the improbable comeback in Los Angeles against the Clippers in game 6 and the blowout victory to clinch the series in Game 7, only to see the team blow a 16-point lead in Game 1 and never find the recipe for defeating the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Let us not forget that less than a year ago, the Rockets were rolling and everyone's sexy pick to get to the Western Conference finals and give that Golden State team a long hard-fought series. Instead of the Beard taking you to the promised land, James Harden and company found a way to grab the tackle box before they could even reel in a big fish and were sent home for the summer by Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. Yet another, early "gone fishing" vacation. I totally understand that the only way that this franchise and this team will be able to exorcise its demons and redeem themselves would be a trip to the Conference Finals, a hard fought battle against the Golden State Warriors and maybe, just maybe a trip to the NBA finals. Something inside of me says even that might not be good enough for a fan base that waits for the heartbreak instead of anticipating the incredible, if not the improbable.

It's your loss Rockets fans, if that's the way you choose to think. If those are the thoughts that run through your head as this team runs through the best of both conferences and puts on a show night in and night out, that's on you. If you are so caught up in waiting for the playoffs and another collapse that you can't appreciate what you have had in the last four regular seasons, then who am I to tell you to think any differently? Fact is, you've had your best player in contention for the MVP in three of the last four years including this very season. An offseason trade has given you the opportunity to see one of the best point guards of all time, still playing at an extremely high level and making this Rockets team better on a nightly basis. Speaking of team, who wouldn't want to root for, watch and see a team that leads the league in three point shots attempted and made, not to mention scoring at an all-time level as they strike fear in every scoreboard in every arena across the NBA. The team has even added role players that specifically addressed their biggest weakness of a year ago, by being known for their defense first and their offensive prowess after that fact. The simple truth is this team is good, really good. Regardless of how they finish the postseason, this team maybe the best regular-season team in the history of this storied franchise. Sure, we're all waiting to see what happens in the playoffs and we will judge and rate the year accordingly based on how it all plays out. But in the meantime and in between time, why not just appreciate how lucky you are to have a team that can entertain you and rack up wins seemingly every night? Don't you think fans in Brooklyn and Phoenix would love to have a squad to watch that played the way the Rockets play and win the way they throw up W's? At the end of the day the choice is really up to you, but I personally think you're missing the boat because this team is far different than any of those teams of the past.  In fact, this may be the only team that comes close to stacking up to those championship teams of the past and in the process may be the best regular season basketball team this city has ever witnessed. So before it's time for the Warriors to come out to play, take time to enjoy the ride and remember, the reality is, we're all day to day.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome