BOUNCE-BACK YEAR

The Rockets have 99 problems but a Splash ain't one

Gordon is one of the bright spots this year. Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Eric Gordon is having a tremendous season so a far for the Houston Rockets despite their record. Last season with the Rockets, Gordon dealt with countless lower body injuries and poor shooting. Gordon took it upon himself to have a better season, change his perception, and silence trade speculations. It almost seemed that Gordon lost his style of play.

Gordon only played 36 games in the 2019-2020 season. In that season, Gordon shot 31.7% from three, including having the worst true shooting percentage of his career, which was 51%. He even scored 14 points per game, which is the lowest he scored in his Rockets tenure. Gordon's injuries impacted his performance throughout the season, which hurt his shooting during the playoffs. Although Gordon came back for the 2019-2020 playoffs, he still shot 32 percent from three. Gordon shot 40% in the 2018-2019 playoffs with the Rockets, so it was a down year for him.

Trading the 32-year-old Gordon seemed unlikely throughout the offseason. Packaging Gordon with Russell Westbrook and James Harden became interesting though. Gordon's injuries were questionable because of the season he had. Even though trade scenarios circled Harden and Westbrook, none of the rumors directly involved Gordon. The Rockets seemed content that Gordon could have a comeback year. And he was confident that his knee surgery could help his performance this season.

"I needed knee surgery," Gordon said. "It's tough any time you have surgery during the year. It's just tough because I'm trying to get my balance, and everything takes time, and I'm trying to rush back, so we can see … how good we can be and how … good we can be ... down the stretch. Last year was just a tough year for me. I can definitely expect better for sure."

Gordon's usage rating has surpassed his 2017-2018 performance from 23.8%-24.9% this year.

"I've had the ball in my hand more since I [have] been here, period," Gordon said. "I'm able to play make more, come off screens, and get the ball in various ways. And that has allowed me to have a lot more opportunities."

Off those opportunities, Gordon has averaged 18.6 points per game and shooting 36% from three, while his true shooting percentage is at 61%, which is a career high. Gordon is shooting 46 percent from the field this season, which is another career high. Coach Silas has allowed Gordon to take a much more aggressive role for the Rockets this year. Gordon is 4th on the team in field goal attempts and points per game. He is thriving off consistent ball movement and screen rotation for the Rockets. If Gordon is not scoring off catch-and-shoot, he is driving toward the basket. Ever since Gordon's knee surgery, he's become a bouncer again. That has allowed Gordon to attack the rim more for the Rockets. Gordon is 46% from the field when inside the restricted area of the court.

"To have a player like Eric Gordon coming off the bench is… most teams would love that and that is a luxury for us," Coach Silas said. "He can start and come off your bench."

Hopefully, Eric's play continues to blossom for the Rockets, so they can get back on track. The Rockets have lost their last four out of five games recently.

Up next: The Rockets play the Heat on Thursday night.

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Houston's offense had another strong day at the plate in Seattle against the Mariners on Wednesday. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After striking a deal with the Mariners before Tuesday's game, along with a reported deal with the Marlins on Wednesday before the finale, the Astros continued to try and bolster their bullpen with fresh arms while also focusing on this series against Seattle. Having won the night prior to even it up, it came down to the rubber game on Wednesday afternoon to decide the series.

Final Score: Astros 11, Mariners 4

Astros' Record: 63-40, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jake Odorizzi (4-5)

Losing Pitcher: Yusei Kikuchi (6-6)

Astros continue to score runs in Seattle

Just like in the earlier games in this series, the Astros had no problems offensively. They strung together four consecutive one-run innings, starting in the top of the second when they loaded the bases, then got an RBI groundout by Myles Straw to go up 1-0. In the top of the third, Yuli Gurriel drove one in on a two-out RBI double, bringing in Jose Altuve, who led the inning off with a double of his own. Chas McCormick led off with a single in the fourth, then later scored on an RBI single by Aledmys Diaz.

The fourth run in as many innings came in the top of the fifth, as Gurriel would notch his second RBI with a solo homer to start that inning, pushing the lead to 4-0. They didn't stop there, and neither did Gurriel, as he would get RBI number three on the day as part of a four-run top of the sixth, with RBI hits him, Altuve, Diaz, and Carlos Correa, doubling the lead to 8-0.

Odorizzi gets to the sixth before allowing two homers

The run support gave Jake Odorizzi plenty of leeway, which he didn't need until the bottom of the sixth. He held Seattle scoreless over the first five frames, allowing just four baserunners on a hit by pitch, a walk, and two singles, all peppered over that span and erased in each inning. Kyle Seager would get the Mariners on the board in the bottom of the sixth, blasting a one-out solo homer to cut the lead to seven runs at 8-1. After a single in the next at-bat, recently traded Abraham Toro made it four games in a row with a homer, this one a two-run shot to cut the lead to 8-3 and end Odorizzi's day. His final line: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 HR, 95 P.

Houston wins the series

Houston brought in Brooks Raley to finish the sixth, issuing two walks but stranding them to keep it a five-run lead. Myles Straw helped push that back to six in the top of the seventh, reaching on a single to start the innings, then stealing both second and third to get in position for Diaz's third RBI of the day, a groundout to make it 9-3. Cristian Javier was the next reliever out for the Astros, but he would not make it through the bottom of the seventh, allowing a single and three walks, the third with the bases loaded to bring in a run.

Bryan Abreu was brought in to get out of the jam, getting a strikeout to end the seventh. Then, in the top of the eighth, Kyle Tucker would put two more runs on the board with a two-run homer making the lead seven runs at 11-4. Abreu remained in for the bottom of the eighth, erasing two one-out singles to get through the frame. Brandon Bielak took over in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, posting a 1-2-3 inning to wrap up the win and give Houston the series victory.

Up Next: Houston will travel down the coast to San Fransisco before getting a day off on Thursday. They'll pick up an exciting three-game series with the Giants on Friday, with the opener slated to start at 8:45 PM Central. Framber Valdez (6-2, 2.97 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros, while San Fransisco's starter is TBD.

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