THE PALLILOG

Rockets need Harden to be a monster to have any chance against Warriors

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Rockets are very good. The Warriors are better. In the end it seems that simple. Not head, shoulders, and torso better, or by a country mile better. But better.

At the start of this Western Conference semifinal series I said of course the Rockets have a shot, but if both teams play their best or to a similar percentage of their capabilities, the Warriors win, with Kevin Durant the fundamental difference. Hey, I miss on plenty of predictions, but it's not looking like this will be one of those.

After returning from his eye scratches, James Harden had a solid game two, but not a tremendous game two. To have a shot at what would now be a shocking series victory, the Rockets need tremendous Harden.

Unfortunately for the Rockets, as Chris Paul sets to turn 34 years old Monday, it looks more and more that as big a gamer as he is and as ferocious a competitor as he is, Paul doesn't have it in him at this point to string together superstar level games. Austin Rivers made a more positive impact in his time on the court in Tuesday's game two loss.

Maybe the three days off between games two and three put a little extra bounce in Paul's step. But the same can be said for Golden State's 35 year old Warrior Andre Iguodala who has gashed the Rockets for 30 points over the first two games, on 12 of 16 shooting, while playing his still stellar defense.

Another way of framing the Rockets' challenge: they're down 2-0 and neither Stephen Curry nor Klay Thompson has had a hot shooting game. That's actually true for Durant too.

Beating Golden State four out of seven games is a huge mountain to climb. Beating Golden State four out of five games is a mountain that looks down on Everest. All the Rockets can try to do is start with winning once. They are small favorites in game three.

A hot new prospect

The Astros have no grave concerns these days. Yes, the starting pitching isn't as good as it was last year. Collin McHugh, Wade Miley, and Brad Peacock all bring question marks. At AAA Round Rock Forrest Whitley has had two solid outings and two lousy ones. Apart from Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna the bullpen is shaky. There are still hardly any pitching staffs you would even consider swapping with soup to nuts. Offensively, despite three anemic games out of four at Minnesota this week. the lineup is deeper and more potent than last season's, if not as stout as 2017's World Series Champion. No other American League West squad is giving indication of being 90+ win quality. Through what can be considered a meh 18-14 first one fifth of the season the Astros are on pace to win only 91.

The clock ticks on promoting lefthanded hitting monster Yordan Alvarez as a way to potentially fortify the offense. It's still not a month of games, but Alvarez has blown past Kyle Tucker as the bat most deserving a call-up to the big leagues. Through his first 24 games at AAA Alvarez's slash line is an awesome .402/.490/.931. (Tucker is batting .191). His defense is considered shaky at best, be it in the outfield or at first base. Yeah, well, American League teams use the designated hitter and Tyler White is not proving worthy of that gig. White is 28 and of limited upside. First baseman Yuli Gurriel may merely be off to a slow start, but it is a verrrrry slow start. Gurriel slipped a bit from 2017 to 2018, and turns 35 next month.

Jon Singleton was a hyped left handed slugging prospect who epically flopped. A.J. Reed was a hyped left handed hitting first baseman/DH prospect who now has no meaningful future in the organization. The left handed hitting Tucker could be a "can't miss" guy who misses, though he still has time to figure things out. Alvarez is performing at a higher level than those guys ever did/have in the minors.

In August of 2016 General Manager Jeff Luhnow acquired the then 19 year old Alvarez from the Dodgers in exchange for middling relief pitcher Josh Fields. It would be silly to think the deal plays out as lopsidedly in the Astros' favor as the Larry Andersen for Jeff Bagwell deal, but it might be a lot of fun to see. The Astros obviously prefer to keep Alvarez in the minors until June, to delay his salary arbitration eligibility a year.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. Few care about horse racing these days, but the Kentucky Derby is still an exciting two minutes. 2. Congrats to Daryl Morey key aide Gersson Rosas, now the highest placed Latino executive in NBA history as President of Basketball Operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves. 3. Best BBQ entrees when done right: Bronze-pulled pork Silver-brisket Gold-ribs


Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Houston Texans owner Cal McNair and general manager Nick Caserio will meet with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy Monday via Zoom to discuss the Texans head coaching vacancy. This may be the Texans last, best prayer of keeping star quarterback Deshaun Watson.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, many in the NFL believe that Watson already has taken his last snap in a Texans uniform.

Watson reportedly is angered because he believes the Texans promised he would be involved in the hiring search for the team's new general manager, a job which ultimately went to Caserio without input from Watson and contrary to the advice of a professional search company. McNair's decision to hire Caserio reportedly was steered by controversial team executive Jack Easterby, who has gained enormous power and influence in the Texans organization.

Involving a player in the hire of a general manager is rare in the NFL. League experts are hard-pressed to recall a similar situation. Still, Watson believes he was disrespected and tension between Watson and management was inflamed when legendary Texans player Andre Johnson tweeted that Easterby is to blame for Watson-McNair estrangement, and practically every other problem within the organization.

One step in resolving the situation with Watson would be to allow the quarterback to participate in the Zoom interview with Bieniemy, who is Watson's preferred choice to be the next Texans head coach. Bieniemy comes with the endorsement of Patrick Mahomes, the Chiefs record-breaking quarterback and friend of Watson.

Of course, after Bieniemy was left off the Texans' list of candidates for the job, who knows if Bieniemy even wants the job in Houston now?

Watson and Johnson aren't the only current and former Texans who have expressed unhappiness with the teams' direction.

Offensive tackle Tytus Howard was open about his reaction concerning the way Texans front office has gone about dealing with Watson.

Former Texans star wideout DeAndre Hopkins gave his two cents about the mismanagement of Watson - something Hopkins experienced firsthand.

Now the Texans fan base (translation: Deshaun Watson fan base) planned a march to support the quarterback.

There have even been petitions to have Jack Easterby fired.

Watson, being the true professional and blossoming icon of the NFL asked fans to end the march, citing COVID-19 protocols.

One thing is certain. There is only one person holding up the fanbase of the Houston Texans organization engulfed in a dumpster fire: Deshaun Watson.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome