ROCKETS 119, NETS 111

Rockets end losing streak with win over Nets

Chris Paul willed the Rockets to a win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Desperate was not an adjective anyone would have expected to use to describe the Rockets this early in the season. Certainly no one expected a Brooklyn Nets matchup in early November to be considered both a toss-up and a “must-win,” simultaneously, yet here we are. With their backs against the wall yet again, Houston swung back Friday night and finally notched their second win of the season, breaking a four-game losing streak with a 119-111 victory.

The easiest way to describe the Rockets’ performance is to equate it to an old lighter. The first two quarters provided flickers of last season's brilliance, but nothing lasted. The third quarter, however, was where Houston found its ignition point. It was then that the Rockets began to finally resemble what can only be assumed was the actual team general manager Daryl Morey was attempting to assemble this offseason.

The win couldn't come at a better time, as casual onlookers view a 1-5 team and assume the worst. Friday night's victory was proof that Houston's morbid start is the result of being a victim of inopportune circumstances, and nothing more.

Last Friday's blowout loss to the Clippers came with at least five contributors shelved due to injury. Tuesday returned front court help with Marquese Chriss. Friday saw the return of forward James Ennis III. While Chriss remains an experiment at best, Ennis contributed 19 minutes of rotation time which has proven in the past two weeks to be an invaluable commodity. Nevermind his two points. He helped keep the Rockets fresh finally.

It cannot be overstated how desperately Houston needed guard Eric Gordon to break out of his six-game shooting slump, and Game 7 of the season saw him do just that. While only connecting on 2-of-8 from three, Gordon still managed to convert 6-of-14 for 21 points and served as a key contributor in the Rockets’ win.

Carmelo Anthony was not signed to carry the Rockets. Anthony was brought in because of his potential to swing close games, a la Ryan Anderson. Tonight proved to be one such situation, and Anthony delivered with a season-high 28 points on 9-of-12 shooting, including 6-of-9 from three.

Chris Paul and Clint Capela each seemed to return to form as well, as Paul willed the Rockets to the win behind a 32 point, 11 assist virtuoso performance. Capela simultaneously erupted for 22 points and 13 rebounds.

The collective offensive awakening was only part of the equation, as Houston's initially porous defense suddenly clam-shelled, fueling a Rockets run to retake the lead to begin the second half. The Nets led by 14 late in the second, shooting 71.9 percent until the Rockets took a timeout and regrouped. From that point on, the Nets managed 35.8 percent from the field as Houston stormed back to claim the lead.

The fact that Houston is celebrating a Brooklyn Nets victory is an indictment to the state of the season currently, but sunnier days lie ahead. The Rockets expect to welcome back all-world guard James Harden tonight against the lowly Chicago Bulls in a - finally - very winnable contest. Houston now finds itself with a chance to not only notch a second-straight victory, but begin to build chemistry with a nearly healthy squad. The opportunity couldn't come a moment too soon, as the Rockets will have to jel on the fly while they play catch-up in what's shaping up to be a formidable Western Conference.

 

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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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