BLAZERS CRUSH ROCKETS

Rockets slide continues to 1-5 as Blazers dominate

Chris Paul and the Rockets continue to slide. Rockets.com

The Houston Rockets kicked off Tuesday night’s contest against the Portland Trail Blazers hoping to salvage a win from their three game homestand before hitting the road for a simultaneously inopportune and season-long five-game road trip. Intensity on the defensive end kept the first quarter competitive, but Houston’s cracks would soon show and the Trail Blazers would go on to rout the Rockets in a brutally efficient outing.

First quarter ended with an abysmal 19-15 Trail Blazers advantage. The highest scoring player on either side of the ball was the league’s leading scorer Damian Lillard, with 6 points. Eric Gordon led the Rockets with 4. Youngsters Isaiah Hartenstein and Gary Clark factored more heavily into the rotation than previous contests, however the Rockets poor three-point shooting continued as Houston connected on only 1-10 from three.

Stiff defense to lead off the second perpetuated more ugly basketball, as turnovers, blocks, and steals ground the pace to a crawl. One of the lone bright spots came in the form of center Clint Capela’s hustle, grinding out out 5 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks halfway through the the second quarter. The Rockets somehow managed to tie the game at one point, before the Lillard and guard C.J. McCollum sparked a Trail Blazers sparked a run to push the lead to a more recognizable gap Houston fans have become accustomed to this early in the season. The Rockets combined for a collective field goal percentage of 27.1%, with Gerald Green, Chris Paul, and Carmelo Anthony--essentially three of the team’s four primary scorers at the moment--shooting 3-21. The Trail Blazers would head to the locker room leading 51-36.

Quarter three provided zero relief to fans beleaguered by the first half as abysmal shooting, from both the field and the line extended Portland’s lead even further. The Trail Blazers, meanwhile, exploited Houston’s interior to maintain a team field goal percentage of 52.5% to the Rockets’ 29.7%.

The fourth quarter opened with the Trail Blazers leading 85-62, as Lillard and company exerted their will on Rockets. Lillard and Nurkic would finish the contest as points leaders, having scored 22 each. None of the Rockets broke the 20-point plateau, with Paul leading the team behind a 19 point performance.

Takeaways

Switchless: Head coach Mike D’Antoni declared over the weekend that the Rockets would alter their defense somewhat, in an effort to lean less on the defensive switching that--while proving quite effective last season--had become a detriment. The league’s new freedom of movement rules have seemingly rendered the Rockets’ previous defensive philosophy staple obsolete, as the scheme has led to more trips to the foul line than turnovers. The result was more of the same, however, and while they were sent to the line an equal amount as the Rockets, the converted far more bludgeoned them from inside.

Carmelo Anthony is not a starter: It’s disheartening to see good players in their twilight, but that is exactly what we’re seeing in Anthony. After his necessary insertion into the starting lineup and an encouragingly efficient 24-point return on Friday, Anthony followed with a 2-12 performance in 31 minutes for 8 points. Those expecting a replacement of Trevor Ariza or Luc Mbah a Moute should continue looking, because not only is Anthony not that, he wasn’t brought in to be that. He was meant to come in and replace Ryan Anderson’s production, not either of the aforementioned, and expectations should be tempered accordingly.

Reinforcements are slowly returning: The Rockets are hemorrhaging at the moment, that much is clear. Tonight however brought two glimmers of hope in the return of forwards Marquese Chriss and Zhou Qi. Scheme familiarity and game-ready conditioning factored into their limited rotational minutes, but their return signified another step towards fielding the Rockets squad that had been assembled in the offseason to make another run at dethroning the Golden State Warriors. James Harden remains sidelined, but could possibly return sometime this weekend. Harden’s return alone should be enough to break the current losing streak, as mutually floundering Brooklyn and Chicago teams await.

Next Up:

Houston at Brooklyn, Friday, November 2, 6:30 pm central.

 

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Houston gets the lopsided win

Valdez, Astros dominate the Angels in 10-0 rout in Anaheim

Framber Valdez was dominant against the Angels on Monday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With a series win at home over the weekend, the Astros started their final regular-season road trip on Monday, squaring off against the Angels in Anaheim. They held the momentum firmly in their favor all night, dominating both sides of the game to start the series with a victory.

Final Score: Astros 10, Angels 0

Astros' Record: 89-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (11-5)

Losing Pitcher: Jaime Barria (2-4)

Siri leads off with a bang

With Jose Altuve being given the night off, Houston gave Jose Siri a shot at the leadoff spot, and he delivered to start the opener in Anaheim. He launched a missile to left field, 426 feet, to put the Astros in front 1-0 before the Angels could record an out. Later that same inning, they strung together three singles, the third being an RBI by Carlos Correa to double the lead.

Valdez goes seven shutout innings

That gave Framber Valdez a lead to work with as he stepped on the rubber in the bottom of the inning, and he didn't give it up as he would post a dominant start. He started with a 1-2-3 first, worked around a couple of singles in the second, then used a double play to face the minimum in the third.

He retired Los Angeles in order again in the fourth, stranded a two-out single in the fifth and a single and a walk in the sixth. He had his worst inning of the night in the seventh, giving up a leadoff single then loading the bases on back-to-back two-out walks. He'd escape the jam, though, keeping the shutout alive and finalizing his impressive line: 7.0 IP, 6 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 98 P.

Astros take the opener in lopsided fashion

Houston tacked on an insurance run in the top of the eighth, getting a one-out double by Correa to set up an RBI single by Marwin Gonzalez, pushing the lead to 3-0. Things escalated from there, as another single put two on base for Martin Maldonado, who blew the game open with a three-run homer to make it a six-run lead.

Brooks Raley took over for Valdez in the bottom of the inning, and with a 1-2-3 inning, made it his eighth appearance in a row without allowing a run. The Astros didn't let up in the top of the ninth, getting two hits and a walk to load the bases before a grand slam by Gonzalez made it 10-0 and gave him 5 RBI in a two-inning span. Seth Martinez, called up by the Astros earlier in the day, made his big-league debut in the bottom of the ninth and closed out the lopsided win to put Houston's magic number at 6.

Up Next: The second of this four-game set will be another 8:38 PM Central start on Tuesday. Jose Urquidy (7-3, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, going opposite Packy Naughton (0-2, 4.32 ERA) for the Angels.

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