CHARLIE PALLILO

So long, Carmelo, the Rockets will be just fine without you

Mike D'Antoni and the Rockets have moved on from Carmelo. Harry How/Getty Images

So what’s your favorite Carmelo Anthony Houston Rocket memory? A dubious move at point of signing, it played out worse more quickly than even the most hardened cynic could have anticipated. The Rockets looked ridiculous with their BS claim of Anthony having been sidelined by “illness” the last few games. Yeah. His performance level made Mike D’Antoni sick. His defensive contribution was a malignancy.

By all accounts Carmelo Anthony is a good guy. As a Syracuse alum I’ll forever have a warm spot for his carrying the Orangemen to the 2003 NCAA Championship. That was a long time ago. Anthony hasn’t been a big-time player for a while now. Before last season when dealt to Oklahoma City Anthony thought he made for a big three with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Not close. Then after being traded to and then bought out by Atlanta, Melo joined the desperate for bench help Rockets. Melo thought he’d make a big three with buddy Chris Paul, and James Harden. Not close again. It was never even a possibility. William Shakespeare wrote “Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow.” Not always. No sorrow on this one.

Meanwhile the Rockets have exhaled after their 1-5 mess of a start and settled in to playing some darn good ball. Getting back to .500 merits no celebration, but winning six of eight including this week’s wins at Denver and over (granted, Stephen Curry-less) Golden State is quality. The Western Conference is ferociously deep this season, but the Rockets schedule softens over the next couple of weeks so they should be leaving the .500 mark in their rearview mirror.

A Cougar low

Divergent agendas can make for ugly moments. Such happened during UH’s Thursday night rout of Tulane when Ed Oliver grew furious with head coach Major Applewhite when Applewhite told him to take off a jacket that was reserved for players playing in the game. Applewhite is the Cougars’ second year head coach trying to avoid a second disappointing season. His defense had been godawful in multiple recent games, the most recent played without All-America defensive lineman Oliver. Oliver was injured by an illegal block October 20. Two weeks later UH announced Oliver would play that night against SMU. Oliver did not, and has missed two more games since. The obvious undercurrent is that a number of people (maybe including the head coach) think Oliver is healthy enough to be playing. As much as it’s a team sport and any player on a team should feel obligation to his teammates and school, Ed Oliver cannot be blamed for taking no chances. He’s a surefire top 10 NFL Draft pick. That’s millions and millions of guaranteed dollars waiting for him. A blown out knee could wreck that. It’s not as if UH is chasing a national championship.  

On the road again

The Texans play at Washington Sunday in a matchup of 6-3 teams that really don’t seem to be all that good. With the possible exception of the Bears, the Texans and Washington are certainly the two weakest division leaders in the NFL. Which means, they are division leaders. Play the course.

The Texans somewhat surprisingly are road favorites by a field goal. That means unless they falter badly the Texans will be favored in six of their remaining seven games, the lone underdog role being at Philadelphia, and that could change since the Eagles’ Super Bowl defense could be dead by the time that game rolls around. So by the chalk the Texans should finish…12-4. 12-4!!!

But why are the Texans favored at Washington? The Texans offense hasn’t been very good this season, legitimately topping 20 points only twice. Washington’s defense has been stout, giving up more than 17 points only three times. Well, flip the script. Washington has won three of its last four games but hasn’t scored more than 20 in any of them. The Texans front seven has been hell-raising. J.J. Watt is probably running second behind Andrew Luck for comeback player of the year. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and friends should maul Washington’s injury ravaged offensive line. Both of Washington’s starting guards are out injured, and so is Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams. If the Texans don’t lose the special teams matchup or the turnover battle, they should have a seven game winning streak going into the huge Monday nighter upcoming against the Titans.

In the AFC South race the Texans’ ideal Sunday is they win while the Colts beat the Titans in Indianapolis. That would give the Texans a two game division lead and margin for error ahead of the Titans’ visit. If both the Texans and Titans win, control of the AFC South race will ride on that Monday nighter. If the Texans lose and the Titans win, the Monday nighter becomes a virtual must win for the Texans.

Buzzer Beaters

1. Justin Verlander had a fabulous season, but Blake Snell was the best pitcher in the American League in 2018.  2. Go Orange! Beat Notre Dame! 3. Most absurd games with SEC teams this weekend: Bronze-LSU/Rice Silver-Georgia/UMass Gold-Alabama/The Citadel.


 

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Houston now focused on postseason

Altuve and Correa homer, Astros drop final regular-season game

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With no playoff impact at stake if the Astros won or lost the game, Houston took Sunday's final regular-season game as a chance to get their lineup a few more at-bats before shifting focus to Tuesday's first game of the post-season. Here is a quick recap of the game against the Rangers:

Final Score: Rangers 8, Astros 4.

Record: 29-31, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Wes Benjamin (2-1, 4.84 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Chase De Jong (0-1, 14.73 ERA).

Houston's main bats get a final tune-up

Knowing they'd only have a couple of at-bats to work with, some of Houston's big bats took advantage, starting with Jose Altuve. He crushed a pitch in the top of the first, a solo homer to put the Astros in front 1-0. After the Rangers tied the game 1-1 in the bottom of the second, Altuve started the third with a walk before moving to third base on a Michael Brantley single, which improved Brantley's season average to .300.

Aledmys Diaz would pick up the RBI on a groundout to score Altuve, putting Houston back in front 2-1. In Correa's last at-bat in the top of the fourth, he extended the lead to 3-1 with a solo home run of his own.

Rangers hand Astros a loss to end the regular season

After getting the early run against Chase De Jong, the Rangers would put together a big inning against him in the fourth. After two one-out singles, Rougned Odor would give Texas their first lead of the day on a three-run homer to make it 4-3.

De Jong would continue to struggle in the inning, getting just one more out while loading the bases, prompting a move to the bullpen to bring in Nivaldo Rodriguez to try and eat up more innings. The Rangers greeted him with a two-RBI single to extend their lead to 6-3 before ending the fourth. Odor would hit his second home run of the game in the bottom of the fifth, a solo shot to make it a four-run lead at 7-3.

Rodriguez allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, making it 8-3. Diaz, who drove in a run earlier, would account for another RBI in the top of the eighth, getting Houston's third solo homer of the day. That would make it an 8-4 game, which would go final as the Rangers would win the regular season's last game.

Up Next: Houston's first game of the playoffs will be on Tuesday, with the start time and opponent TBD while the rest of today's games wrap up, and the schedule is announced. Regardless, the Astros are expected to begin that best-of-three series with Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

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