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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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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