Rockets capture first season win over Pelicans

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets capture first win of the season over Pelicans 126-123

In a game thought to be uneventful, as shown by the Vegas spread (Houston -12.0), the Rockets hung on to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans in a close one, 126-123. Despite missing Zion Williamson and Jrue Holiday and coming off a back-to-back, the Pelicans pushed Houston to the brink and came very close to coming out on top. For the Rockets, it's become increasingly clear that their defense is a point of concern that needs to be corrected as quickly as possible. Even head coach Mike D'Antoni, who said Thursday that he felt good about where Houston was defensively, changed his tune Saturday night.

"Things have changed," said D'Antoni, chuckling. "We just weren't into them again. I mean we have that tendency, but they were superfast, they kept coming at us. We would go up 10, and then we would relax, but you can't do that. You know, we're not real sharp right now and you have to gut these things out."

The Rockets allowed Brandon Ingram to log one of his best games of his career, chipping in 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists for the Pelicans on a ridiculous 72.3% true shooting. Houston just didn't have an answer for the 22 year old, nor did they have one for Josh Hart, who scored 23 points of his own on 64.3% true shooting (5 of 12 from three-point range).

What turned it around for the Rockets is the same man who nearly stole them their first win on Thursday, Russell Westbrook. Westbrook's fingerprints were all over Houston's second half turnaround as he pulled in 18 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds all in the second half alone.

"It's something I think my team needed from me at the time," Westbrook said after the game. "I was there to be aggressive and find ways to better make an impact on the game."

A storyline that continued on from Thursday's loss is James Harden's poor shooting. Although he scored 28 points, Harden shot 8 for 29 from the field and 2 for 18 from three-point range. Harden is now 3 for 27 for the season from behind the arc.

"He's lost his rhythm a little bit," said D'Antoni. "Nothing to worry about. There's no way it's going to last this way."

Harden expressed a similar lack of concern.

"I'm going to take as many shots as they give me," said Harden. "I was in [the gym] yesterday working on that same shot and this morning on that same shot. Tonight, it just didn't fall."

Star of the game: For the second straight game, Russell Westbrook will take home these honors. Tonight, Westbrook pulled in 28 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds, and 1 steal on great efficiency (65.4% true shooting). His timing is now there with all of his teammates, including Clint Capela, his pace has dictated what the Rockets are doing offensively, and he has willed Houston through all of their dull moments so far this (short) season.

Honorable mention: Danuel House's development is one of the more under the radar storylines of Houston's season. Not only is he hitting his three-pointers at over a 40% clip - something he carried over from last season - his ball-handling and decision making is really starting to come together. House scored 15 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, and was 4 of 5 from three-point range.

Key moment: Westbrook's dunk in transition capped off what was one hellacious stretch for the 30-year-old point guard.

Up next: Chris Paul returns to the Toyota Center to face his former team on Monday, 7:00 p.m.

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After splitting the first two games of the series, including the extra-inning affair on Saturday, the Astros looked to defeat the Angels on Saturday to secure the series win and leave Los Angeles with a winning record. On the mound were two pitchers looking to shrug off bad debuts to the season. Here is how the game went on Sunday afternoon:

Final Score (11 innings): Astros 6, Angels 5.

Record: 5-4, first in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Blake Taylor (1-0, 0.00 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Jacob Barnes (0-2, 3.86 ERA).

James walks his way into trouble

After a disastrous start to his pitching season where he was unable to record an out, Shohei Ohtani was able to sit down the Astros 1-2-3 on just eight pitches in the top of the first. However, Houston would take advantage of his struggling command in the top of the second, working three straight walks to load the bases with no outs. They then would get two more walks with two outs to grab an early 2-0 lead and end Ohtani's day early yet again.

Meanwhile, on the mound for Houston was Josh James. He, too, allowed some walks but was able to work around them in the first two innings, erasing two in the bottom of the first and one in the second for two scoreless innings.

That changed in the third when he would walk the bases loaded with two outs before Albert Pujols continued his nearly twenty-year reign of being a thorn in Houston's side, hitting a grand slam, Los Angeles' first hit of the day, to put the Angels up 4-2. James would get the final out of the third, but that would conclude his day, making it two straight starts he would be unable to reach the fourth inning. His final line: 3.0 IP, 1 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 6 BB, 4K, 1 HR.

Valdez impresses as Bregman makes it a one-run game in the seventh

Framber Valdez was first out of Houston' bullpen, likely to try and eat up several innings. He would accomplish that mission, getting through the next three innings scoreless, holding the 4-2 score. It remained locked on that score despite Houston getting runners on base in each of those innings, as they would struggle to turn players on base into runs yet again in this series.

Alex Bregman gave the Astros a spark in the top of the seventh, leading off the inning with a solo home run to straightaway center to make it a one-run game. Valdez returned for yet another inning, another scoreless frame to keep it 4-3 going to the eighth.

Reddick ties it in the ninth, Astros win in extras

Houston would threaten to tie in the top of the eighth, getting a pinch-hitting Carlos Correa to third base after a single to leadoff the inning, but would be unable to score him, leaving it at 4-3. Valdez would record another scoreless inning in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Astros one more chance to tie or go ahead in the top of the ninth.

Michael Brantley led off the inning with a double and was pinch-run by Myles Straw, who would score the tying run on an RBI-single by Josh Reddick, but the Angels would hold the Astros there. Valdez remained in the game trying to push extra innings and would do so, erasing a leadoff walk.

Kyle Tucker started the top of the tenth on second base and moved to third on a sac fly by Carlos Correa to start the inning before scoring on another sac fly, this time from pinch-hitting Garrett Stubbs to give Houston a 5-4 lead. Valdez, well above his comfortable pitch count, was still on the mound in the bottom of the tenth, and allowed his first run, though unearned, on a leadoff RBI-single to tie the game again at 5-5. He would get one more out before Houston moved to another reliever, bringing in Andre Scrubb.

After an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, Scrubb would walk the bases loaded before getting a popout, then Houston would turn to Blake Taylor. Taylor would come through, getting a big strikeout to send the game to the eleventh. Springer started on second in the top of the inning and would score and put the Astros back in front on a one-out RBI-single by Alex Bregman. In the bottom half, Taylor would get through the inning, giving Houston the win and series victory.

Up Next: The Astros will have a day off tomorrow before picking up a three-game set with the Diamondbacks in Arizona on Tuesday. The opening game of that series will be at 8:10 PM Central. While Arizona is expected to start Madison Bumgarner, the Astros will have to pivot as they had Framber Valdez slated for that start, who made a lengthy appearance out of the bullpen on Sunday.

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