NBA REWIND

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

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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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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