THE PALLILOG

Pallilo's view: You might have missed it in your World Series celebrations, but the Rockets are rolling

James Harden and Chris Paul have only had one game together. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Almost completely overshadowed by THE ASTROS RUN TO WIN THE WORLD SERIES!...The Rockets have ripped off a 9-3 start.

For the most part so far this season no Chris Paul, no problem. Though for the Rockets to max out on their potential they will need a healthy and high-level Paul come playoff time in the spring. For now however James Harden sure isn’t missing his new to-have-been running mate. With Paul having been out since aggravating his sore knee in the season opener, the Rockets’ offense has been what it was last season: really good with everything revolving around James Harden. With Paul for a full season, Harden probably had little shot this season at the NBA MVP award for which he was runner-up last season. Without Paul for at least a quarter of the regular season schedule with Harden again putting up monster numbers and the Rockets running with Golden State at the top of the Western Conference,  he may be the early favorite. With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony added to the Oklahoma City roster, Russell Westbrook’s chances of repeating as MVP are very small. And with the MVP based entirely on the regular season, voters should not penalize Harden for any doubts they have about his ability to deliver deeply into the postseason.

The Cavaliers here Thursday meant the only visit of the season from LeBron James. Such visits are to be savored. LeBron is at worst is the fourth greatest player of all-time. Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the others in the Fabbest of Fours. LeBron might be number two. In the 80s I was in my teens and 20s. LeBron James is better than were Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. And they were awesome! LeBron vs. Kobe Bryant isn’t close. Oscar Robertson, Jerry West, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajwuon are four more legends of the game. Bill Russell is the greatest winner in hoops history. None were as great a player as LeBron.

King James turns 33 next month, with little slippage showing in his game. He’s off to a start of a 14th consecutive season averaging more than 25 points per game. No one else has done 12. James is the greatest physical specimen to ever play basketball and still has a shot to make it a legit argument vs. Jordan for greatest player ever. Those who knock James for his 3-5 record in NBA Finals series need to grasp a couple of things. Number one, LeBron has led eight teams to the NBA Finals! Two, only once has he lost in the Finals as a favorite. Three, the 2007 Cavs’ club he carried to the Finals as a 22-year old is, except James, arguably the weakest Finals roster ever. Or maybe I’m grossly underrating the Daniel Gibson, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavolic, Drew Gooden, Zydrunas Ilgauskas quintet. They were the other Cavs who started games during the Spurs’ easy four game sweep.

On to LA

The Texans play at the Rams Sunday in what must be one of the lesser anticipated games in Texans’ history. With DeShaun Watson finished until 2018, their season is functionally finished at 3-5 (and as 12 point underdogs at the super-surprising Rams, likely 3-6). More interesting this week was Head Coach Bill O’Brien sounding ridiculous in talking about how Colin Kaepernick “hasn’t played football in a while” as a reason for not signing him, after having signed Matt McGloin and T.J. Yates off the street. And then this week cutting McGloin to sign Josh “I last threw an NFL pass in 2011” Johnson. It wasn’t the first absurd utterance from O’Brien when talking about his QBs. In this instance though his owner did him no favors. Look, regardless of how you feel about Kaepernick’s social activism, it’s Bob McNair’s decision to make, whether on a football or personal level. In the end they are McNair’s Texans not Houston’s Texans. If McNair is timid after his botched (though unfairly excoriated) “can’t have the inmates running the prison” remark, so be it. But if the following is true then McNair should simply and directly have said or issued a statement: “There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that Colin Kaepernick will play for the Texans.”  

For your attention if of interest…I had the chance to narrate an audio book written by Chris Campise celebrating the Astros run to the ultimate in their sport. It is called “History Earned.” It’s available via download at www.historyearned.com  Cost is $13.99 with $1 from every purchase earmarked toward ongoing (and will be for a long time) Harvey relief efforts.

Buzzer beaters

1. Which game is less interesting: UT-Kansas or A&M-New Mexico?  2. I wish Houston wasn’t as lousy a major college basketball market as there is in America   3. Best puddings:  Bronze-chocolate  Silver-tapioca  Gold-butterscotch

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Houston can win series on Sunday

Timely hitting helps Astros edge out D-backs to even series

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros had two losses over the last 24 hours; one a game against the Diamondbacks in the series opener on Friday night, the other the news that their recovering ace, Justin Verlander, announced Saturday afternoon that he is opting to undergo Tommy John surgery. The decision and surgery will likely sideline Verlander through 2021 when his current contract with Houston ends.

With that, the Astros headwinds continued to increase, meaning a win to even the series with Arizona on Saturday would be a much-needed pick-me-up. Here's how they did:

Final Score: Astros 3, Diamondbacks 2.

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

Winning pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-2, 2.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luke Weaver (1-8, 6.51 ERA).

D-backs score two on Javier who is pulled early

Kole Calhoun, who drove in four runs, including a home run in Friday's game, would start the scoring on Saturday with a solo home run off of Cristian Javier in the top of the second, giving Arizona an early 1-0 lead. Javier allowed another run in the top of the third, giving up a leadoff single that would move to third on a groundout then score on a sac fly, doubling the lead to 2-0.

Javier finished the third and tossed a 1-2-3 fourth, but whether it be due to a pre-determined pitch count or other situation, he would not go any further, ending his night there on just 77 pitches. His final line: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 77 P.

Astros grab a lead in the sixth

The Astros were able to cut the lead in half in the bottom of the third, getting a leadoff single by Josh Reddick, who would move to third after a walk and fielder's choice before scoring on an RBI-groundout by Jose Altuve, making it 2-1. Enoli Paredes was first out of Houston's bullpen, taking over for Javier in the top of the fifth and retiring six straight batters for two perfect frames.

Houston would get to Luke Weaver in the bottom of the sixth, getting a leadoff single by George Springer, who would score from first on an RBI-double by Altuve to tie the game. Altuve would come around as the go-ahead run later in the inning on an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, knocking Weaver out of the game as the Astros took their first lead of the game, 3-2.

Houston evens the series and moves back up to .500

Josh James was the next reliever for Houston in the top of the seventh, and despite getting into a jam by issuing a one-out walk and hitting the next batter, he was able to get out of it. It was thanks to a great play by Michael Brantley, who started a double play by catching a lineout and throwing a runner out at second to end the inning.

Brooks Raley had the eighth and erased a one-out walk by retiring the next two batters to maintain the one-run lead. After a scoreless bottom of the eighth, the Astros turned to closer Ryan Pressly to get another save and finish the one-run game. Pressly would do so, as Houston would move back up to .500 and even the series 1-1 heading into the rubber game on Sunday.

Up Next: The finale of this series between Houston and Arizona, and Houston's last regular-season home game of 2020, will get underway at 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Madison Bumgarner (0-4, 8.53) ERA will be on the mound for the D-backs, while Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.70 ERA) will start for the Astros.

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