Scrappy Victory

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets beat Pelicans in New Orleans 122-116

It wasn't pretty, but it wasn't ugly either. That just seems par for the course whenever the Rockets play the Pelicans. Regardless of injuries on either side, these two teams just always manage to play each other competitively, whistle to whistle. Houston pulled out ahead tonight, but it wasn't without a fight.

Jrue Holiday and Josh Hart in particular, did an excellent job defending James Harden tonight, forcing him to shoot 3 for 11 from deep. The Pelicans often swarmed Harden and forced him to give up the basketball. It helps the Eric Gordon is starting to find a rhythm from three-point range (4 of 7 tonight and 3 of 7 Saturday against Chicago). Westbrook was also forceful offensively to help pick up for Harden's early struggles.

Clint Capela has really stepped it up for Houston these past four games (11 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks tonight on 5 of 6 shooting). Capela has managed to grab 13 or more rebounds in Houston's last four outings. Capela had struggled greatly to start the season, forcing head coach Mike D'Antoni to rely on smaller units with P.J. Tucker at center. However, the Rockets aren't going to go as far as they want in the postseason if they aren't getting a strong 30 minutes a game from Clint Capela, so it's encouraging that he's starting to play well.

The Rockets took a 7-point lead after a surge from Westbrook to end the first quarter and for the most part, held that lead for the duration of the game. New Orleans made a strong push in the fourth quarter the battle back, but at that point it was too little too late.

Star of the game: James Harden didn't have a the best three-point shooting game, but still managed to log 39 point, 9 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block in the process on 62.6% true shooting. He was effect at driving to the rim, drawing fouls, getting floaters, and finding shooters. Harden scored 19 of his points in the 4th quarter, effectively dragging Houston to victory despite a strong late push by New Orleans that cut the lead from 17 at one point down to as low as 6.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook was dialed in from the first quarter, particularly from mid-range where he scored 12 of his points on 6 of 8 shooting. In a night where Harden was really struggling to gain a rhythm, Westbrook really helped pick up the slack for Houston especially in the units without Harden. Westbrook finished the game with 26 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on an efficient 57.1% true shooting. It's unlikely Westbrook will shoot that well from mid-range this season, but on nights where he's on like this, the Rockets will gladly take it.

Key moment: Russell Westbrook's stretch to end the first quarter gave the Rockets a 7-point lead and the Pelicans were never able to capture the lead from that point forward. Westbrook scored or assisted on the final 6 points of the quarter (within 56.8 seconds) and was forceful defensively.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston to play the Los Angeles Clippers at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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Lance McCullers will make his return on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. Photo by Getty Images.

This weekend marks a major moment for the red-hot Houston Astros, as a pivotal pitcher and fan favorite returns to the mound to lead his team that’s atop the American League.

After missing the Astros World Series run last year with a serious and nagging forearm injury — one that has also kept him from playing this season — Lance McCullers, Jr., the fiery team leader known for his devastating curveball and finely tuned slider, is making his triumphant return on Saturday, August 13 against the Oakland A’s.

The hometown hero who regularly (and usually secretly, except when we nag him — even during Thanksgiving) gives back to the community, last chatted with CultureMap ahead of last year’s World Series run. (We also talked his clever seltzer concept he concocted with teammate Alex Bregman and Bregman manager/co-partner Tyler Straub.) McCullers returns during Hall of Fame Weekend, which celebrates Astros greats.

Aside from cheering on one of the most valuable and beloved players on the team, fans can expect three days of memorable fun. Here’s a breakdown of the weekend, courtesy of the Astros. Tickets, as always, are available online.

Friday, August 12: Astros vs. Oakland A’s: 7:10 pm
The Astros open a three-game series with the A’s and officially kick off Astros Hall of Fame Weekend. In a continued celebration of the 60th anniversary of professional baseball in Houston, the evening celebrates the 2000s-era Astros for Flashback Friday.The first 10,000 fans will receive a Billy Wagner 2000s brick red throwback jersey. Former Astros outfielder Willy Taveras will throw out a ceremonial first pitch; the beloved Friday Night Fireworks will feature music from the 2000s.

Pregame Happy Hour presented by Budweiser will take place from 5 pm-7 pm at the Michelob Ultra Bar, with $5 Ultra Drafts, a live D.J., and stadium and skyline views.

Saturday, August 13: Astros vs. Oakland A’s: 6:10 pm
McCullers takes the mound and Astros Hall of Fame Class of 2022 — outfielder Terry Puhl and former front office executive Tal Smith — will be officially inducted in a pregame ceremony that will begin at 5:30 pm. The first 10,000 fans will also receive a Terry Puhl bobblehead.

Continue on CultureMap to see what the Astros have in store for Sunday.

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