The Rockets Report

Team struggles without Harden, losing two games in a week

Team struggles without Harden, losing two games in a week
Gerald Green has been a nice signing. Rockets.com

The Rockets spent the past week adjusting to life without James Harden on the court, and there were some growing pains in the process. The adjusted roster has featured an emphasis on riding recently acquired swingman Gerald Green’s hot streak as the sixth man, as well as extended playing time for point guard Briante Weber. The transition has been less than seamless, as the Rockets dropped two out of three this past week. Houston’s overall record has them fourth overall in the league now, and while they remain second the western conference, the gap is narrowing.

Game 36: Rockets at Orlando Magic (W, 116-98)

If there was ever a team to face immediately after losing the highest scoring in the league, it would be the Magic. The Rockets tinkered with their lineup and cruised to an easy victory behind strong defense on their end and abysmal shooting on the Magic’s. More on this game can be found here.

Game 37: Rockets vs Golden State (L, 114-124)

When you play the Golden State Warriors these days, there is no room for error. A glimmer of hope was shed on the Rockets with the news that Kevin Durant would not be playing due to injury heading into the contest. The game lived up to its nationally televised billing as the two western conference heavyweights refused to give either pull away with any significant lead. At the half the Rockets led the Warriors 63-63, with Eric Gordon pacing the Rockets with 17 points. The game would remain tight until around three and a half minutes remaining, when a series of miscues and poor shots allowed a dialed in Golden State team to finally pull away. Gordon would finish with 30 points, and Gerald Green would sink a career-high 8 three-pointers on his way to 29 points off the bench. Chris Paul added 28 points, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds.

Game 38: Rockets at Detroit Pistons (L, 101-108)

The Rockets traveled to Detroit Saturday night looking to shake off a tough loss to Golden State, but the Pistons--even without star center Andre Drummond--apparently had other plans. It was another close game throughout, but sloppy play in the third turned a 58-57 lead at the half into a 77-88 deficit heading into the fourth. The Rockets would be unable to recover and would eventually drop their second game in a row. No Houston player broke the 20-point barrier that night. Paul led the team with 16 points, 13 assists, and 7 rebounds. Gordon, Green, and Trevor Ariza added 15 each.

Takeaways:

Picking up the slack: Gerald Green has been absolutely electric in Harden’s absence, while Ryan Anderson has been quite the opposite. Green is now averaging 16.5 points per game off the bench thanks largely in part to his .510 three-point percentage since he signed with Houston six games ago. Anderson however has shot 8-34 from beyond the arc for an unremarkable .235 percentage in that same span. The Rockets need everyone dialed in in order to maintain momentum with Harden out.

Looking ahead:

The Rockets will have a three game work week beginning tonight in Chicago with a matchup against a rebuilding Bulls team. Wednesday they’ll host a pesky Portland team and Friday they’ll finish the week in Phoenix versus the Suns. Tonight’s matchup shouldn’t pose an issue, even as the Rockets look to further acclimate to the new rotation. The Trail Blazers, as I’ve said before, are never a team you can sleep on and should be a tough matchup, while the Phoenix game can be viewed as quite the opposite. I see the Rockets bouncing back this week with only one likely loss and the possibility to go undefeated.

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Astros lose to Braves, 6-2. Composite Getty Image.

Reynaldo López struck out seven over six scoreless innings, Orlando Arcia homered and the Atlanta Braves won their third straight, 6-2 over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.

López (2-0) allowed four hits and walked one in his third straight sterling outing to start the season.

“It’s like I’ve always said, for me, the important thing is to focus,” López said through an interpreter. “To have the focus during the outings and then, to be able to locate those pitches.”

He has given up one run in 18 innings for an ERA of 0.50.

“He threw the ball really well against a really good hitting club,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Another solid one.”

Arcia hit a solo home run to left in the second and a sacrifice fly in the seventh.

Luis Guillorme and backup catcher Chadwick Tromp each hit a two-run double in the ninth to put the Braves ahead 6-0.

“Tromp has done a good job ever since we’ve been bringing him in these situations and filling in,” Snitker said. “I’ve got all the confidence in the world in him back there. ... He’s an aggressive hitter. He’s knocked in some big runs for us in the limited time that he’s played.”

Kyle Tucker homered for the Astros leading off the ninth against Aaron Bummer, and Mauricio Dubón had a two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four. After Bummer walked Chas McCormick to put two on, Raisel Iglesias induced a groundout by Victor Caratini to end it and secure his fourth save.

“They pitched well, and our guys are grinding out at-bats,” Houston manager Joe Espada said. “Even in the ninth inning there, we’re grinding, fighting until the end.”

Hunter Brown (0-3) yielded two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and three walks in six innings. Brown allowed nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous start, last Thursday against Kansas City.

Brown said he executed better Tuesday than he had in his previous two starts.

“He mixed all his pitches well,” Espada said. “The breaking ball was effective. He threw some cutters in on the hands to some of those lefties. He mixed his pitches really well. That was a really strong performance.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Braves: 2B Ozzie Albies was placed on the 10-day injured list with a broken right big toe. IF David Fletcher had his contract selected from Triple-A Gwinnett to take Albies’ place on the roster.

Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right shoulder inflammation) threw a side session Tuesday, but Houston will wait until Wednesday to see how Verlander feels before deciding whether he will make his first start this weekend against the Nationals, Espada said. ... RHP Luis Garcia (right elbow surgery) threw around 20-25 pitches off the bullpen mound, and RHP José Urquidy (right forearm strain) also threw off the mound, Espada said. ... LHP Framber Valdez (left elbow soreness) played catch off flat ground.

UP NEXT

Atlanta LHP Max Fried (1-0, 8.74 ERA) starts Wednesday in the series finale opposite RHP J.P. France (0-2, 8.22).

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