THE PALLILOG

Russell Westbrook's recent surge makes the Rockets much more dangerous

Getty Images

Rockets at Celtics Saturday night is a longshot but not a no-shot NBA Finals preview. The Rockets' five game winning streak has them within two games of second place Denver in the Western Conference, one game behind the third place Clippers. The Rockets have 24 regular season games remaining. Only nine of them are against teams with winning records.

Russell Westbrook has always been phenomenally exciting to watch. Recently he's been straight up phenomenal. Over his last six games Hurricane Russ is blowing people away at a clip of 34 points per game on 57 percent field goal shooting. He is destroying people attacking the basket pretty much at will, while largely eschewing his awful three point jumper (he's actually made six of 14 3s during this jag). Westbrook has scored at least 20 points in each of his last 29 games. This Westbrook with the Rockets full-time spread offense, makes him as potent, if not more potent and valuable than James Harden. How sustainable is it, especially against a steadier diet of good and focused defenses come playoff time? It will be fun to find out.

Boos

An auction house this week announced it is putting up for bid several items of Kobe Bryant memorabilia. Is this more: capitalism at work or crassness at a sad level?

Nothing of consequence has happened with the Astros over their first week of spring training games. That's a good thing. The only things of major consequence at this point are injuries. Ask the Yankees. The Astros have been booed a lot. And life goes on. Yes, some are reeeeally angry at the Astros' cheating. For many it's something to do at the games. Like two year olds, they will mostly cry themselves out.

Kelly's Deep Steel Blue Playbook

So Bill O'Brien is giving up calling the plays for the Texans offense. Tim Kelly gets a turn, after last season being the offensive coordinator only in job title. In 2015 O'Brien gave George Godsey the offensive keys to the can, and then he pressed the ejector seat button on Godsey after one season, with O'Brien putting himself back in complete charge of the offense. Godsey had for different starting quarterbacks that season: Brian Hoyer for nine games, Ryan Mallett for four, T.J. Yates two, and Brandon Weeden for one. The Texans did manage 9-7 that season, good enough for the first of those four cute little AFC South Division Champion banners of the O'Brien era.

With Deshaun Watson at the controls, unless Kelly turns out to be a lightweight his chances of avoiding a one season and done term in the play-calling gig should be pretty good. It's not as if he has a super tough act to follow. Kelly doesn't have to be the next Bill Walsh or Kyle Shanahan to produce better offensive results than the Texans have been putting forth. It was O'Brien who schemed the offense that for the 15 meaningful games of last regular season, not once produced an opening drive touchdown. O'Brien was hired as an offensively oriented head coach. In his six seasons, while four division titles shouldn't be laughed off Emperor O's O has yet to finish higher than 11th in the NFL in scoring, and yet to finish higher than 13th in yards gained.

UH-UC Chapter 2

As I noted early in the season, it's ridiculous that the Houston Cougars do not have one Saturday home game all season. TV is the tail that wags the dog so UH finishes American Athletic Conference regular season play with two Sunday home games, at noon and 11AM. Just fantastic for Sunday brunchers and churchgoers. The AAC title is probably on the line this Sunday with Cincinnati at the Fertitta Center. With a win the Bearcats sweep the season series to take the tiebreaker and a one game lead with two games to play. That would likely be curtains for the Coogs' title defense. UH is 11-4 in conference, unbeaten at home with the four road losses coming by a combined six points.

Just for Kicks

The Houston Dynamo begins its 15th Major League Soccer season with a Saturday matinee against the Los Angeles Galaxy. It's amazing that the Dynamo struggles for much relevance here while in the notoriously soft sports market of Atlanta attendance averages over 50-thousand per game. The Dynamo having stunk five of the past six seasons obviously plays a notable role. Good franchises can do more with less. The Dynamo has done less with less, ownership maintaining payrolls among the lowest in MLS. Still, there must be more to it than that.

​Buzzer Beaters

1. If Jim Crane got a two billion dollar offer for the Astros (his group paid 615 million), how strongly does he consider it? MLB might say "Take It!" 2. Last weekend before Daylight Saving Time kicks in! 3. Best "Time" songs: Bronze-Peter Gabriel "Big Time" Silver-Jim Croce "Time In A Bottle" Gold-S.O.S. Band "Take Your Time"

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

After the big offensive showing to take the opener on Thursday, the Astros entered Friday's game at Globe Life Field against the Rangers just one win or Angels loss away from securing their spot in the playoffs. Here is how the game unfolded:

Final Score (10 innings): Rangers 5, Astros 4.

Record: 29-29, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Brett Martin (1-1, 1.98 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Enoli Paredes (3-3, 3.05 ERA).

Urquidy goes seven while allowing two

The Rangers would strike first in Friday's game, getting a two-out solo home run against Jose Urquidy in the bottom of the second to grab the early 1-0 lead. Urquidy did relatively well on the night, though he would allow another solo homer in the bottom of the fifth. Those were the only two runs he allowed, working in and out of some trouble throughout the game on his way to finishing seven innings. His final line: 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 98 P.

Houston grabs their first lead late

Unlike their hot night at the plate the night prior, it took the Astros until the fifth inning to get on the board. It came after Carlos Correa hit a leadoff single, then came all the way around to score on an RBI-triple by George Springer, making it a 1-1 tie at the time.

After the Rangers went back in front 2-1 in the bottom of the inning on their second solo homer of the night, Alex Bregman would tie it up again with a solo home run of his own, making it 2-2. Houston would get their first lead of the night in the top of the eighth, with Altuve working a leadoff walk before scoring later in the inning on an RBI-single by Yuli Gurriel.

Rangers get the walk-off to keep Houston waiting for playoff bid

After Urquidy, Blake Taylor would take over on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, retiring the Rangers in order for a scoreless inning to hold the one-run lead. Still 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Houston turned to their closer, Ryan Pressly. After two quick outs, he would allow a game-tying solo home run, making it 3-3 to postpone Houston's celebration at least another inning as the game headed to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jose Altuve was placed on second as the free runner. He advanced to third on a groundout to start the inning, then scored on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it a 4-3 lead for Houston. Enoli Paredes would load the bases before Texas would tie the game on a sac fly in the bottom of the inning, keeping runners on second and third. Houston made the change to Brooks Raley to try and extend the game another inning, but instead, the Rangers would get the walk-off win, spoiling Houston's chance to clinch their playoff spot themselves with a win.

Up Next: The third game of this four-game set will get underway at 6:05 PM Central on Saturday. On the mound for Texas will be Kyle Gibson (2-6, 5.87 ERA), and, as of now, the Astros still have Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 4.24 ERA) listed as their starter.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome