GAME 6 PREVIEW

Keep doubting these Rockets; it has worked well so far

James Harden's bad shooting streak will come to an end at some point. Kevin C. Cox

Keep doubting, go ahead.

Keep soaking up the narrative that the national media has been spoon feeding everyone since even before Game 1's tip off.

“The Rockets have no chance.”

“The Rockets are going to get swept.”

“They just don't match up well.”

I bet you took that and ran with it. Plenty of people did. I bet you pointed at the TV screen as the Rockets fell in Game 1 and validated your skepticism to your buddies.

Then Game 2 happened, and Houston beat the brakes off of the untouchable Golden State super team. Houston had drawn blood against Xerxes, proving that they were in fact mortal. Houston fans were offered a faint glimmer of hope.

The next four days gave way to hot takes from the talking head prognosticators who began spreading whispers of heresy regarding the vulnerability of the NBA’s god-king.

Could they fall?

Is this the end of their reign?

The Warriors utilized Game 3 to crush the uprising with gratuitous show of force against the insubordinate upstart Rockets. Order must be restored, and a 41-point victory did just that.

With the status quo returned, Houston was once again given the “dead man walking" treatment. 

“They're just too much for Houston.”

“Who will the Warriors play in the finals?”

Unphased by their defeat, the Rockets took to the court and insolently battled back from multiple double-digit deficits to steal a win at Golden State. They then returned home and gutted out a filthy victory to seize a 3-2 series lead in spite of a horrendous shooting performance from James Harden and the last minute loss of Chris Paul.

So here we are. The Rockets are up 3-2 against one of the greatest teams ever assembled in the history of basketball. Golden State is hurt. Houston is hurt. But that's what happens in a battle.

The loss of Chris Paul has seemingly negated the position the Rockets are in by most people following the series. In spite of a 3-2 lead and two convincing back to back victories, the grave has already been dug and the majority of those following this series are already lowering Houston's casket.

The majority of those following this series, however, haven't watched the Rockets all season.

They probably can't tell you that when Chris Paul was out in the beginning of the season, Eric Gordon slid into the starting rotation and the Rockets didn't miss a beat while he averaged 22 points a game. 

They probably didn't see Gordon take over and average the same numbers for 10 games straight during Harden's injury either. They simply saw Chris Paul go down and called it a wrap.

This isn't Game 7, and Harden will not stay this cold shooting from range. The Rockets will have to find a way to productively divide roughly 40 minutes of playing time, but the firepower is still there. The main difference is that Houston is far more capable of playing their same style in the midst of injuries than Golden State. The Warriors, in the other hand, have just looked confused with the loss of Andre Igoudala. They have two chances to win just one game, and those are some pretty great odds.

So keep writing them off. Keep coming up with reasons to undermine Houston's performance into mediocrity. It's worked pretty well so far.

 

 

 

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Houston's winning streak moves to six

Eighth-inning rally powers Astros to series sweep over Rangers

Yuli Gurriel brought in the go-ahead run late in Sunday's game. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Winners in the first three games of this series and their last five games overall, the Astros continued their climb towards the A's for first place in the AL West. They completed the four-game sweep, ending a successful homestand on a positive note before heading on the road.

Final Score: Astros 6, Rangers 2

Astros' Record: 24-17, tied for first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brooks Raley (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Joely Rodriguez (1-2)

Astros strike first, McCullers Jr. goes six scoreless

After the Rangers went down 1-2-3 in the top of the first, Houston grabbed an early lead off the bat of Alex Bregman. He provided the third single of the inning, a one-out RBI to put the Astros in front 1-0, a score which would hold steady for a while. Another run didn't come across until the bottom of the fifth when Houston would load the bases with one out when Carlos Correa would get an RBI groundball to double the lead to 2-0.

Lance McCullers Jr. did well with the small lead, backing up his recent eight-inning gem with a quality start against Texas. He allowed a couple of hits each in the third and fourth but would erase the runners with no damage allowed. The Rangers threatened in the top of the sixth with a leadoff double before the runner moved to third on a wild pitch, putting him in a great position with no outs. McCullers Jr. would come away unscathed, finishing the inning and his day by retiring the next three batters. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 95 P.

Rangers tie it against Scrubb

First out of Houston's bullpen was Andre Scrubb, and he would not fare as well as the Astros starter. A leadoff single turned into a two-run game-tying homer, making it 2-2 before Scrubb would sit down the next three in order. Still tied in the top of the eighth, Brooks Raley had a terrific inning, striking out the three batters he faced.

Houston rallies ahead in the eighth for the four-game sweep

The top of Houston's order mounted a threat in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases with one out to try and regain the lead. Yuli Gurriel would come through with the go-ahead at-bat, getting a sac fly to put the Astros back in front 3-2. A two-out walk loaded the bases again, setting up Chas McCormick to provide two insurance runs on a two-RBI single.

Myles Straw added one more on an RBI single, making it a four-run game at 6-2 heading to the ninth. Enoli Paredes made his long-awaited return from the IL, appearing for the first time since April 8th to try and close things out in the ninth. He tossed a scoreless inning, finishing off the four-game sweep, extending Houston's winning streak to six games, and keeping them in step with Oakland for the AL West lead.

Up Next: After a day off on Monday, the Astros will begin a six-game road trip on Tuesday. They'll kick off a three-game set in Oakland against the A's at 8:40 PM, an exciting matchup to determine who will head into the weekend atop the division. While Cristian Javier (3-1, 3.08 ERA) is the expected starter for Houston, Oakland has not yet determined their rotation for the series.

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