GAME 4 RECAP

Rockets use ridiculous third quarter to rout Wolves, lead series 3-1

Karl Anthony Towns had a nice state line, but... Tim Warner/Getty Images

After scraping out a one-point lead at halftime, the Rockets left Houston fans with plenty of cause for concern. A 50 point third quarter would calm most of those fears, however, as Houston cruised to a 119-100 victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

A lethargic Rockets tipped off against the Timberwolves and Minnesota kept pace by efficiently attacking the inside. Minnesota Guard Derrick Rose continued to turn back the clock on Houston, and shades of the former MVP could be seen as he effortlessly sliced through the lane.

More concerning was the Rockets overall shooting to start the first half. James Harden seemed to be continuing his cold streak from game 3, as he started the game 1-8 from the field. The team as a whole struggled with the exception of Trevor Ariza, who kept the Rockets competitive with 13 first half points.

The third quarter, however, was a completely different story. The Rockets shifted into a completely different gear and torched the Timberwolves with a 50-20 point third quarter. Leading the charge was Harden with 22 points, followed by Paul with 15 points each in the quarter alone. The onslaught would predictably prove to be too much for the Timberwolves to overcome and the Rockets left Target Center with a 3-1 series lead heading back to Houston on Monday.

Takeaways:

1) Karl Anthony-Towns is a non factor.

Don’t let the box score fool you. Towns finished with 22 points, sure. Most of those points, however, were in garbage time when the Rockets had long ago checked out of the game mentally. The biggest whiff I’ve made in discussing this series so far has been my assumption that Towns would be force, and he has been anything but. Meanwhile Clint Capela walked off the court with a 14 point, 17 rebound, 4 block night.

2) The defense was the real story.

Most people are going to focus on the offensive explosion in this game, but it wouldn’t have happened without an equally impressive defensive showing from the entire team. Houston won the turnover battle 7-17, with Clint Capela swatting 4 shots, and Harden and Paul accounting for 5 and 4 steals respectively. The Rockets played chippy playoff basketball and it worked.

3) The Rockets need to stay focused.

This entire series has been about the Rockets’ intensity and ability to maintain it throughout four quarters. Houston punched their playoff ticket so early that people speculated whether they would be able to turn it on or be caught napping. Game three they were caught napping and were run out of the building, albeit by a timberwolves team that shot almost 60% from behind the arc. After building a 35 point lead, more signs of the same were present, as a relaxed Rockets’ squad allowed Minnesota to trim the lead down to 20. Look, I understand that criticizing a team that was still leading by 20 points sounds ridiculous, but this Rockets season probably won't be considered a success unless they hoist a trophy in early June. A championship team needs to focus on maintaining its intensity throughout the game. Houston could have easily won this game by 40 or more if they had.

 

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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