Micro ball prevails again

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Pelicans in Houston 117-109

For the second game in a row, the Rockets did not play a player taller than 6'7" for the entirety of regulation and won. For all of the skepticism its' gotten, Mike D'Antoni's new, twisted version of small ball is now 3-0. Houston has essentially forgone the rebounding battle in all games without Clint Capela in favor of forced turnovers and an extra-spaced floor and it's working.

Defensively, the Rockets had no answer for rookie Zion Williamson, who scored 21 points on 8 of 14 shooting from the field and 5 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. The Rockets threw P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, and James Harden on them, all with little success. Nonetheless, Houston managed to force New Orleans to shoot 10 for 33 beyond the arc and made them turn it over 21 times, which aided in their efforts to win the possession battle.

Houston's success with the small-ball unit shouldn't overshadow how hopeless Houston is long-term without this version of James Harden (40 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 blocks). Harden was attacking mismatches throughout the game and the Pelicans never really found anyone who could consistently stay in front of him. Once they finally did, his shot, which had betrayed him for the month of January, started dropping.

It'll be interesting to see if Clint Capela misses the entire stretch of games before the All-Star break and comes back rested and healthy. Considering the success they've had with it, Houston has no other choice but to continue playing this small-ball unit until teams give them a reason not to.

Star of the game: James Harden had easily his best game of the new year, tallying 40 points, 10 rebounds, 9 assists, and 2 blocks on 12 of 24 shooting from the field and 7-15 shooting from beyond the arc. Harden was assertive from the start of the game to the finish and confidence-wise, he looked like the Harden of old. With a spaced floor, the Pelicans had no one-on-one answer for Harden for the vast majority of the game.

Honorable mention: Russell Westbrook didn't have the same level of efficiency as he did throughout the month, so honorable mention for today goes to Ben McLemore. McLemore chipped in 22 point on 6 of 12 shooting from the field and 4 of 9 shooting from beyond the arc.

Key moment: Defensively, the Rockets really locked in in the fourth quarter, only allowing 16 points from the Pelicans while scoring 25 of their own. They seemed to get their switching down pat and by the fourth quarter, Houston was seamlessly executing their rotations on a swing. By the end of the fourth quarter, the Pelicans were actually leading 93-92, but this fourth quarter surge gave Houston a secure 8-point victory.

Up next: The Rockets finish off their homestand against the Charlotte Hornets at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

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Houston's magic number stays at 2

Astros drop series finale to Mariners after rough start by Greinke

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

With their magic number at 2 to secure their spot in the 2020 MLB postseason, the Astros returned to T-Mobile Park in Seattle for this three-game series' finale and rubber game. Here are the highlights from the game:

Final Score: Mariners 3, Astros 2.

Record: 28-28, second in the AL West.

Winning pitcher: Nick Margevicius (2-3, 4.57 ERA)

Losing pitcher: Zack Greinke (3-3, 4.03 ERA).

Greinke unable to complete five innings

While the Astros were being held scoreless, the Mariners were putting up runs on Zack Greinke. They took an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first with back-to-back singles followed by an RBI-double with one out. Greinke would stop the damage there, then looked to settle in over the next few frames.

He allowed just one baserunner in the second through fourth innings, a one-out single in the bottom of the fourth. Then, in the fifth, the Mariners would knock him out of the game by getting a one-out single that would come around to score on a two-out RBI-double, followed by an RBI-single to extend the lead to 3-0. Greinke faced one more batter, allowing a single before Dusty Baker would take the ball and move to the bullpen. His final line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HR, 92 P.

Astros try a late rally, come up short

On the other end, the Astros were unable to break through against Nick Margevicius, getting just one hit and two walks through the first four innings. They had a chance to get on the board in the top of the fifth, starting the inning with back-to-back singles before a walk loaded the bases with one out to turn the lineup over. They'd come up empty, though, with George Springer striking out before a long flyball to center by Jose Altuve to end the inning.

After finishing the fifth for Greinke, Andre Scrubb returned for a scoreless sixth, working around a one-out walk. Still 3-0, Blake Taylor took over on the mound in the bottom of the seventh, erasing a leadoff single and two-out walk to keep Seattle from extending their lead. Houston had another chance to score in the top of the eighth, getting two runners in scoring position, but again would strand them.

Cy Sneed was the next reliever out for the Astros, working around a two-out walk to send the game on to the ninth. The Astros would avoid the shutout, getting a two-RBI single by pinch-hitting Josh Reddick in the top of the ninth to make it a one-run game at 3-2. That's as close as they'd come, though, as the Mariners would eventually get the final out to take the series and keep the Astros' magic number stagnant at 2.

Up Next: There is one series left in the regular season for Houston, and it awaits them in Arlington with a four-game series against the Rangers, who are well eliminated from playoff contention. The first of the four games will start at 7:05 PM Central on Thursday with a pitching matchup of Lance Lynn (6-2, 2.53 ERA) for Texas and Cristian Javier (4-2, 3.33 ERA) for the Astros.

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