THE ROCKETS REPORT

Resurgent Rockets roll through week with 3 impressive wins

James Harden (left) and Clint Capela had good weeks. Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets headed into a difficult week five with a head of steam amid off court distractions involving forward Carmelo Anthony. Houston dominated all three matchups emphatically, winning by double digits in each. The Rockets are now 8-7 after starting the season 1-5. They are currently fourth in the Southwest Division and tenth in the Western Conference.

Game 13: Rockets @ Denver Nuggets (W, 109-99)

After crushing the Pacers two days prior, the Rockets traveled to Denver to take on a suddenly beatable Nuggets team anchored by stud center Nikola Jokic, and upstart guards Gary Harris and Jamal Murray. To this point, Houston was either getting blown out or blowing out opposing teams practically all season, which made this one of the most exciting games of the season. The Rockets and Nuggets traded blows all four quarters, with neither allowing the other to pull away until the very end. James Harden would turn on the jets late in the fourth, however, and after 18 lead changes Harden’s surge would push Houston ahead for good. Complimented by a surprising 16-point outing from James Ennis, Houston’s big three finished the night each having scored 20 or more points, with Harden, Chris Paul, and Clint Capela scoring 22, 21, and 24 respectively.

Game fourteen: Rockets vs Golden State Warriors (W, 107-86)

Houston was back at the Toyota Center Thursday night to face off against the defending champion Golden State Warriors for the first time since being eliminated by them in game seven of last season’s Western Conference Finals. The Warriors took the court minus all-world point guard Stephen Curry, and his shooting prowess was sorely missed. The Rockets played angry all night and by the end of the first quarter they had seized a lead that they would never relinquish. Golden State was cold all night from 3-point range, going 4-of-18, and Houston capitalized on the missed shots on the opposite end. The Rockets lead ballooned to 32 at one point in the fourth before the dogs were called off and the bench was sent in. Harden led the team with 27 points, while an Eric Gordon sighting was spotted chipping in a promising 17 off the bench. James Ennis added 19 as well.

Game 15: Rockets vs Sacramento Kings (W, 132-112)

It’s important to be said that these aren’t the the bad Kings anymore. There is a very realistic chance that this Kings team could finally challenge for a playoff spot this season, which is something they haven’t done in 12 seasons. That being said, it is very difficult to take on a Rockets team fresh off of a rout against the defending champs. The headlining narrative was how the young Kings’ league-leading pace of play would fare against Houston’s more methodical, pound the ball approach. Houston’s style would prevail and after leading 71-59 at the half, Houston would run away with another victory. Harden dominated with 34 points and 8 assists, followed by Paul’s 24 points and 9 assists. Capela was unstoppable as well with 23 points, 4 blocks, and 16 rebounds.

Looking ahead

After a tough week against playoff caliber competition, the Rockets schedule smooths out considerably with two games against the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday and Friday, followed by a Saturday matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. After sweeping the Nuggets, Warriors, and Kings in the same week as convincingly as they did, I do not envision the Rockets struggling against the 7-6 Pistons or 2-12 Cavaliers. I could see another sweep this week, with the possibility of dropping one against the Pistons.

 

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Houston's bats have a hot night

Astros clobber Rangers to win series opener

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

After dropping two of three in Seattle, the Astros entered the regular season's final series still waiting to clinch their playoff berth. Luckily their matchup favored them, with four games against the 19-37 Rangers, which they have done well against in recent years. Here are highlights from the opener:

Final Score: Astros 12, Rangers 4.

Record: 29-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Cristian Javier (5-2, 3.48 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Lance Lynn (6-3, 3.32 ERA).

Astros put up 10 on Lynn 

Houston had no trouble getting acquainted with the Rangers' new stadium, jumping out to an early lead in the top of the first inning. After a lengthy at-bat against Lance Lynn, Jose Altuve reached on a one-out single, then scored from first on a two-out RBI-triple by Alex Bregman. They'd double their lead in the next at-bat on an error, making it 2-0.

They extended that lead even more in the next inning, getting back-to-back singles to start the inning to set up a big three-run dinger by George Springer to straightaway center-field to make it 5-0. Bregman added two more RBI to his night in the top of the fifth, capitalizing on a leadoff single by Michael Brantley by hitting a two-run homer to make it a 7-0 lead. Altuve would push the total to double-digits in the top of the sixth, lifting a three-run home run of his own to make it a 10- lead.

Javier with a decent start, bullpen closes out the win

Meanwhile, Cristian Javier was doing well on the mound against the Rangers. He allowed just three baserunners through the first five innings, a double in the first, a hit batter in the second, and a single in the fifth. He would falter a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff single then a two-run homer, then later in the inning a sac fly, making it 10-3 before Houston would turn to their bullpen. Javier's final line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 1 HR, 95 TP.

Luis Garcia would get the final out of the sixth then returned for the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff double that would score on a two-out RBI-double, making it a six-run game before Garcia finished the frame. Brooks Raley was the next reliever and notched two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the eighth.

Josh Reddick gave Houston two more insurance runs, joining the home run barrage with a two-run homer in the top of the inning to make it 12-4 going to the bottom half. Brandon Bielak was given a low-leverage opportunity to throw in the bottom of the ninth. He erased a two-out double for a scoreless inning to wrap up the lopsided win, lowering Houston's magic number to 1.

Up Next: The second game of this four-game set between Houston and Texas will start Friday at 7:05 PM Central at Globe Life Field. The pitching battle will be Kyle Cody (1-1, 1.53 ERA) for the Rangers and Jose Urquidy (1-1, 2.78 ERA) for the Astros.

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