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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After the Mariners came alive late in Monday's series opener to hand the Houston the loss and keep their playoff picture hanging in the balance, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park on Tuesday to try and decrease their magic number. Here's how the middle game went:

Final Score: Astros 6, Mariners 1.

Record: 28-27, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-3, 3.57 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Casey Sadler (1-2, 5.40 ERA).

Both teams trade first-inning runs

The Astros struck first in Tuesday's game, not waiting around until the ninth inning to get on the board. Instead, they jumped out to an immediate 1-0 lead after a two-out RBI-single by Kyle Tucker in the top of the first. The Mariners responded quickly, though, getting a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning before a two-out RBI-double of their own to tie it 1-1.

Astros score five in the sixth

The 1-1 score held all the way until the top of the sixth when the Astros would flip the script from the night prior, taking advantage of some mistakes by Seattle to put up a big inning. First, Michael Brantley started the inning with a solo go-ahead homer to make it 2-1. Then, Kyle Tucker would get his third hit of the night with one out before eventually scoring after a walk and two wild pitches, making it 3-2. With two walks to keep the inning alive and put some insurance runs on base, Martin Maldonado took advantage with a big three-run home run to extend the lead to 6-1.

Valdez finishes seven strong, Astros even series

After allowing the one run in the bottom of the first, Framber Valdez recovered and put together a solid outing on the mound. He allowed just five hits total, two of which came in the first, then back-to-back singles in the fourth and a single in the fifth, while otherwise keeping the Mariners at bay. He would end up completing seven innings of one-run baseball while striking out eight. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 0 HR, 108 P.

After Valdez, Enoli Paredes would take over in the bottom of the eighth, working around a leadoff single to get a scoreless inning to keep it 6-1. In the non-save situation, Josh James would come in for the bottom of the ninth and finish off the win for Houston.

Up Next: The finale and rubber game of this three-game set will start a bit earlier on Wednesday, with first pitch scheduled for 5:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup will be Nick Margevicius (1-3, 5.35 ERA) for the Mariners going against Zack Greinke (3-2, 3.90 ERA) for the Astros.

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