ON THE EDGE

The Rockets are now on the brink of elimination after falling to the Lakers, 110-100

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Rockets fell to the Lakers 110-100 on Thursday night giving the Lakers a 3-1 series lead. Houston struggled for three quarters with points in the paint and defending the fast break. James Harden also shot 2 of 11 from the field and only had 21 points, that came mostly from the free throw line. The Rockets also struggled in the rebounding category, which the Lakers led 52-26, with Houston only recording one offensive rebound.

The Rockets allowed the Lakers to disrupt the interior of their defense by giving up 62 points inside the paint. Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 29 points by going 10 of 18 from the field. Even though Davis was not effective from the perimeter, as he is usually, 11 of his points were inside the paint and lived on the free throw line Thursday night. Davis also collected 12 rebounds versus the Rockets, which three of the rebounds came offensively.

Besides Davis having a great night, the Rockets allowed way too many open looks inside the paint. The communication looked completely absent for the Rockets defense, which made it much easier for Rajon Rondo and LeBron James to create for their teammates, as both combined for 17 assists. As Rondo and LeBron created, teammates like Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Alex Caruso flourished. LeBron even found Caruso in the corner for a three-point shot, which closed the game out.

The Lakers dominated the Rockets in fast break points, 19-2, but 17 of those points were scored off turnovers. The last time the Rockets turned the ball over like this was Game 2 when they lost 117-109 with 17 turnovers. Harden led the Rockets in turnovers with five, which was another problem for him, despite the double teams.

Mike D'Antoni was asked about double teams Harden constantly sees every game.

"They're double teaming every time. Those are stats that really don't mean anything, just as long as somebody scores," said D'Antoni.

Harden constantly tells his teammates to come to the middle of the court when the Lakers trap him in their 3-2 defensive set. When Harden is doubled, the middle of the paint becomes wide open for teammates to cut and find open shooters. The Lakers defense made it completely hard on Harden, which is probably the main reason why he did not take as many shots. LeBron made it completely known during his press conference after the game.

"James is probably one of the best offensive players we've ever seen in this league," LeBron emphasized after a win on Thursday night. "We're trying to not put him on the free throw line, and he's so clever that he still was able to get 20 free throw attempts. We're just trying to eliminate anything we can from him. Because he gets into the paint with his runners/floaters, he has his step-backs and threes in transition. He has his catch and shoot threes when off the ball. He's very tricky with his moves in the paint."

The only bright spots from the loss to the Lakers were the performances from Russell Westbrook, Ben McLemore, and Austin Rivers. Westbrook had 25 points on 8 of 16 shooting, including going 3 of 6 from three. McLemore had a perfect night by shooting 3 of 3 from the perimeter in 15 minutes of play. Rivers who had 14 points in 28 minutes, was the main anchor on the Rockets 17-2 run in the 4th quarter. Even though these guys played well, it was still not enough against the Lakers.

Despite LeBron only scoring 16 points, the Lakers still dominated the Rockets. Hopefully, the Rockets make the right adjustments and bounce back for game 5.


Follow me on Twitter @RenzoTheDon and Instagram @RenzoTheDon for updates on the Rockets.

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Yordan Alvarez's homer in Wednesday's game gave him 100 RBI on the season. Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Winners of three straight, six of their last seven, and eight of their last ten, the Astros had the chance to move yet another game closer to clinching their playoff spot if they could secure the series with a win against the Angels on Wednesday. Even though it looked as though they were headed towards a loss in extra innings, they would ultimately come out ahead.

Final Score (12 innings): Astros 9, Angels 5

Astros' Record: 91-61, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yimi Garcia (4-9)

Losing Pitcher: Sam Selman (0-1)

Garcia goes six shutout innings

Although he didn't have swing-and-miss dominance in this start, Luis Garcia could still capitalize on a struggling Angels offense and post a shutout quality start against them. He allowed three walks and three hits throughout his outing but stranded all of them while getting outs on balls in play. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 79 P.

Alvarez reaches 100 RBI as Houston's offense keeps rolling

That performance had Garcia in line for the win, as two homers handed him a 3-0 advantage which he held. Houston once again used early offense to take a first-inning lead, as a leadoff walk by Jose Altuve turned into a monster 456-foot by Yordan Alvarez, pushing him to 100 RBI on the season. The score held at 2-0 until the top of the fifth, when Jason Castro led that frame off with a solo homer to extend the lead to three runs.

Extras in Anaheim

Phil Maton was first out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh, but a single, double, and walk loaded the bases with no outs to put him in a jam. A lineout kept the runners put for the first out, but a single and a walk would make it a one-run game and left the bases loaded as Maton would get pulled.

Kendall Graveman entered to try and stop the bleeding, but after a force out at home to put that within reach, Jack Mayfield came through for Los Angeles with a go-ahead three-run double, giving the Angels their first lead of the series at 5-3. In the top of the eighth, a walk by Alex Bregman brought Alvarez back to the plate, and he would nearly miss a game-tying homer and instead got an RBI-single to make it 5-4.

Alvarez would still come in to tie the game, hustling home from second on an RBI single by Yuli Gurriel to knot things up 5-5. Brooks Raley was Houston's next reliever, and he sat down LA in order with two strikeouts. Still tied in the bottom of the ninth, Ryan Pressly came in to force extras, and despite being shadowed by the winning run on the bases after a leadoff single, retired the next three batters to send the game to the tenth.

Astros keep battling and take it in the twelfth

Jake Meyers took second base as Houston's free runner in the top of the tenth, but he would go nowhere as the Astros went down in order, giving the Angels another chance at a walk-off. Instead of giving Shohei Ohtani a free pass immediately, Houston would let Blake Taylor throw two balls to him before giving him the intentional walk.

Taylor then gave up a single to load the bases with no outs, and after getting a force out at home for the first out, Yimi Garcia would replace him. Thanks to a great play by Chas McCormick, giving him multiple in the game, the Astros would live to see another inning as he would make a great catch in right field and then throw out Ohtani at home.

In the top of the eleventh, a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel moved Aledmys Diaz to third, but that's as close as Houston would come, leaving them stuck at five runs. After Garcia retired three more batters in the bottom of the eleventh, the game moved to the twelfth, where Houston would get back in front on an RBI single by Jake Meyers, then padded the new lead on a two-RBI double by Jose Altuve, who would also score on a sac fly by Alex Bregman, making it 9-5. Josh James came in and wrapped things up in the bottom half as Houston secured the series victory and reduced their magic number to two against Oakland and three against Seattle.

Up Next: The finale of this four-game series, and the last time these two teams will meet this year, will be an 8:38 PM Central start on Thursday. The expected pitching matchup is Alex Cobb (8-3, 3.59 ERA) for Los Angeles and Lance McCullers Jr. (12-4, 3.11 ERA) for Houston.

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