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 loses to end the road trip

Dodgers get best of Odorizzi to split series with Astros

Jake Odorizzi allowed four home runs over three innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After spoiling the night of many Dodgers fans in the opener of this two-game series in Los Angeles the night prior, the Astros returned to the stadium to a fresh set of hostile fans, looking to get the mini-sweep. This one went much more in favor of the home team, though, as the Dodgers would ride three big innings to start the game to the win for the series split.

Final Score: Dodgers 7, Astros 5

Astros' Record: 65-43, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Max Scherzer (9-4)

Losing Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-6)

Odorizzi gets shelled

After a Michael Brantley solo home in the top of the first run against Max Scherzer, making his Dodger debut, it looked like the Astros may continue their momentum from the night before to grab hold of this game as well. However, that all changed in the bottom of the inning, as the Dodgers would tee off against Jake Odorizzi.

In that inning, he allowed four runs, a leadoff solo shot by Mookie Betts, then later a three-run blast by Will Smith. Betts made it 2-for-2 with solo homers in the bottom of the second, extending the lead to 5-1. Things went from bad to worse in the third, with Los Angeles getting their fourth home run, this one for two runs to make it a 7-1 game. Odorizzi would finish the third but go no further.

Scherzer K's 10 over seven innings in his Dodger debut

Houston tried to start clawing back into it in the top of the fourth, getting a second run against Scherzer with a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, trimming the lead to five runs at 5-2. First out of Houston's bullpen was Yimi Garcia in the bottom of the fourth, and he tossed the first 1-2-3 inning for Houston. Rafael Montero was next in the bottom of the fifth, working around a leadoff double followed by a walk for a scoreless inning.

Montero remained in the game in the bottom of the sixth, still 7-2, and would get another scoreless inning, this time sitting down the Dodgers in order. Scherzer finished his quality debut for his new team in the top of the seventh, erasing a leadoff walk to complete seven innings while allowing two runs.

Astros lose to split the series with Dodgers

Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he, too, would get through a scoreless inning by erasing a two-out single. In the game-within-the-game, the Dodgers brought in Joe Kelly for the top of the eighth, who notched two strikeouts to bring none other than Carlos Correa to the plate, setting up a rematch of the well-known incident that led to the "pouty face" clip from 2020. Carlos Correa won this round, launching a 405-foot homer off of Kelly to make it a four-run game at 7-3.

Phil Maton kept the score there, stranding two runners in the bottom of the eighth to send the 7-3 game to the top of the ninth, where the Dodgers would bring in Kenley Jansen. After a leadoff single, Kyle Tucker would get the Astros within two runs on a two-run homer, making it 7-5. That's as close as they would get, as Jansen would regroup to get the next three batters out to wrap up the loss for Houston.

Up Next: With this road trip completed, the Astros will have a quick turnaround as they catch a late flight back to Houston then turn around with a game Thursday at 7:10 PM Central to open a four-game series with the Twins. Framber Valdez (7-2, 3.01 ERA) will take the mound for Houston in the opener, while Minnesota will counter with Griffin Jax (1-1, 6.41 ERA).

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