THE PALLILOG

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

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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"

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Martin Truex Jr. won his 2nd race of the season last week. Photo via: Wiki Commons.

NASCAR returns to the Commonwealth of Virginia for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway. This is the first of two races here at this track as they will race on Sunday afternoon. This will be different from the normal night race they usually have here as this will definitely affect the racing surface considering how much the sun could make the track slick. It should be a fun race come Sunday.

Last week, Martin Truex Jr. passed Denny Hamlin to capture his second win of the season after rain moved the race to Sunday. He became the first driver to win multiple races after a fierce battle with his teammate Denny Hamlin. The race was filled with tons of wrecks including a fifteen car pileup including Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. It was one of the better races of the season as there was lots of beating and banging.

The race was not without controversy but not the kind you would expect. Early in the race Rick Ware Racing teammates Cody Ware and James Davison were involved in an altercation. The two were battling towards the back of the pack when Ware decided to drive through his teammate in turn four. The race got much worse for Cody Ware as he was involved in three more cautions all throughout the race. Many people around the sport were quite perturbed by his antics including broadcaster Mike Joy as he was audibly annoyed after Ware spun out later in the race. Many have questioned if the fifth-year driver should even be in the car and overall I can understand why some of those people think that. In his five years of driving, he has finished on the lead lap one time. I hope that he is able to figure it out and find success in the future, but this was not a good look.

The slump continues for two-time champion Kyle Busch

Throughout the race, Busch was running okay for the most part but towards the closing laps of the race he and Chris Buescher got together triggering a fifteen car pileup. Despite all this, he was able to rebound to a respectable tenth place finish. This has been more than likely the toughest stretch of his career since his championship in 2019. Many would say that the omission of Practice and Qualifying has really affected his performance. Whatever the issue is, this team really needs to find some speed, or he could be in danger of missing the playoffs. I look for this team to bounce back considering how talented he is.

Prediction

The driver that I have winning this week is Kyle Larson. This has been an incredible rebound season for Larson as he currently sits fourth in points. He is also second in laps led only to Denny Hamlin. Richmond has been a great track for him as it fits his driving style perfectly as he can run the outside line and find grip where others can't. This track is also rather sentimental to him considering he won his first pole award here during his rookie season in 2014. While he may not have the results he would want he has always been extremely fast here and even won back in 2017. I look for him to capture his second victory of 2021 come Sunday.

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