WESTBROOK WILL MISS GAME 5

Let's discuss how Russell Westbrook could impact the Thunder series

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

After the Rockets lost two tough games back-to-back, they were exposed late in 3rd and 4th quarters as well. As the Rockets were triumphant in game 1 and 2, they have been outscored 119-98 in the second half. The Rockets need Russell Westbrook so they can close games out. The Oklahoma City Thunder now have life.

The Rockets are in trouble because of the shorter bench. Ben McLemore's defense has been frantic inside of defensive schemes and man-to-man coverage. That has caused his minutes to decrease for Mike D'Antoni. Austin Rivers has not scored since game 3, and that was only four points. The Rockets only rely on their 3-point shooting instead of points inside the paint. Luckily for the Rockets, Westbrook gets most of points inside the paint. Westbrook averages 60.8 percent inside the restricted area and 37.2 percent in the paint (Non-RA).

The Rockets do miss Westbrook's presence to create and apply consent pressure going to the basket. This allows the Rockets' shooters to get open for shooting attempts. If Westbrook does comeback soon, this can relieve the pressure on James Harden offensively, who has been guarded by Lu Dort, rookie from Arizona State. Harden has struggled possession wise against Dort by only shooting 23.5 percent against him.

Defense has been a problem for the Rockets as well, despite the Rockets being 4th in the Western Conference in team general defense. Dennis Schroeder has been averaging 30 points per game off the bench for the Thunder in the last two games. Chris Paul has awakened by averaging 26 points per game in the last two games as well. Those two have been the consistent force for the Thunder getting back in this series. Bringing Westbrook back will help the Rockets and allow Harden to not get in foul trouble.

"We needed better individual defensive efforts. They really had it going and they tried to spread us out and go 1-on-1. We scored enough and they continued to keep scoring," Eric Gordon on the Rockets' defense after their game 4 loss on Monday. "That's what it's going to come down to. Our defense needs to be better than today."

When Paul and Westbrook matchup on defense, Westbrook only allows Paul to shoot 25 percent against him. That could be a huge difference in this series. Westbrook was upgraded to questionable for game 5 on Wednesday.

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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