Rockets 109, Nuggets 99

Rockets keep rolling and defeat Nuggets

Next up, the Rockets face the Warriors on Thursday night. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Two days removed from a convincing win at home against the Pacers--and zero days removed from the Carmelo Anthony-induced national media spotlight--the Houston Rockets squared off against the reeling but formidable Denver Nuggets. With the Warriors looming later in the week, the 5-7 Rockets were in no position to lose any ground in the standings. What resulted was a resounding 109-99 victory that featured a Rockets team that, for the second game in a row, looked just as lethal as they were last season.

In a matchup that showcased fairly converse team compositions, the Nuggets and Rockets each played to their strengths throughout. Houston operated from the arc using kick outs and lob passes from pick and roll drives, while Denver attacked the paint with their star center Nikola Jokic. The product was one of the most exciting games this season, featuring 18 lead changes, 9 ties, and--most importantly--a Rockets victory.

James Harden continued to do James Harden things, and while he struggled from the arc Tuesday night (2-10), he was virtually unstoppable driving inside (5-6). He finished the night with 22 points, but his greatest impact was felt as an 11-assist distributor.

Chris Paul was easily the game's biggest difference maker. Paul has struggled to find his shot early this season, which in turn had deprived the Rockets of half of the two headed monster that made them so unstoppable last season. Tuesday night marked the second vintage CP3 scoring game in a row however, as Paul dictated the offense and poured in 21 points on 7-12 shooting. When Paul and Harden are rolling, the Rockets are tough to beat.

In spite of both of the electric performances, it was Clint Capela who in fact led the team with 24 points. Capela continued to display his ability to slip behind defenses forced to crash down on Paul and Harden, while his underrated hands vacuumed up lobs to thunder through the net.

The win came in spite of yet another dismal shooting performance from Eric Gordon, mustering only 11 points in 33 minutes. His cold streak continued behind the line, connecting on just 2-7. Gordon is shooting just 23.7 percent from three this season, a far cry from his career average of 37.3%. The Rockets will have to hope that their sixth man can break out of this slump soon, otherwise it will become harder and harder to justify such a large share of minutes.

The win further proved the expendability of Carmelo Anthony, as his minutes we're distributed to more defensive-minded role players like James Ennis and Gary Clark. The result has turned Houston into a top 5 defense over the past six games. Anthony is no longer expected to rejoin the team as he remains absent from the team with what the Rockets are simply categorizing as an illness. It is believed that Anthony's camp is currently searching for a team that would be interested in his services in preparation for a mutual parting of ways between the two.

Regardless of how the Carmelo sideshow plays out, Houston still has a game to play Thursday against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Rockets will need to mirror the effort and style they've played with in the past two contests to have a shot, but with their rotation finally set and momentum building, Houston's chance have at least gone from laughable to possible.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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