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's winning streak is up to nine

Astros secure series over Orioles as winning streak continues

Zack Greinke provided another long outing for his team on Tuesday. Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images.

After continuing their recent dominance with a lopsided win over this Orioles team on Monday in the rain-plagued opener, the Astros eyed number nine in a row if they could do it again on Tuesday. Though not as one-sided, the Astros would get the victory to secure the series win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Orioles 1

Astros' Record: 45-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (8-2)

Losing Pitcher: Jorge Lopez (2-9)

A tame start for Houston's offense

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, Myles Straw started the scoring with two outs in the top of the second, sneaking a ball off and over the left-field wall just out of the grasp of Austin Hays for a solo homer to put Houston ahead 1-0. After Baltimore tied the game in the third, the game remained gridlocked 1-1 until the top of the seventh, when Chase McCormick would reach on a one-out infield single then raced around to score on a Myles Straw RBI single, putting Houston back in front 2-1.

Greinke pitches into the eighth

Over that span, Zack Greinke was getting efficient innings against Baltimore's lineup. He allowed that trying run in the third, which came after a one-out walk moved to third on a single, then scored on a sac fly. That was one of his few moments with runners in scoring position, as he erased a single in the first, a single in the fourth, and a double in the seventh to maintain the new 2-1 lead.

The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth but came away with only one run of insurance on a McCormick sac fly, making it 3-1 as Greinke returned to the mound to continue working. He allowed a leadoff single then retired the next batter before Dusty Baker would come out to get him as the left-handed portion of the lineup was due up and a better match for Brooks Raley, who had been warming. Greinke's final line: 7.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 91 P.

Astros make it nine in a row

Raley completed the eighth for Greinke with two strikeouts to strand the inherited runner. With it still a two-run game in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save. He erased a two-out single to finish things off, giving Houston their ninth win in a row and securing the series with a chance at the sweep in the finale.

Up Next: The finale of this three-game set will be another 6:05 PM Central start time on Wednesday. Thomas Eshelman (0-0, 1.93 ERA) will be on the mound for Baltimore to face the Astros, while Jose Urquidy (5-3, 3.65 ERA) will start for Houston.

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