The Pallilog

Rockets-Jazz is barely a contest

Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Other than James Harden bizarrely announcing his immediate retirement, the only remaining risk for the Rockets in their first round playoff series with Utah might be assumption of victory. After destroying the Jazz in both games one and two, the talent gap between the teams is obvious. While momentum shifts can happen seemingly out of nowhere, underdogs can get on a roll, and favorites can tense up, it is just about unfathomable that the Jazz can beat the Rockets four out of five games. Utah has a traditionally strong home court advantage, but last year the Rockets rolled in Salt Lake City in games three and four. Blowout losses to the Rockets have become a recurring Utah nightmare. Perhaps appropriately it was February 2 of this year (Groundhog Day) that the Rockets battered the Jazz, in Utah, by 27. A game in which neither Chris Paul nor Clint Capela even played.

Despite all that, Utah is actually a small favorite in game three. No team in NBA postseason history has rallied from 0-3 down to win the next four.

The earliest a Rockets' second round series would start is a week from Sunday. The afternoon slot that day is no doubt reserved for the Warriors, be it for a shocking game seven in their series with the Clippers or game one of the Western Conference Semifinals. Golden State losing DeMarcus Cousins for the rest of the playoffs is a big blow to the champs. They've won three titles without him but adding a skilled low post threat and quality rebounder was not purely a "luxury" addition. Specifically against the Rockets, Cousins on his game is too big and strong for Clint Capela to effectively single cover. Against the Warriors "Death Lineup" the Rockets will dare Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala to take all the jumpers they want.

Astros take on the Rangers again

In a scheduling oddity the Astros are back in Arlington this weekend for their second series there already this season. At 10-7 and riding a four game winning streak the Rangers are a modest early season surprise. At 12-6 the Astros ranking among the elite are not. Exactly no one (no one credible anyway) sees the Rangers having the staying power to challenge the Astros in the American League West.

The Rangers and some other anticipated AL mid to bottom feeders could have more hope for a Wild Card spot. The defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox enter the weekend 6-13. One way to think of the 162 game regular season is as nine innings of 18 games apiece. Before tacking on yet another loss Wednesday the Sox finished the first inning at 6-12. I'd say that's like falling behind 3-0 after the first inning. There's plenty of time to come back and win but the odds don't favor it. In no 18 game stretch last season did the Sox play sub-.500 baseball.

Keuchel still waiting

So Dallas Keuchel is open to a contract covering just the rest of this season. He could have taken one year 17.9 million guaranteed from the Astros. Agent Scott Boras evidently wanted Keuchel bidding in the six year 150 million dollar range. And I wanted to marry Halle Berry after seeing her in Boomerang. And Swordfish. And Die Another Day. Anyway… Keuchel is a class act, and had just one bad season in the last five years. As a short term play he makes sense as rotation depth for a number of playoff contenders. Signing Keuchel before the June MLB Draft costs the signing team a draft pick so his waiting game could take another six weeks.

Big week for Texans

Ahead of next week's critical for the Texans NFL Draft, the 2019 schedule release this week reminds that the Texans will be hard-pressed and unlikely to equal last season's 11 wins. The 2018 Texans took advantage of a heaping platter of below average to awful starting quarterbacks. Among the starters they beat who they don't face in 2019 are Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Josh Allen, Case Keenum, and Brock Osweiler.

Among QBs new to the opponent list this year are three of the last four NFL Most Valuable Player winners: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton. The other MVP of the last four years is Tom Brady. He's back on the schedule, though the Texans finally get the Patriots in Houston. As an Eagle Nick Foles shredded the Texans' defense, now the Texans face him twice as a Jaguar. Unmentioned to this point, Philip Rivers and Drew Brees. Brees showed slippage down the stretch last season but at age 40 he'll start 2019 still considered a top 10 QB expected to be part of a Texans' season opening loss in New Orleans on Monday Night Football.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Kevin Durant is an all-time great, but sure can seem emotionally needy. 2. Caddyshack was a movie with Bill Murray, not a Bill Murray movie. 3. Best Bill Murray movies: Bronze-Lost In Translation Silver-Stripes Gold-Groundhog Day

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We'll see if Watson is in pads on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the Houston Texans.

The Houston Texans had their last practice before pads come on for the first time on Tuesday. There was plenty to see on Monday.

1. Deshaun Watson had his usual extremely light level of work. He did very little throwing to teammates, though he did throw to the tight ends in 1-on-1 drills.

2. Texans head coach David Culley said "nothing has changed" when asked if Deshaun Watson will be in pads Tuesday. Culley has maintained that answer for a couple of sessions now.

3. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was back after missing Saturday with an excused personal day. Taylor has been the best quarterback in camp by a wide margin. Taylor makes better decisions with the football than other quarterbacks, but he does struggle on deeper passes. Taylor missed wildly on one deep ball and was a little wobbly on another.

4. Nobody in camp can cover wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This could be the easiest training camp of his life. He easily gets open in 1-on-1 situations.

5. Rookie wide receiver Nico Collins continues to flash his abilities in camp. Collins easily shook loose from defensive back John Reid and took the route vertical for an easy score. Collins later had a tough catch in traffic.

6. It's only been a few days, but the competition for inside wide receiver reps is tough. Former Bears wideout Anthony Miller has looked quick and nothing like the "draft bust" the Bears fans watched. Keke Coutee has rarely lost a rep, but Desmond King did win a few times over Coutee in the opening days of camp. Former Bengals wideout Alex Erickson finds himself constantly open. The cuts at wide receiver are already shaking out to be difficult.

7. Davis Mills bounced back in a sense that he couldn't be worse than he was on Saturday. The performance from Mills on Saturday was abysmal, but head coach David Culley said he liked how Mills responded today. With Tyrod Taylor back, there were fewer reps for Mills, but he had some impressive throws to go along with an off-target throw or two. Mills was far better than Jeff Driskel on Monday. Driskel tossed two interceptions right to defenders, including one that would've gone the wrong way for a score.

8. This linebacker group is interesting. With a new defensive scheme under Lovie Smith, the type of linebacker is very different from previous years. There was a clear emphasis on cover ability as these linebackers were added to the team.

9. Kamu Grugier-Hill and Kevin Pierre-Louis have both had some significant wins for the linebackers in coverage.

10. Rookie tight end Brevin Jordan looks the part physically, but he's had a rough few days, including a drop on Monday.

11. With the pads coming on Tuesday, it will be fun to watch the rebuilt defensive line clash with the many combinations of the offensive line. There will be no J.J. Watt who historically stirred up the team on day one of pads. Laremy Tunsil's cool confidence about the offensive line over the weekend leads me to believe they are a confident group, while there are spots to be won on the defensive side of the line.

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