Doubling down. Literally.

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Hornets in Houston 125-110

It may take 50 games for the fanbase to buy into Mike D'Antoni's small-ball approach, but they'd struggle to make a hard-case that it hasn't been a winning formula for the Rockets. They've now won four games in a row in which they've played without a traditional center for 90% of the minutes. Their strategy is simple: give up the rebounding battle and win the turnover battle.

It's pretty clear that the Rockets have made the fundamental switch to small-ball as a full-time ideology. Few teams have gone this all-in, but they clearly have confidence in their ability to win this way.

"I think with small ball it's just making good decisions," said P.J. Tucker after the game. "It's all guards out there so everybody making good decisions and making decisions for each other and plays for each other and getting open shots."

At the time of writing this, the Houston Rockets just swung a massive trade for swingman Robert Covington, giving up Clint Capela, Gerald Green, and a first round pick. This means they not only will continue with this style of play, but they've doubled down on it. Houston views the center position as an expendable asset and wings as more conducive to their style of play.

This isn't the proper article to break down a massive trade like this, but it fits in with the ethos - Houston's picked an identity that they want to play and they're going to double down on it for the rest of the season. Whether it'll lead them to the promise land is a different conversation, but there's no question whether or not they believe it.

Star of the game: Games like this remind you how much of an offensive hub James Harden can be by himself for an elite offense if he was asked to. The Rockets surrounded Harden with nothing but shooters for 45 minutes (Isaiah Hartenstein played 3 minutes off the bench) as he tallied 40 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, and 1 block on 11 of 26 shooting from the field, 4 of 11 shooting from three-point range, and 14 of 15 shooting from the free throw line.

Honorable mention: On a night where they really needed someone other than James Harden to show up, Danuel House took the bill. House tallied 22 points, 9 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 assist, and 1 steal on 8 of 13 shooting from the field and 6 of 11 from three-point range. Over his last five games, House is averaging 15.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 0.8 blocks on 44.1% shooting from the field and 43.2% shooting from three-point range. House seems to have his confidence back, his jumper is falling again, and he's imposing his will in transition.

Key moment: Much like Sunday night against the Pelicans, Sunday night is where Houston really bunkered down defensively, allowing only 22 points and out-rebounding the Pelicans 13-9. James Harden completely destroyed Charlotte's defense in this quarter as well, scoring 14 of his 40 points on 5 of 10 shooting from the field and 3 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Los Angeles at 9:30 on Thursday to take on the Lakers.

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Jose Urquidy is a surprising choice to start Game 2. Photo by Getty Images.

After a long and tumultuous season, the Houston Astros made it to their 3rd World Series in five years and will take on the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night.

Houston had the better overall regular season record, so games 1 & 2 will be played at Minute Maid Park while games 3-5 will be held at Truist Park in Atlanta.

(If necessary, the final two contests will be played back at Minute Maid Park).

The Braves got this far by defeating the Milwaukee Brewers in the ALDS 3-1 and the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games (4-2).

Atlanta prevailed with timely hitting from guys like Joc Pederson, Austin Riley and Eddie Rosario performing like an MVP this postseason.

The Braves received solid pitching outings from guys like Ian Anderson, Max Fried and former Astro Charlie Morton.

Atlanta used clutch hitting and solid pitching to make to their first World Series since 1999.

Meanwhile, the Astros made it back to the World Series by defeating the Chicago White Sox in the ALDS 3-1 and out-slugged the Red Sox four games to two.

According to Fox Bet, the Astros are favored at -154 to win the World Series. This is certainly an obtainable goal for Houston's team as they have the experience, hitting and pitching to compete with anyone.

Can Houston's bats stay hot?

The most intriguing matchup this series will be the Astros' bats facing off against this Braves pitching staff. On paper, Houston's lineup seems to be favored for their depth. Jose Altuve at the top of the batting order is always a threat to get on base, and behind him are a plethora of hitters who can drive in multiple runs.

The two best bats this postseason thus far for the Astros are ALCS MVP Yordan Alvarez (.522 batting average) and this year's American League batting title champion Yuli Gurriel (.455 batting average). The Cuban natives have lit up pitching and will look to continue their torrid hitting in the World Series.

Other Astros who could be impactful at the plate against the Braves include Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker. All three of their batting average's in the .200's respectfully and could come up big at any time.

This lineup is so deep, Atlanta's pitchers won't receive many breaks, if at all this series.

Will the pitching step up again?

Losing Lance McCullers Jr. for the World Series certainly isn't ideal, but not impossible to overcome as proven in the ALCS against the Red Sox.

Framber Valdez pitched the best game of his career when he threw 8 innings and surrendered only one run in Game 3, while Luis Garcia had his best start of the postseason and received the Game 6 win. Both of these pitchers have stepped up in McCullers' absence and will have a huge impact on the series. Valdez is set to start Game 1 on Tuesday night.

If Jose Urquidy and Zack Greinke can also pitch deeper into games, there will be less stress on the bullpen and give the Astros a better chance to stay in games. And we won't have to wait long to see Urquidy, as he will start Game 2, according to Astros manager Dusty Baker.

In an ideal scenario, the Astros' starting pitchers should throw six innings of work and let Kendall Graveman, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly closeout games as they have all season.

Of course this is the best-case scenario, which doesn't always happen, but other arms can be used to bridge the gaps that include Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia in short relief outings and Cristian Javier and Jake Odorizzi can pitch multiple innings if needed.

Even if a starter has a clunker of a start, this bullpen has done a great job of keeping things close and setting up the Astros for success.

Will this be Carlos Correa's "Last Dance" with Astros?

One can only imagine what is going on in Carlos Correa's mind right now. No one is implying that the free agent to be will not be focused this series, but it's hard to fathom this upcoming offseason isn't a distraction right now.

The 27-year-old shortstop is set to receive multiple offers from different teams and land one of the richest contracts once this season concludes.

If this truly is his final season with the Astros, why not go out on top and win one more title before moving on?

Let's hope this "Last Dance" for Correa is a slow one, so we can all enjoy it a little longer.

Will Dusty's experience prove to be a difference-maker?

Dusty Baker's experience could be beneficial for Houston's chances of hoisting another trophy as he has managed teams in parts of 24 seasons.

He's the only skipper to ever lead five franchises to the postseason and obtain more than 2,000 career victories.

This is the second time he as taken a club to the World Series. He took the 2002 San Francisco Giants to the Fall Classic but lost to the Angels in seven games.

It's safe to assume the 72-year-old seems eager to win his first championship as a manager to cap off a Hall of Fame career.

Final projection

As previously mentioned, the Astros are favored to win this series. If Houston can continue to stay hot at the plate, receive solid outings from their pitchers and just play Astros baseball, there is a good chance this city will have yet another Commissioner's Trophy in their display case.

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