NBA REWIND

Rockets roll through another unbeaten week with two easy victories (and more to come)

Chris Paul had another big week. Rockets.com

This past week the Rockets had a light workload and plenty of time to enjoy long holiday weekend. The Rockets started the week Wednesday with yet another blowout versus the Nuggets, followed by a Saturday comeback win against the Knicks to complete an unbeaten week 6. With the two wins this week they extend their current winning streak to four. The Rockets are second in the league, first in the Western Conference, and first in the Southwest Division with a three game lead at 15-4 on the season.

Game Eighteen: Rockets vs Denver Nuggets (W, 125-95)

The Rockets had tied a bow on this one before halftime. A 36-17 first quarter ignited one the season’s biggest blowouts, leading at one point by 48 points. Chris Paul and James Harden continued to silence critics over their ability to play together, as Paul punched in a double-double (23 points, 13 assists), to pair with Harden’s flirtation with a triple-double (21 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds). Trevor Ariza was 7 of 10 from beyond the arc and led the team with 25 points, marking his second 20-point game of the season. Luc Mbah a Moute registered a plus-57 for the game, which is the best plus-minus a player has achieved in 20 seasons.

Game Nineteen: Rockets vs New York Knicks (W, 117-102)

There seemed to be a bit of a holiday hangover to start the contest, as the Knicks jumped out to a 39-29 first quarter despite operating without their star, Kristaps Porzingis. The Knicks’ lead would quickly erode in the second and the Rockets would head into halftime down by only 3. The Rockets clamped down defensively in the third, holding the Knicks to 13 points. Harden continued to do Harden things with a 37-point 10-assist outing. Paul put in his first 30-plus minute effort with the Rockets this season, logging 6 points and 13 assists. Replaced in the starting lineup by P.J. Tucker, Ryan Anderson added 17 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. The Rockets would go on to erase a first quarter 22-point deficit and win by 15.

Takeaways:

  • Keep it (under) 100: With the Rockets’ 125-95 win over the Nuggets, they are now 7-1 on the season when they hold their opponents under 100 points

  • Despite a short week for the Rockets, Harden continues to lead the league in points and assists. Russell Westbrook is closing in on assists, but there’s a 55 point gap between Harden and current runner up, LeBron James.

  • Spoiler alert: Chris Paul makes the Rockets better. Since his return from injury, the Rockets are averaging roughly 122 points per game. That’s 9 points more than when Paul was sidelined. They’re also undefeated when he’s been in the lineup.

Rockets Player of the Week (not named James Harden):

For now it’s Chris Paul once again. Fairly soon I think I’ll have to change the title and add Paul, but for now since he’s still fresh I’ll give him some spotlight. In week six he averaged 14.5 points, 12.5 assists, and 2.5 steals.

Looking Ahead:

The Rockets will be back in action Monday against the Brooklyn Nets for the first of three games this week. Wednesday they’ll wrap up their homestand with their second look at Indiana, followed by a late Sunday game in LA for their first contest against the Lakers.

The Brooklyn Nets are just not a very good team, with their highest scoring threat averaging 14.8 points per game. Oladipo has shined as the centerpiece for the Pacers this season, yet the Pacers were thoroughly outmatched in their first meeting against the Rockets--losing by 23. The Lakers are 8-11 currently and have not yet played the Rockets this season.

It’s beginning to sound like I’m a homer more and more with these predictions, but I honestly can’t see the Rockets dropping more than one game this week. I’ll call my shot and say that the Rockets extend their win streak to 7 by this time next week.

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Houston's losing streak extended to five games

With key Astros missing, Detroit completes the series sweep

An overall bad day for the Astros on Wednesday. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

On Wednesday afternoon, the Astros received a big blow to their chances in the series finale against Detroit and potentially longer. Five players: Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez, Martin Maldonado, and Robel Garcia would all be moved to the IL due to health and safety protocols, leaving them scrambling to get a whole team together for the game against the Tigers.

The Astros would not be able to overcome both the loss of players and the onslaught of another strong start by Detroit in Wednesday's game which put them too far out front for Houston to come back from to avoid a series sweep.

Final Score: Tigers 6, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 6-6, third in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Michael Fulmer (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (1-1)

Tigers knock out another starter early

Detroit continued their success of making Houston's starter work hard in early innings, getting after Lance McCullers Jr., and giving him an early exit. After a lengthy fist, they broke through in the second getting two hits, a walk, a hit batter, and an RBI groundout to put up three runs on 34 pitches.

He would have a quicker 1-2-3 third, but after giving up a single, a walk, and hitting another batter to load the bases and reach 87 pitches, he would be removed in favor of Joe Smith. Smith would allow all three of the inherited runners to score, adding those runs to McCullers Jr.'s final line: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 87 P.

Astros try to claw back into it

After Smith would go on to load the bases again in the inning, still with two outs, Houston made another pitching change to bring in Brandon Bielak to get the third out and stop the bleeding at 6-0. The Astros would get on the board in the fifth, getting a runner on base to set up a two-run homer by Jason Castro to cut the lead to 6-2.



Bielak remained in the game to try and eat up as many innings as possible. While he continued to hold the Tigers to their six runs through the six innings, the Astros clawed back into the game. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put their first two batters on base with a walk and single before an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel to make it 6-3. They would threaten for more but be held there for the time being.

Astros can't cash in, Tigers complete sweep

Ryne Stanek was Houston's next reliever in the top of the seventh, getting a 1-2-3 frame to keep it a three-run game, as did Brooks Raley in the eighth. In the home part of the inning, the Astros put their first two runners on base on an error and a walk, then loaded them with a one-out single by Carlos Correa. They'd waste their chance to make something happen, though, with an inning-ending double-play.

Ryan Pressly, who had no save opportunities in recent games, entered to get some work in the top of the ninth. He worked around a leadoff double for a scoreless inning, sending the 6-3 game to the bottom of the ninth. The Astros had yet another chance to make something happen, loading the bases with no outs to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. After two outs, Yuli Gurriel would bring one run in with a walk, but that's as close as they'd come, extending their losing streak to five games and getting swept by the Tigers.

Up Next: Houston will get a much-needed day off tomorrow to try and leave this poor homestand behind them. They'll pick things up in Seattle on Friday, with first pitch of the opener of three games at 9:10 PM Central. The expected pitching matchup is Jose Urquidy (0-1, 5.23 ERA) for the Astros and Yusei Kikuchi (0-0, 3.75 ERA) for the Mariners.

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