WEEK IN REVIEW

Rockets recap: Perfect start includes big win over Warriors

James Harden is off to a fast start. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

You would think that upsetting the reigning NBA champions on their home court en route to an undefeated first week of the season would be a little more attention grabbing here in Houston. 

You would, of course, be wrong. If you’re like the majority of the city, then the Houston Astros have probably kept you spellbound for at least the past week, leaving little room for the Rockets at the moment. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Keep watching the Astros, and I’ll keep you updated on the Rockets. We’ll get through this together.

Game one: Rockets at Golden State Warriors (W, 122-121)

The Rockets opened up the regular season by defeating the Golden State Warriors on opening night, and the big question was how Chris Paul and James Harden would work on the floor together. The short answer is not great at the moment. Paul left the game late in the fourth with a knee injury that looks to keep him sidelined for at least a few weeks, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to answer that question. New free agent acquisitions Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker shined off the bench, combining for 34 points and 10 rebounds. Harden finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists.

Game two: Rockets at Sacramento Kings (W, 105-100)

Part two of the Rockets’ West Coast mini tour sent them to basketball’s elephant graveyard: Sacramento. The Kings’ decided to protect the three3point line and were summarily gutted by Harden and center Clint Capela. Capela finished the game 10-12 from the field with 22 points, 17 rebounds, and 3 steals Harden struggled from the three point range (4 of 14), but ended the night with 27 points, 3 rebounds and 9 assists. As a side note, the Kings’ look like they struck gold with De’Aaron Fox. That is a fast human being with what looked like a Kobe-esque mean streak. He’s not Kobe, I’m not saying that, but the kid plays with intensity.

Game three: Rockets vs Dallas Mavericks (W, 107-91)

Saturday night the Rockets extended their unbeaten start to the season with a convincing home opener win over the Mavericks. In a surprisingly dominant defensive showcase, the Rockets held the Mavs to 20 points or less in each of the first three quarters. Trevor Ariza led the effort with four steals which contributed to a 34 point lead by the start of the fourth quarter. Harden finished his early night with 29 points, 3 rebounds and 7 assists. Dirk Nowitzki was held to just 2 points.

Takeaways:

●Three games into the season and nothing suggests that James Harden has any increased interested in playing defense.

●The Rockets’ sharp shooters haven’t started out very sharp. Ryan Anderson is firing the three at a 31.6% clip, which is outpacing Eric Gordon and his 20% success rate.

●Despite the sluggish start from three, Gordon is picking up right where he left off in terms of the production that led to his 6thman of the year award last season, averaging 22 points per game so far.

Rockets Player of the week (not named James Harden): Clint Capela. After a monster game against Sacramento, Capela has started the season averaging 15.7 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. He’s the prototype center for a team that runs as much as the Rockets do.

Looking Ahead

The Rockets will get two looks at the Memphis Grizzlies along with bouts against the winless 76ers and the 1-1 Hornets. If the Rockets can neutralize Marc Gasol, it’s very possible that the team could be celebrating Halloween unbeaten.

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Kyle Tucker had a big day at the plate on Sunday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games of the series, with one team or the other putting on a solid offensive performance in each, the Astros tried to win their fourth series in their last five by taking the rubber game on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Thanks in part to a big day from Kyle Tucker, who played a significant role in the early offense they used to power to the win, they would accomplish their mission.

Final Score: Astros 7, Blue Jays 4

Astros' Record: 18-16, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (2-1)

Losing Pitcher: Nate Pearson (0-1)

Kyle Tucker helps lead the offense to seven unanswered runs

Houston did not go easy on Nate Pearson in his 2021 debut. After a scoreless first, the Astros loaded the bases on two walks and a single, then brought the first run of the day home on an RBI walk by Michael Brantley. Another walk opened the door in the bottom of the third, and Kyle Tucker capitalized with an RBI triple to make it 2-0, followed by an RBI single by Robel Garcia to make it a three-run lead, ending Pearson's day one out into the bottom of the third.

Things didn't get easier for Toronto's pitching in the next inning, as Jose Altuve would lead off the bottom of the fourth with a solo homer. A single and a walk then set up another big hit for Kyle Tucker, a three-run dinger to make it seven unanswered runs and giving Tucker four RBI on the day.

Blue Jays pound Greinke in the fifth

After four shutout innings to start his day on the mound, working around a few hits along the way, Zack Greinke tried to cash in on his team's offense to get another win on his record. He wouldn't be able to get it done, though, as Toronto would get after him in the top of the fifth. They would score four times amongst five batters that came to the plate, with a solo homer by Rowdy Tellez, a two-RBI double by Bo Bichette, and an RBI single by Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

That made it a 7-4 game, and with Greinke still not having recorded an out in the frame, Dusty Baker would lift him at 88 pitches in favor of Bryan Abreu, who would get a pop out and a double play to end the inning and keep the lead at three runs. Greinke's final line: 4.0 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 1 HR, 88 P.

Houston takes the series

No more runs would come on either side the rest of the way, with Kent Emanuel working around a single for a scoreless sixth, Ryne Stanek getting a 1-2-3 seventh, and Andre Scrubb doing the same in the eighth to set up Ryan Pressly for the save. Pressly would get the job done, sending the Blue Jays down in order, including two strikeouts to wrap up the win and giving Houston the series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will stay at home to continue this homestand, welcoming in the Angels for three games starting Monday at 7:10 PM Central. The opener will feature a pitching matchup of Alex Cobb (1-2, 5.48 ERA) for Los Angeles and Luis Garcia (0-3, 3.28 ERA) for Houston.

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