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 dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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