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's offense once again obliterated Baltimore in Wednesday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Owners of a nine-game winning streak, the Astros tried to keep the train rolling to make it double digits and complete the three-game sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore. Not only would they get the win, but they also did it by dominating on both sides of the ball again in a one-sided shutout.

Final Score: Astros 13, Orioles 0

Astros' Record: 46-28, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (6-3)

Losing Pitcher: Thomas Eshelman (0-1)

Houston keeps mashing

Unlike Tuesday's game which ended 3-1 in a much closer affair, the finale on Wednesday was once again a lopsided affair like Monda's opener, favoring the Astros. Houston once again put up double-digit runs in an offensive explosion. It started right off the bat, with three runs scoring in the top of the first on a two-RBI double by Carlos Correa and an RBI single by Kyle Tucker to grab a 3-0 lead.

Yuli Gurriel extended it to 4-0 with a two-out RBI single in the second, then Jose Altuve made it a six-run game with a two-run blast in the top of the fourth. Michael Brantley joined in with an RBI single in the top of the sixth, then Yordan Alvarez led off a four-run seventh with a solo bomb before a three-run homer by Abraham Toro made it 11-0.

Urquidy cruises through seven scoreless

Jose Urquidy was cruising all the while, allowing just three baserunners over that span, a double to start his night, which he erased, then a one-out walk in the second and leadoff single in the sixth. He returned at the bottom of the seventh with a manageable pitch count, where he'd erase a one-out single to keep Baltimore scoreless. With the insurmountable lead, he'd be given the rest of the night off. His final line: 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 84 P.

Astros complete the sweep and grab tenth straight win

Chas McCormick, who came off the bench defensively in the bottom of the seventh, made it a twelve-run lead with a one-out solo homer in the top of the eighth, then later Abraham Toro notched his fourth RBI with a run-scoring single to make it 13-0. Brandon Bielak took over for Urquidy in the bottom of the eighth, and after loading the bases with no outs, was able to escape with a strikeout and double play.

Ralph Garza Jr. was Houston's third pitcher, wrapping things up at the bottom of the ninth. He erased a one-out walk and a single with a double play to end the game, giving Houston the three-game sweep and extending their winning streak to ten games as they continue to look like baseball's best team.

Up Next: The next stop on this road trip for Houston is Detroit, where they will kick off a four-game set with the Tigers on Thursday at 6:10 PM Central. The pitching matchup for the opener will be Luis Garcia (5-4, 2.82 ERA) for Houston and Jose Urena (2-7, 5.79 ERA) for Detroit.

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