Victory atlast

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Nuggets in Houston 121-105

Against a depleted Denver Nuggets squad, the Houston Rockets attained their first team victory since January 11th. Although Denver was missing Paul Millsap, Gary Harris, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., this was an important win for the Rockets. They kept their spirits high throughout this losing streak, but it wasn't hard to see that they were spiraling.

"God I hope so," responded Mike D'Antoni when asked if the Rockets could build off this win. "We had energy and it starts on the defensive end. We were able to run."

The Rockets were able to sustain a consistent effort on the defensive glass after struggling for a while in no small part due to Russell Westbrook (10 defensive rebounds, 16 total). Apparently, Westbrook had been downplaying his effort on the glass and allowing Clint Capela to grab them in an effort to better acclimate to the team. However, the Rockets talked as a team and Westbrook voluntarily said he would return to his old rebounding ways to try and resolve the growing defensive rebounding problems.

"I've been BS'ing, kind of leaving it up to Clint [Capela] when that's a huge part of my game and I'm going to stay locked in on that for sure," said Westbrook postgame. "This whole process has been big for me. I'm trying to figure out where I make the most impact when my team needs it. Coach emphasized that rebounding was down and that's a huge part of my game and I feel like I'm the best at that in my position."

If the Rockets can consistently get this version of Russell Westbrook (28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals), James Harden (27 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals), and Eric Gordon (25 points, 6 of 8 shooting from three-point range), this team could be in a much better position than where it's at right now and they know that.

Star of the game: James Harden's statline may not pop off the boxscore, but it was pretty darn efficient. Harden tallied 27 points, 5 rebound, 5 assists, and 2 steals on 6 of 13 shooting from the field, 13 of 15 shooting from the free throw line, and 2 of 6 from three-point range. This was a statline you'd see from Harden in 2015, not 2020. Knowing his own shooting struggles, Harden kept his head down and attacked the basket for most of the night, limiting his attempts from beyond the arc.

Honorable mention: If Russell Westbrook were more efficient tonight, he'd be the star of the game. Westbrook logged an impressive 28 points, 16 rebounds, 8 assists, 4 steals, and 1 block, but it was on 11 of 25 shooting from the field. Nevertheless, Westbrook's energy kept Houston firmly in the lead for most of the night and he found guys like Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker for open three-pointers all night (combined 8 of 14 from three).

Key moment: The Rockets really took this game by the throat in the second quarter, limiting Denver to a measly 14 points on 7 of 19 shooting from the field (36.8%). It was by far the best quarter of defense the Rockets have played in January.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves at 7:00 p.m. on Friday.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

McCullers Jr. had nine strikeouts over four

McCullers Jr. looks sharp in tune-up before Rangers overpower Houston's bullpen

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite watching their chance to clinch their playoff spot on the field slip away in the walk-off loss on Friday, the Astros benefited from a loss by the Angels later in the night, securing their playoff berth. That meant they could play conservatively in the final two games of the season against the Rangers in Arlington. Here's a quick rundown of Saturday's matchup:

Final Score: Rangers 6, Astros 1.

Record: 29-30, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Jimmy Herget (1-0, 3.20 ERA).

Losing pitcher: Brandon Bielak (3-3, 6.75 ERA).

McCullers Jr. looks playoff-ready 

With nothing substantial to play for, the Astros did not expect to ask Lance McCullers Jr. to go deep into Saturday's game, instead giving him a few innings for a tune-up before assuming whatever role he would play in the post-season. He looked impressive, a promising sign after his injury stint and struggles on the road at points this season.

He finished four innings, during which he racked up a season-high nine strikeouts while giving up no runs on just two hits, both singles, and two walks. His final line: 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 61 P.

Both teams trade runs as  they go to their bullpens

Meanwhile, neither team was getting much going at the plate in the early goings, keeping it a scoreless game through the first five. Brandon Bielak took over for McCullers Jr. starting in the fifth but would allow the first run of the night in the bottom of the sixth as the Rangers would get three singles to take a 1-0 lead.

After Kyle Gibson held the Astros at bay for six innings, Houston would get on the board against Texas' bullpen, getting a leadoff double by Aledmyz Diaz in the top of the seventh. Diaz moved to third on a sac bunt, then scored on a sac fly by Jack Mayfield, making it 1-1.

Rangers blow it open in the seventh

The tie didn't last long, as Bielak would put two on base in the bottom of the seventh before giving up a three-run homer to make it a 4-1 Rangers lead. Andre Scrubb was next out of Houston's bullpen and allowed a solo home run on his first pitch. Scrubb would complete the inning, but not before allowing another run on three singles to push Texas' lead to 6-1.

Cy Sneed was next out of Houston's bullpen for the bottom of the eighth and tossed a scoreless frame with two strikeouts. Houston would not make the unlikely comeback in the top of the ninth, with the Rangers taking the game 6-1.

Up Next: The last game of the Astros' 2020 regular season will be Sunday at 2:05 PM Central, as are most other games on the MLB slate on the league's final regular-season day. Houston's starter is TBD as they will continue to preserve their arms for the best-of-three first round that starts on Tuesday, while Texas will send Jordan Lyles (1-6, 7.08 ERA) to the mound.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome