Too close for comfort

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets beat Cavaliers in Cleveland 116-110

Had things stayed the course early in the fourth quarter, this would be a very different and darker recap for the Rockets. However, a win is a win and Houston showed impressive resolve down the stretch, specifically James Harden.

Aside from Harden's heroics, the biggest takeaway from this game is the growing rhythm of Russell Westbrook with this Rockets group. It's very possible that this is just a good three-game stand for Westbrook where he happens to be playing a bunch of bad defenses, but it's definitely worth noting how he's adapted to teams trapping Harden.

Now, the Cavs didn't really trap Harden tonight, but when they did, it was in the midst of their 24-0 run. When the tide started to change however, you saw much of what Westbrook has been doing the past two games - driving almost immediately off the catch. It may not be cutting to the basket, but it's effectively the next best thing Westbrook could do. There are few players in the NBA more dangerous driving to the rim with a head of steam than Westbrook. Against the Kings, Westbrook was making layup after layup after drives on catches. Tonight, you saw more of the secondary playmaking Westbrook could provide as teams collapsed and he found open shooters.

With Eric Gordon (knee), Austin Rivers (illness), and Tyson Chandler (illness) still out tonight, the Rockets effectively played a 6-man rotation. Nobody outside of Harden, Westbrook, Clint Capela, P.J. Tucker, Ben McLemore, and Danuel House played more than 11 minutes tonight. Houston still looks shaky defensively (116.6 Defensive Rating), but it'll be interesting to see if that ticks up when they shake the bug that's plagued the team the past couple weeks and have some semblance of a healthy roster.

Star of the game: Clint Capela was fa... I'm just kidding. James Harden put the team on his back tonight and carved up this Cavalier's defense like tender steak. Harden finished the game with 55 points, 8 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks on 20 of 34 shooting from the field, 10 of 18 shooting from three-point range, and 5 of 5 shooting from the free throw line. He scored 20 of his 55 points in the 4th quarter when the Rockets desperately needed it and played admirable defense down the stretch. This is Harden's 7th career game with 55 points and 8 assists. Everybody else in NBA history has a combined 15 of those (credit to Kelly Scaletta for this stat).

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook has really started to find his rhythm with the Rockets these past few games. Part of this is because of Houston's concerted effort to get Westbrook involved early in games, but he deserves full credit for capitalizing on it and carrying his momentum over the rest of the game. Westbrook had 23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and 4 steals on 52.8% true shooting (higher than his season average of 49.8%). Over the past three games, Westbrook is averaging 27.0 points, 8.3 assists, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.0 steals on 65.7% true shooting.

Key moment: After giving up a 24-0 run the Cavaliers (you read that right), the Rockets ended the game on a 28-11 run which included multiple impossible step-back jumpers, layups, and floaters from James Harden and the game clinching three from P.J. Tucker assisted by Harden.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Orlando at 6:00 p.m. on Friday to take on the Magic.

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Houston is back in the win column

McCullers Jr. spins a gem as Astros get a much-needed win over Giants

Photo by Tim Bradbury/Getty Images

After getting swept by the A's in Oakland to end a road trip with a five-game losing streak, the Astros returned to Houston to try and get back on track. To do so, they'd need a win against the Giants on Monday night. Here is a quick recap of the series opener:

Final Score: Astros 6, Giants 4.

Record: 7-9, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 6.10 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Logan Webb (1-1, 2.81 ERA).

Houston builds up an early lead

The early goings of Monday's game went very similar to the last time Lance McCullers Jr. took the mound. He would have a terrific first three innings while his offense gave him an early lead. The first run came in the bottom of the second, with Yuli Gurriel reaching base on a one-out double, moving to third on a wild pitch, then scoring on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa.

Correa would take part in a four-run inning in the third, as Houston would score two on a two-RBI ground-rule double by Michael Brantley, another on an error, then Correa's second RBI of the night, a groundout to bring in a run and make it 5-0. Unlike the last start in Arizona, where the roof opened and McCullers Jr. fell apart in the fourth, he was able to make quick work of his opponent for a 1-2-3 frame. As he kept recording scoreless innings, Martin Maldonado added another run to the lead with a one-out solo home run in the bottom of the sixth, making it 6-0.

McCullers Jr. takes a no-hitter into the seventh

While the Astros were building their lead, McCullers Jr. was spinning a gem on the mound. He allowed just one baserunner through the first six innings, which came on a hit-by-pitch. He entered the seventh with a no-hitter in progress, but the Giants would get their first hit of the night to end the no-hit bid.

Regardless, the start was precisely what McCullers Jr. needed to restore his confidence after the disastrous inning he had in his last appearance. He would go on to complete the seventh inning before Houston would go to the bullpen with the large lead in the eighth. His final line: 7.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K 0 HR, 1 HPB.

Houston gets back in the win column despite more struggles by Josh James

Josh James entered out of the bullpen for the top of the eighth but allowed the first run of the night for San Francisco via a solo home run with one out to make it 6-1. He would complete the inning and then return for the top of the ninth. He would have another rocky inning, issuing a leadoff walk before a single and double would make it a four-run game at 6-2, still with no outs in the inning and runners on second and third, prompting another call to the bullpen.

Dusty Baker would bring in his current closer, Ryan Pressly, to try and finish the game, now in a save situation. Pressly would retire the first two batters he faced before allowing a two-RBI single to make it 6-4, but would eventually get the final out to get Houston the much-needed win. With the victory, the Astros moved back into second place in the AL West standings.

Up Next: The middle game of this three-game set will start Tuesday at 8:10 PM Central. The Giants, working with a fluid rotation, have not yet fully decided on their starter, while the Astros will get another start from Brandon Bielak (2-0, 0.87 ERA) who will look to repeat the success of his five-inning, no-run start in Arizona last week.

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