Important victory

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Jazz in Utah 120-110

It's impossible to overstate the importance of this game for the Rockets. Already playing the Jazz twice this season and coming out with one victory, this game was for all the marbles - in other words, the tiebreaker. Also, if Houston won, they'd be cashing in that tiebreaker right away and leapfrogging Utah for the fourth seed in the Western Conference (for now). Fortunately for Houston, things broke their way in the second half of this game, and currently stand two games out of the second seed.

For the second straight game, the Rockets were completely hot from three-point range, making 20 of their 48 attempts as a team tonight (42%). However, to start the game, Houston was not able to mount a huge lead due to their porous point-of-attack defense. The Jazz were just blowing by Houston's first line of defense seemingly every possession, creating a layup line because Houston no longer has a second line of defense.

After scoring 30 points against the Rockets in early February, Jordan Clarkson had 20 points on 9 of 13 shooting in the first half. The Rockets were giving up point-blank drives to the rim and the Jazz were taking advantage of it.

The third quarter is where Houston really started to turn things around defensively, only allowing 19 points on 6 of 19 shooting from the field (31.6%). They continued to make their shots, Harden and Westbrook controlled the tempo of the game (combined 72 points on 27 of 49 shooting from the field), and took home the win. Houston only really struggled with their fourth quarter offense, but were good enough defensively to where it didn't matter.

Star of the game: James Harden's looked really good on both ends since returning from the All-Star break. He's been sharp on the defensive end, he's making shots, and he's getting to the free throw line with regularity. Tonight, Harden tallied 38 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 68.0% true shooting. Harden also ended the game a team-high +24 after being a team-high +32 on Thursday. He's coming back alive just when the Rockets needed him.

Honorable mention: The Jazz again had Rudy Gobert guard Russell Westbrook, but this time, they stayed with it for the full duration of the game. Westbrook responded by putting up 34 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal on 14 of 26 shooting from the field. Westbrook also made 2 out of the 4 three-pointers he attempted tonight.

Key moment: If you wanted to show people what the idealized version of this season's Houston Rockets would look like, it would be the third quarter of this game. After a first half of weak point-of-attack defense, the Rockets defended about as well they ever had in the micro-ball era (19 points allowed). They also moved the ball and shot well from beyond the arc (6 of 14 - 42.9%). They looked like a tier one title contender that should put fear in the hearts of Western Conference opponents.

Up next: The Rockets return to Houston on Monday at 7:00 p.m. to take on the New York Knicks.

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After rallying in the ninth inning in Game 1 to take the pivotal opener of this best-of-three ALWC series, the Astros were in the driver's seat to try and end the series on Wednesday with another win at Target Field. Here is a quick rundown of Game 2:

Final Score: Astros 3, Twins 1.

Series: HOU Wins 2-0.

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier.

Losing Pitcher: Cody Stashak.

Houston gets the first hit and first run in the fourth

Through the first three innings, neither team could get a hit off of Jose Berrios or Jose Urquidy, though the Twins did load the bases in the bottom of the first on two walks and an error, but Urquidy would strand the runners before getting 1-2-3 innings in the second and third.

Meanwhile, the Astros lineup was retired in order in three perfect innings by Berrios. That changed in the top of the fourth when Houston would get back-to-back two-out walks to set up the first hit of the game, an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.

Dusty Baker makes another early call to the bullpen before Twins tie it up

Urquidy was able to keep the 1-0 lead by working around a two-out single in the bottom of the fourth, the first hit for the Twins. He returned in the fifth, allowing a leadoff single before a strikeout for the first out. Dusty Baker would pull another early hook, like Greinke the day prior, dipping into his bullpen early to end Urquidy's day at just 76 pitches in the fifth. His final line: 4.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 76 P.

Brooks Raley was who Baker called on to face the top of the Twins' lineup. He would walk his first batter, putting runners on first and second, get a strikeout for the second out, then allow an RBI-double to Nelson Cruz that almost scored a second, go-ahead run. Instead, the runner was out at home thanks to a terrific defensive play by Carlos Correa, bulleting the ball to Maldonado at home, who made a great tag to save the run and keep it tied 1-1.

Correa homers, Astros advance to ALDS

After Raley completed the fifth inning for Urquidy, Cristian Javier was the next reliever out to begin the bottom of the sixth. He would toss a 1-2-3 frame, sending the tie game to the seventh. In the top of the seventh, Carlos Correa broke the tie with a long, loud two-out solo home run to center-field, putting the Astros back in front 2-1.

Javier held on to the one-run lead in the bottom of the seventh by working around a leadoff walk, then returned for the eighth. He would get through it scoreless, despite allowing a one-out walk to Nelson Cruz, who would be pinch-ran for by the speedy Byron Buxton. After a strikeout for out number two, Javier would catch Buxton between first and second base in a rundown, getting the big final out of the inning.

Houston added insurance in the top of the ninth, getting two on base before an RBI-single by Kyle Tucker, his second of the day to make it 3-1. That left things up to closer Ryan Pressly, making his first appearance of the postseason. He would notch the save, advancing the Astros to the ALDS for their fourth-straight year.

Up Next: The Astros will now have a few days off to travel to the west coast before starting their ALDS with the winner of the A's / White Sox ALWC series. Game 1 of their ALDS will be on Monday, October 5th, at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with start time TBD.

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