THE Z REPORT

Lance Zierlein: 3 simple steps for the Rockets to bounce back and win Game 2

Somebody freaking cover Klay Thompson. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! Is the sky falling? Frankly, maybe it is. James Harden put together a huge Game 1 and Chris Paul added 23 points and 11 rebounds and they still lost by double digits. How do you stop Kevin Durant? How do you keep Klay Thompson and Steph Curry from finding their rhythms and burying you this series?

Look, this is going to be a difficult series to win, but it’s not impossible and Game 1 also showed that the Rockets could definitely matchup with the Warriors - they just struggled to do it in the third quarter which was enough to turn that game into a boat race.

How to Erase -13

When you look up at the scoreboard and see a loss by 13 points, at home no less, it looks insurmountable. Maybe it will turn out to be a foreshadowing of the series. I know that the entire TNT crew seems to believe that Game 1 was representative of how this series will look, but it doesn’t have to.

Over the first two rounds of the playoffs, the Rockets were +4 in the turnover differential but they found themselves on the other end of that number in the series opener after turning it over 13 times and forcing just 9. The Rockets must win the turnover battle because the entire key to beating a team with elite shooting is to take away some of their possessions. Houston won the rebound battle, but must pair that a “W” in the turnover column as well. Win the turnover battle and that is worth at least four points.

The next step is to actually not lose Klay Thompson in the half-court sets. WTF?! When 4 of Thompson’s 6 3-point makes are wide-open you are going to lose. These shots are basically layups for him. If the Rockets can eliminate some of those defensive breakdowns, maybe two of those baskets go away and that would be worth six points.

 

And is it too much to ask Luc Mbah a Moute to make an actual layup? After going 0-for-6 including five missed chipies near the basket, he’s got to finish when he gets near the rim. Hell, the entire team needs to finish when they have easy looks near the rim. If he had made just two of those six shots, we are talking about four more points.

Winning turnover battle

+4 points

Actually guarding Klay Thompson 3s

+6 points

Making two easy layups at basket

+4 points

New Point Differential

+14 points


We haven’t even talked about how the Rockets shot free throws poorly and they allowed too many easy back-cuts to the basket for layups. I’m not telling you that the Rockets are going to win the series or even Game 2 (although they are favorites again), but I am telling you that those 13 points aren’t as insurmountable as you might think.

 

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Houston drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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