Close, but no cigar

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Clippers come out on top of Houston 122-119

This will be a tough loss for Rockets fans to swallow considering Houston led for the majority of the second half before surrendering to a 13-4 run in the final 86 seconds of the game. The Rockets fought hard and seemed to know that the Clippers might try to swarm James Harden as the Nuggets had done the night before and were much better prepared for it.

Shooters like Ben McLemore, P.J. Tucker, and Thabo Sefolosha were prepared from the start of the game to take and make wide-open shots generated by the defense played on Harden. McLemore had one of his better games of the season, shooting 4 of 9 from three-point range. He was in the correct spots, didn't hesitate to shoot, and came through big for Houston, even in a loss.

Harden was an absolute super hero for the Rockets tonight (37 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals). There's little doubt that the Rockets watched a ton of film on the Denver loss to help be better equipped to face traps in the future. He still managed to be efficient (77.3% true shooting), which is incredible considering the kind of defenders the Clippers were throwing his way (Patrick Beverley, Kawhi Leonard, etc...). It's a shame his team couldn't capitalize don't the stretch because this could have been a game to put into Harden's Hall of Fame warchest.

This game, along with Wednesday night's loss to Denver, could come back to haunt the Rockets to end the season. Houston will, without a doubt, be one of the teams Denver and L.A. will battle for position with to close the season. The whole season counts and it's never too early to discuss tiebreakers as the Rockets learned firsthand last season. Without starting small forward Danuel House and sixth man Eric Gordon, it was still an impressive performance (up until the end) nonetheless.

Star of the game: James Harden was pretty much the only reason Houston didn't get blown out tonight. Harden was again getting swarmed all night and he passed well to shooters out of the double teams, which kept Houston in the game. He ended the game with 37 points, 12 assists, 8 rebounds, 2 steals, and surprisingly only 4 turnovers. For the amount of usage he had dealing with the trap all game, that's remarkably low.

Honorable mention: While his streak of 20-rebound games has come to a close, Clint Capela had possibly his best defensive game of the season. Capela was doing a great job doing the balancing act of switching out or playing help defense and getting back in time to protect the rim. He logged 17 points, 19 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Key moment: Houston's execution in the fourth quarter is what cost them this game. To start, the Rockets fouled the Clippers four times in one possession, putting them in the bonus instantly. Los Angeles capitalized in a big way, getting to the free throw line 16 times compared to Houston's 10 trips. Russell Westbrook's decision making and effort on defense will also be the lasting memory of this game. Not only did he pass up an open P.J. Tucker to take the last three of the game, but with 40 seconds left, Westbrook walked back on a Clippers fastbreak possession leading to a wide-open Lou Williams three.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Mavericks at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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