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 can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

Record: 26-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome