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 couldn't keep up

Astros fall to Blue Jays as Toronto gets homer-happy

Houston's bats couldn't keep up with Toronto's Saturday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

With an offensive clinic in the opener on Friday night, which helped them handily defeat the Blue Jays, the Astros returned to Minute Maid Park Saturday with a chance to secure another series. Toronto had other plans, though, reversing roles with Houston by getting big home runs to even the series.

Final Score: Blue Jays 8, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 17-16, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Steven Matz (5-2)

Losing Pitcher: Cristian Javier (3-1)

Toronto flips the script and turns on their offense against Javier

Toronto flipped the script from the night before early in this middle game of the series, dealing damage to Cristian Javier, who so far in 2021 had been able to limit his amount of earned runs. After retiring the first four batters he faced, a one-out walk in the top of the second set up the Blue Jays' first hit of the night, a two-run home run by Cavan Biggio, giving them a 2-0 lead over Houston.

After a leadoff home run made it a 3-0 score, Javier would deal with the fallout of more walks in the top of the third, issuing two to set up a two-out two-RBI double to give the Jays a commanding 5-0 advantage. Javier would battle back and complete five full innings, getting one out into the sixth before a walk would prompt Dusty Baker to make the call to the bullpen. His final line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 91 P.

Alvarez keeps mashing as Houston tries to claw back into it

Javier would exit with at least some runs on the board in support of him, with Yordan Alvarez hitting a two-run opposite-field homer in the bottom of the fourth to cut the lead to three runs. Alvarez accounted for another run in the next inning, coming through with an RBI-single to make it 5-3, which is where the game stood as Andre Scrubb would take over in the top of the sixth.

Scrubb finished that inning for Javier and returned for a 1-2-3 seventh to keep it a two-run game. Bryan Abreu was the next reliever, and he, too, was able to retire the Blue Jays in order in the top of the eighth. The Astros continued to chip away at Toronto's lead, getting another run in the bottom of the inning on an RBI by Yuli Gurriel to make it 5-4 heading to the ninth.

Toronto evens the series

Brooks Raley entered to try and keep it a one-run game with a clean inning, but instead, two runners would reach on a walk and error before Joe Smith would enter to try and strand them. Instead, a two-out home run put the game back out of reach at 8-4, with Houston coming up empty in the bottom of the inning, setting up a rubber match in the finale.

Up Next: This series's third and final game will be an afternoon start of 1:10 PM Central on Sunday. Zack Greinke (2-1, 3.76 ERA) will try to add more wins to his record for Houston, while Nate Pearson will be making his 2021 debut for Toronto.

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