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.

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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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