ROCKETS FALL TO BLAZERS

Important takeaways from Rockets' 104-92 loss to Trail Blazers

Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets suffered their 10th loss on the season falling to the Trail Blazers 104-92 on Friday night. Nassir Little and Damian Lillard dominated throughout the game. Missed free throw attempts have destroyed the chances of winning games this season. Friday night, the Rockets shot 63 percent from the free throw line, which puts them dead last in the NBA. As they continue to miss free throws, it makes it harder for them to compete against other competitive teams.

Another thing that damaged the Rockets was turnovers in half court play. Jalen Green had 6 of 13 of turnovers versus the Portland Trail Blazers. Green got out muscled at times or went into the Trail Blazers defensive coverage, which resulted in fastbreak points. He is averaging 3.1 turnovers per contest and opponents are averaging 17.2 points per game on the season from Green's turnovers, as that needs to slow down. It was another up-and-down night for Green, when it came to scoring the basketball. Green is still trying to find that elite stride as a shooter in the NBA. He only shot the ball at 33 percent because of his nine attempts.

It's all about Green finding his rhythm instead of forcing passes and shots. Making the simple play is the best way for Green to impact the game. He missed his rim runner (Christian Wood) on a pick-and-roll opportunity, as a passing lane was open. Green will eventually find his shooting spots on the court and be able to read coverages better. These shooting slumps will not last for Green, as he is shooting 28.9 percent beyond the perimeter and 35.8 percent from the field. Green is a human microwave just waiting to explode because he has shot diversity and amazing first step. Damian Lillard was impressed with Green throughout the season.

"Obliviously, I think he [Green] is very super talented," Lillard said. "Don't listen to what people tell you. You're this pick, you go to be the man, and take over. Just show up, work hard. Stay humble. Be coachable. Listen to your teammates. Your talent is going to allow you to be the starter you're supposed to be. Just make sure that foundation is right when...you come into the league."

Kevin Porter Jr. had a good, elevated night, as he held the Rockets in a close margin throughout the game. The Rockets go as far as Porter takes him, as he can control the pace of his scoring and facilitation. Inside the first quarter, he found a little scoring and put his teammates in position to score. He had a 119 offensive rating in the first quarter, with a 24 net rating. As the game continued in the second quarter, Porter played 7:40 minutes, but sizzled down with in the quarter, as he only shot 33 percent with no assists.

The Rockets' offense struggled in the second quarter, as the team only scored 14 points. Porter makes the Rockets' offense flow because of his skill set with the basketball. Porter had one turnover and shot the ball 50 percent from the field. The three-point shot does need work, as he loves taking step-back and pull-up threes throughout the game. When Porter does a better job at controlling the pace with his passing and scoring, the Rockets will be successful, as they have Green and Wood as their other two weapons.

Coach Chauncey Billups and Lillard believe Porter can be a star within in the NBA as he learns the point guard position.

"He's kind of been judged and misunderstood, but the talent level is through the roof," Lillard said. "He can do everything, and personally, he's one of my favorite young players in the league."

Up next: The Rockets face the Phoenix Suns on Sunday at 6pm.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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