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 gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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