LANCE ZIERLEIN

Stream of consciousness with Astros, Rockets, and Texans

A.J. Hinch is the man, but even he isn't perfect. Jason Behnken / Getty Images
  • A.J. Hinch is one of my favorite managers/coaches of all-time in Houston. Probably at the top spot, however, he made all the wrong moves in a critical game and many of those moves were easily avoidable.

  • It’s easy to second-guess Hinch for pulling Dallas Keuchel based on the way Keuchel had been dealing after his first-inning blues, but the come in with Joe Smith? Of all the arms in the bullpen, Joe Smith? He wasn’t even on the playoff roster for the ALDS. He can’t be in on a clutch situation.

  • Ron Darling was really, really excited about Nathan Eovaldi being from Alvin and having the King of Alvin - Nolan Ryan - in the front row behind home plate. It consumed Darling.

  • What is happening with these catchers? It’s both sides too. You aren’t catching knuckleballers, guys! Wild pitches are one thing, but this many passed balls is ridiculous.

  • For all of Alex Bregman’s greatness at the plate, his greatness in the field deserves almost as much attention. That guy is a human vacuum. Hoovers it up and has release quickness and arm strength to make the difficult look routine. And the way Boston is pitching around him? That’s Barry Bonds stuff. The respect Alex Cora has for Bregman after watching him all last season is obvious.

  • I honestly don’t even know if Whitney Mercilus is playing for the Texans anymore. Is he wearing some type of hobbit cloak that turns him invisible or something?

  • With all of the pine tar / sunscreen videos out there and the reports about the Astros trying to spy on opposing dugouts, I’ve just come to realize that “gaining competitive advantages” is not only understood in baseball, but condoned. The sport is built on that very premise. It will never change.

  • While I wasn’t very excited about the addition of Carmelo Anthony to the Rockets roster, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was very interested in seeing how this plays out. I had some doubts about Chris Paul and James Harden sharing the ball and that was never an issue. Hope I’m wrong again.

  • The Rockets best shot at winning a title is if Clint Capela takes yet ANOTHER leap forward as an NBA talent. With all of the dunks, rebounds and blocked shots he should pile up, Capela is a sneaky All-Star candidate this year.

  • I thought Ozark Season 2 was okay, but I wasn’t in love it. I am, however, hyped to watch Making a Murderer 2 on Netflix starting October 19th.

  • Plantar fasciitis can suck the hole. Every morning when I wake up and put my right foot on the floor for the first time, it’s like I’m stepping on a nail. It stays like that for about 7-10 minutes. I hope many of the Red Sox get this.

  • I know the Jaguars have been terrible defensively over the last two games, but I don’t have great confidence that our Houston Texans can keep them reeling in that area. Houston just doesn’t matchup well against the physical nature of the Jaguars defensive front and Jalen Ramsey does a good job on Deandre Hopkins. I hope I’m wrong, but I see a bad result coming on Sunday.

 

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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