The Rockets Report

Rockets finally put some wins together, go 2-1 for the week

James Harden returned this week. Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The Rockets entered the third week of the season desperate to return injured players and even more desperate for a win. A Tuesday matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers would prove too difficult a task for the undermanned squad, but as players returned later in the week, so to did Houston into the win column. With their first winning week of the season and a current two-game win streak, the Rockets are now 3-5 on the season. Houston is now fourth in the Southwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference.

Game six: Houston vs Portland Trail Blazers (L, 104-85)

Houston resumed play on Tuesday hoping to capitalize on a tired Trail Blazers team finishing up the second part of a back to back series. The Rockets came out strong defensively, but their inability to convert offensively drug the pace of the game to a crawl resulting in a 19-15 Portland lead after one. Guard Damian Lillard would switch into a different gear in the second and the Trail Blazers would leave a thin Houston rotation still missing James Harden in the dust. Chris Paul led the Rockets with an inefficient 17 points, while Lillard and center Jusuf Nurkic each dropped 22 for Portland.

Game Seven: Houston at Brooklyn Nets (W, 119-11)

Friday night the Rockets traveled to Brooklyn for their most winnable matchup of the week. Even still, there was doubt that the Houston squad--who had up to this point proven nothing--could finally break out of their four-game skid. Early indications seemed to reinforce the concern as the Rockets once again fell behind early. Brooklyn seemingly scored at will as they fired at a 71.9 percent clip up until halfway through the second quarter. A Rockets timeout was called to regroup, and instead of strategizing, Paul waved off the coaching staff to address the team in his own. From that point on, Houston's defense clamped down and Brooklyn's field goal percentage dropped to 35.8. Houston would escape with a victory behind a 32-point performance from Paul and 28 from Carmelo Anthony.

Game eight: Houston at Chicago Bulls (W, 96-88)

The Rockets welcomed back James Harden to the lineup Saturday night to finish a back to back series against the Bulls, and his welcome return to the lineup was immediately felt. The first half was closely contested as both teams traded leads. In the third quarter, Harden took over and sparked an 11 point run of his own to pull away for good. Houston would run away with the victory behind Harden's 25 points.

Takeaways

Better together: The Rockets overall record may be 3-5, but when you look at the games where Harden and Paul are on the court together, Houston has a record of 2-1. This is proof still that the Rockets aren’t quite what their record suggests, although that’s not to say that their aren’t issues that need to be addressed.

Melo is warming up: After a slow start and what could only be assumed was an adjustment period to his new role, Carmelo Anthony has regained the offensive firepower he was brought into provide. In the past four games Anthony has averaged 19.3 points per game with a 48.3 percent field goal rate. Anthony was brought on to the Rockets to pour in points off the bench, and it looks like at the moment that’s exactly what’s happening

Looking ahead:

The Rockets will remain on the road most of next week as they face the Pacers Monday, followed by the Thunder Thursday, and the Spurs Saturday before returning Sunday to finish the week with their second look at the Pacers. The Rockets are slowly regaining their health and form, and a Houston squad with Harden in the lineup has to be taken seriously. The Rockets will face a real test against a tough Pacers team, but their matchup against a reeling Thunder squad looks winnable. The weekend back to back will be a daunting one as well, and until the Rockets prove that they can maintain their defensive intensity and get their shots to fall, I can't confidently expect more than two wins this week.


 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Altuve's homer starting the scoring for Houston on Friday night. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
After a solid showing to take the three of the four-game series in Arlington against the Rangers to start the week, the Astros returned home for three against the Diamondbacks in a weekend series. They would have a slow start to the opener but would ultimately come away victorious.

Final Score (10 innings): Astros 4, Diamondbacks 3

Astros' Record: 87-60, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek (3-4)

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Clippard (1-1)

Bielak makes the impromptu start

With Luis Garcia having to move his start ahead by a day on Thursday instead of Friday with Framber Valdez's finger cut, Brandon Bielak made a start for Houston in the opener against Arizona. He didn't go as deep as he probably would have wanted and certainly ventured out of his comfort zone with traffic on the bases.

He loaded the bases in the top of the first, allowing a single and two walks, but was able to strand all three to keep it a scoreless game. He rebounded with a 1-2-3 second, but he dealt with a threat again in the third as back-to-back singles pressured him to start the inning. He would get back-to-back strikeouts, but that's as far as he would go as Houston moved on to Blake Taylor. Taylor got the final out of the third on one pitch, then erased a two-out double in the top of the fourth.

Altuve breaks up the no-no with a go-ahead homer

Brooks Raley took over in the top of the fifth, but in his three batters, he faced allowed a single while getting two outs before Cristian Javier took over to end the frame. Javier allowed the first run of the game in the top of the sixth, a leadoff solo homer to Kole Calhoun to put the Diamondbacks in front 1-0 before he finished the inning.

Madison Bumgarner didn't allow a single hit to the Astros through the first five and two-thirds innings. He allowed a one-out walk in the bottom of the sixth, which proved costly as Jose Altuve would get the first knock of the game for Houston, a two-run go-ahead homer. Phil Maton was the next reliever for the Astros in the top of the seventh, maintaining the new one-run lead by erasing a leadoff single.

Astros get the win in extras

The Diamondbacks tied it up in the top of the eighth against Kendall Graveman, getting a leadoff single followed by a walk, then later an RBI single to knot things up 2-2. Houston stranded a runner in the bottom of the eighth, then brought in Ryan Pressly, who tossed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth to keep the game tied.

Despite getting the winning run in scoring position with a leadoff ground-rule double by Jason Castro to start the bottom of the ninth, they would strand it as the game went to extras. Arizona scored their free runner in the top of the tenth, getting a sac fly to move it to third then going in front on an RBI single.

The Astros matched that and more in the bottom of the inning, moving their runner to third on a lineout to start the frame, followed by an intentional walk to Yordan Alvarez. Jake Meyers tied the game with an RBI single, then after another walk to load the bases, Chas McCormick was hit by a pitch to bring in the winning run, moving the Astros closer to clinching their playoff berth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will have a start time of 6:10 PM Central on Saturday. Tyler Gilbert (2-2, 3.15 ERA) is expected to make a start for Arizona, while Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.12 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome