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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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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