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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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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