Rockets 104, Blazers 101

Rockets extend winning streak to 4 with big win over Trail Blazers

Rockets win again! Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

After an ugly 1st quarter of basketball, but the Houston Rockets went on an 8-0 run in the 2nd quarter. The Rockets were down 32-17 at the start of the 2nd period but the play of Christian Wood, Victor Oladipo, and John Wall eclipsed the Portland Trail Blazers' defense. The big three of the Rockets had a grand total of 37 points to close out the 2nd half. Although it was slow start for the Rockets, they finished the half strong.

Damian Lillard was on fire against the Rockets defense in the 1st quarter but throughout the game, the Rockets' 2-3 zone limited those easy shots off pin downs. Houston's defense was allowing Lillard's teammates to take open shots, which Stephen Silas could live with. While Lillard was fighting for an open shot, Gary Trent Jr. shot four straight three-pointers in a row. Trent became the reason the Trail Blazers made it extremely close toward the end of the 3rd quarter. Lillard did finish with 30 points while Trent had 23 points. Trent and Lillard combined for 36 points behind the arc.

Even though the Rockets allowed Trent and Lillard to get their share of points, their defense found ways to get crucial stops. The Rockets' defensive rating was a 101.0 versus the Trail Blazers for the entire game. They caused Lillard to turn the ball over in crucial situations by trapping him along the perimeter. Lillard led his team with four turnovers because of the physical play of Eric Gordon and PJ Tucker. Those two became ferocious above the perimeter, so Lillard didn't have clean looks at the basket. Off 15 turnovers from the Blazers, the Rockets collected 22 points. The Rockets' defensive rating is No. 4 in the NBA, including having the best defensive rating since James Harden departed to the Brooklyn Nets. Hopefully, the Rockets keep up their tough defensive efforts.

"We did a little bit of everything tonight. We were in our drop, we were in blitzes, we switched," as Silas discussed the defensive strategy. "We did a little bit of everything cause they're so hard to guard. Lillard is one of the hardest guys to prepare for in the league..."

The Rockets big three were the difference in the game as John Wall, Christian Wood, and Victor Oladipo finished with 67 points.

Wall was able to use his blistering speed as he constantly beat the Trail Blazers in transition and finished with 20 points. Wood had the slowest start out of the three in the 1st quarter. Silas eventually pulled Wood to relax his nerves as he became dangerous throughout the 2nd quarter. Wood scored 14 points in the 2nd quarter, which sparked various runs for the Rockets so they could take the lead before halftime. He displayed an All-Star performance with ferocious dunks and rebounding. Wood became difficult to contain in the paint and in transition. At the end of Thursday night, Wood finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds. Although Oladipo only shot 20 percent from the perimeter, he was aggressive in transition and found success attacking the paint. Oladipo found various driving lanes so he was able to collect 25 points off 47.8 percent shooting from the field. With 26.2 seconds left, Oladipo closed the game out on an acrobatic layup.

The Rockets are on a four-game winning streak because of their defense and grit. They seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder since James Harden left.

Next up: The Rockets head to New Orleans to play the Pelicans on Saturday night.

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Zack Greinke earned his 10th win of the season in Sunday's finale agains the Rangers. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With the first two wins of the series under their belt, the Astros entered Sunday looking to take care of business before heading on the road. Despite the Rangers taking the first lead of the day, the Astros responded on offense and defense to erase the deficit to get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 3, Rangers 1

Astros' Record: 61-39, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke (10-3)

Losing Pitcher: Dennis Santana (0-1)

Greinke, with some help, notches a quality start

Zack Greinke was doing well in the early goings of Sunday's finale. Despite allowing back-to-back singles to start the game, he stranded both runners to finish the top of the first. He followed that by erasing two more runners in the second, starting a stretch of eight straight batters which he would retire to make it through one out in the top of the fifth without allowing a run.

Texas finally added a blemish to his day at that point, getting a solo homer to grab their first lead in weeks. Greinke rebounded from it, sitting down the next two batters to finish the frame, then posted a 1-2-3 sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh, but would end his day with a struggle, loading the bases with no outs on a single, hit batter, and walk. That prompted Dusty Baker to bring in Cristian Javier, who saved Greinke's stat line by getting a strikeout and double play to keep the Rangers from scoring. Greinke's line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 86 P.

Houston grabs the lead

Houston's starter would leave in line for the win, thanks to the work of Cristian Javier, but also some timely offense in the two innings prior. With not much going for them in the first four innings, the Astros tried to take advantage of Chas McCormick being on base in the bottom of the fifth, sending him for a potential hit and run with Abraham Toro swinging.

That turned into two runs, with McCormick able to slow his run as Toro would launch a two-run go-ahead homer to erase the Rangers lead quickly. They extended the lead to two runs in the next inning, with Yordan Alvarez working a walk and then later scoring on an RBI single by Kyle Tucker, making it 3-1.

Astros finish the sweep

After cleaning up the inherited mess in the top of the seventh, Javier remained on the mound in the top of the eighth and made it through a 1-2-3 inning to give him six outs against five batters. With it still a two-run game in the top of the ninth, Ryan Pressly entered for the save opportunity. He notched it, sitting down the Rangers 1-2-3 to finish the sweep, handing Texas their twelfth straight loss.

Up Next: The Astros will head out west for an eight-game road trip starting with a three-game set with the Mariners kicking off at 9:10 PM Central on Monday. In the opener, Luis Garcia (7-5, 2.86 ERA) for Houston is slated to go opposite Darren McCaughan (0-0, 1.80 ERA), who will make his second career appearance and first start for Seattle.

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