A new era has begun

No James Harden, no problem as Rockets beat Spurs 109-105

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The Houston Rockets recorded their first win without the star power of James Harden versus the San Antonio Spurs. After a chaotic Harden press conference, the Rockets held various team meetings, so the focus was not forgotten. Thursday night, Christian Wood led the way with 27 points and 15 rebounds, and got some help along the way from Sterling Brown and Jae' Sean Tate. It was a back-and-forth effort, but the Rockets prevailed with a 109-105 win over the Spurs.

With John Wall and Eric Gordon both out, Wood needed to carry the load but still needed help from his teammates. Tate brought a complete effort while being versatile, dynamic, and ran the point guard position with extreme efficiency. Brown had complete confidence by lighting the Spurs up for 23 points on 53 percent shooting from the field. It was incredible to watch undrafted Mason Jones and second-round draft pick Kenyon Martin take leaps in front of our eyes.

For those that don't know, the Rockets were shorthanded because they are still waiting on the arrival of Victor Oladipo.

Watching Wood become better at drop coverage was pivotal in the Rockets' success on defense. Wood also became a great help-side defender by covering ground for his teammates. His shot blocking was extremely lethal against the Spurs. Wood finished with three blocks on Thursday night. His offensive game frightened the Spurs defenders as Wood was able to attack from the perimeter and paint area. Wood shot 71 percent at the 3-point line and 55 percent from the field. Like Wood said during his press conference on Wednesday, he didn't come to Houston to lose.

Stephan Silas had to coach a shorthanded roster Thursday night, so Tate was used at the point guard position. Tate collected 10 points and 13 assists by being aggressive and smart. He operated the pick-n-roll with Wood precisely and found him continuously on lobs. Tate also finished nicely around the rim, including being strong over defenders. Hopefully, Tate's development gets better over time.

The signing of Sterling Brown was a head scratcher in the beginning of the season but has been successful so far. Right now, Brown is averaging a career high of 8.5 points per game with the Rockets. Brown was not scared to take the big shots versus the Spurs Thursday night. He even made acrobatic tough layups in crunch time. Brown also made an incredible shot toward the end of the 4th quarter for the Rockets. Hopefully, the play of Brown continues to get better throughout the season.

This was a great win for the shorthanded Rockets. Not bad for a team with no chemistry or talent.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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