THE COUCH SLOUCH

NBA has become the league of extraordinary duos

In the NBA, super teams have morphed into super pairings. Taking the lead from the world of entertainment – those folks knew that Simon & Garfunkel & Cher or Laurel and Hardy and Abbott would never work – trios have downsized to duos.

So this season, eight superstars – all certain hall of famers – have formed four superstar twosomes.

Couch Slouch, who knows a thing or two – and only a thing or two – about successful coupling – is here to assess the prospects for these iconic basketball marriages.

(Please note that no successful coupling will ever involve I-got-my-shots-so-I-don't-care-what-happens-elsewhere-on-the-court Carmelo Anthony, who returned last week from his forced NBA sabbatical by recording a minus-20 in 24 minutes of play with the Portland Trail Blazers.)

The duos are ranked here from most likely to win an NBA championship to most likely to end up broken, bickering and Bernie Madoff-like:

1. Kawhi Leonard-Paul George, Los Angeles Clippers: They are in their prime, they are surrounded by wonderful complementary parts and they have a fine coach, Doc Rivers. What could go wrong?

Well, everything.

Both are still somewhat youthful – Leonard is 28, George 29 – but both might have trouble staying on the court. In eight NBA seasons, Leonard has played 66 or fewer games six times; George, meanwhile, fractured his right leg to miss almost all of 2014-15, and he missed the first 11 games this season after shoulder surgery.

Heck, load management issues alone might keep Leonard out of Games 1, 3 and 6 in a seven-game NBA Finals.

2. LeBron James-Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers: These are inarguably two of the best all-around players in the NBA, unless you want to argue the point.

James seems indestructible, except he'll turn 35 next month, he's in his 17th NBA season and he takes more hits than Tom Brady. The Lakers could not survive a prolonged period in which James is sidelined.

Davis, who never has played more than 75 games in a season, just spent seven years in New Orleans in witness protection; he can't wait for the postseason, since he only got there twice with the Pelicans.

3. James Harden-Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets: This feels like a sporting Manhattan Project, except instead of secrecy, this race to make the first atomic bomb is played out in large arenas three nights a week. Harden (uranium) and Westbrook (plutonium), are durable ball hogs and wondrous to watch. But if you told either former MVP to play 48 minutes and take 50 shots, either might reply, "Why not 60 shots?"

4. Kyrie Irving-Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets: Too big to fail? No. Too fanciful to succeed. This is a more guaranteed bust than the next Charlie Sheen sitcom. Irving and Durant keep seeking new homes to show the true measure of their talent. But they are as temperamental as talented, and Durant – out this entire season with a torn ACL – might be a step-too-slow diva when he returns.

Anyhow, ballyhooed pairings are not guaranteed to thrive. For example:

Richard Nixon-Spiro Agnew: This simply did not end well for all parties concerned.

Sears-Kmart: The only thing that would've made this retail merger worse is if Radio Shack were involved.

Julius Caesar and Cleopatra: Frankly, I think they were using each other.

Gilligan and the Skipper: Despite better WiFi and more precise GPS than ever, these bozos are still deserted on that island.

Bonnie and Clyde: I understand getting out of the house on occasion to break the same old same old, but these lovebirds were just a bit too edgy for their own good.

America Online-Time Warner: I have earned a paycheck from both companies, and I am here to tell you – this was a nightmare alliance made in purgatory and destined for hell.

Romeo and Juliet: If they had eloped – and I recommend eloping, particularly on your second or third go-around – I believe a life or two would've been spared.

Thelma & Louise: And they say women are smarter.

On the other hand, kudos to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner for always understanding their roles.

Ask the Slouch

Q. If even the professionals in Joe Gibbs' pit crew mixed up the left and right front tires in the NASCAR Cup Series championship, then isn't it reasonable to expect my fiancé to forgive me for swiping left on her instead of right on Tinder? (Doug Thompson; Springfield, Ill.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will the NFL stop playing games at foreign neutral sites now that Daniel Snyder has created a domestic neutral site just outside of Washington, D.C.? (Terry Golden; Vienna, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. With the accusations against the Houston Astros using video to steal signs in MLB, is that just now called a "belichick"? (Michael Kolb; Spokane, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. Will recent unrest at Hong Kong Poly U. impact thinking of the College Football Playoff committee on its ranking? (Ken Unzicker; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!



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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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