ROCKETS REPORT

Rockets keep streak going out of the break, but tougher tasks loom ahead

Chris Paul and James Harden are looking ahead to a tough week. Houston Rockets/Facebook

James Harden was the only Rocket to play three games last week, one of which with Team Stephen at the NBA All-Star Game. Harden casually flirted with a triple-double out in L.A., finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists in a three-point defeat that means absolutely nothing.

Later in the Week, the Rockets got back to business.

Picking right where they left off with their 10-game win streak, Houston added two more wins on Friday and Sunday against the Timberwolves and Nuggets, respectively. The Rockets maintain the best record in the league, with a half game lead on the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. Sporting an 11-game lead, the Southwest Division is all but locked up at this point.

Game 58: Rockets vs Minnesota Timberwolves (W, 120-102)

Every time I see the Timberwolves matchup, I assume that it’s going to be a great game because they are the fourth seed in the Western Conference, they sport the seventh best record in the league and I personally enjoy watching Karl Anthony-Towns do Karl Anthony-Towns things.

Every time, however, I have been wrong. It just goes to prove how much of a drop off in talent there is between Houston, Golden State, and everyone else in the Western Conference.

Each of the three meetings against the Timberwolves have resulted in three 18-point victories. This one provided at least a little first-half intrigue, but as most matchups with Houston go, the second half was a blowout. Harden was his usual self, adding a pedestrian 31 points and 9 assists, while Clint Capela showed flashes of his burgeoning offensive ability to the tune of 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Game 59: Rockets at Denver Nuggets (W, 119-114)

This week was sort of a mix up for me. I assumed Minnesota would be the must-watch game, while the Denver matchup would be a snoozer.

Nope.

Denver overcame an 18-point deficit, and a furious fourth quarter rally cut the Rockets lead to as little as 4. That’s when--once again--the ball was placed in the hands of Chris Paul and Harden, who tag-teamed the door slamming on the Nuggets' hopes of victory. Paul nailed a clutch fade away mid range shot, followed on the next Houston possession by some Harden cooking and his patented step back jumper to essentially seal it with 46 seconds left.

A five point victory has been quite counter to the norm throughout this current winning streak, as the Rockets have defeated those teams by and average of 12.5 points. A tough game seemed almost necessary.

Looking ahead

Don’t expect this streak to get too crazy, because the back end of the Rockets’ schedule gets a little hairy starting this week. Tonight the Rockets play a hungry Jazz team during the second half of an away back-to-back. Utah has won 12 of its past 13 games. Following that, Houston heads out to L.A. to try and claim some revenge (preferably on-court this time) against a new-look Clippers team, and Saturday they finish the week at home looking to even the season series against Boston.

Utah looks like a possible trap game, so don’t sleep on them tonight. The Clippers aren't exactly at full strength, and I expect the Rockets to take out a lot of frustration on them Wednesday. Saturday’s game against the Celtics is practically must-watch, which is why it’s being aired nationally. Consider it a potential dark-horse Finals matchup, and I think the Rockets even things up with Boston before heading into next week.

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.


Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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