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 drops the game to Arizona

D-backs outslug Greinke and Astros to take series opener

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

With the series win over the Rangers by taking two of three games in the middle of the week, the Astros welcomed the Diamondbacks to Minute Maid Park for a three-game weekend series, Houston's final three regular-season home games. Here is how the opener unfolded:

Final Score: Diamondbacks 6, Astros 3.

Record: 25-26, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Zac Gallen (2-2, 3.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Luis Garcia (0-1, 2.53 ERA).

Houston scores first, but Arizona grabs a lead against Greinke

Houston would get on the board first on Friday night, with George Springer reaching base in the bottom of the first on an error, moving to second on a walk, then to third on a single, as the Astros loaded the bases with no out to threaten a big inning. Instead, they would come away with just one run, with Springer taking home on a wild pitch, grabbing the 1-0 lead, but leaving runs on the table.

They doubled their lead in the bottom of the third, getting a two-out RBI-double by Kyle Tucker to make it a 2-0 Houston lead. The D-backs responded in the top of the fourth, getting back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a three-run homer by Kole Calhoun off of Zack Greinke would put Arizona in front, 3-2. Greinke would finish one more inning before Houston would move to their bullpen, striking out the side to bring his total to nine on the night, making the bad fourth inning the one blemish on his night. His final line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 1 HR, 89 P.

Astros tie it, but D-backs take the opener

George Springer would get Greinke off the hook in the bottom of the fifth, leading off the half-inning with a solo bomb to tie the game at 3-3. Luis Garcia was first out of Houston's bullpen and retired Arizona in order for a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the sixth. He returned for the top of the seventh but would allow a leadoff single, RBI-triple, and wild pitch to bring in two runs. He would face two more batters, allowing a double and getting a strikeout, before Dusty Baker would come out to get him, now down 5-3.

Blake Taylor would make his return from the IL after Garcia, getting back-to-back outs to finish the inning. He continued on in the 5-3 game in the top of the eighth, but allowed a one-out solo homer to Calhoun, his second of the night and fourth RBI. That made it a 6-3 D-backs lead, which would go final as Houston would go scoreless after Springer's home run back in the fifth.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Saturday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Luke Weaver (1-7, 6.70 ERA) for Arizona and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.22 ERA) for Houston.

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