The Westbrook game

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets defeat Timberwolves in Minnesota 131-124

When the Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook in July, they knew what they were getting. There would be nights where he would score 28 points on 30 shots, turn the ball over 4 times, and look like an insane person. There would also be nights where he tallies 45 points, 10 assists, 6 rebounds, and a steal on good efficiency and absolutely carry Houston over the finish line. This is the Westbrook experience in a bottle and there's really no negotiating with it. It's a hell of a visual either way.

On a night where James Harden looked injured and miserable (12 points on 3 of 13 shooting from the field, 3 turnovers, and a plus-minus of -7), Westbrook took completely control of the offense and put on a clinic. Westbrook was keeping Clint Capela (18 points on 9 of 12 shooting) and shooters engaged (Eric Gordon and Austin Rivers combined for 43 points on 8 of 16 shooting from beyond the arc) while also scoring the ball with relative ease. It was as good as he looked in a regular season game all year and one of his better performances since his MVP season in 2016-17.

The Rockets are still well behind where they need to be defensively, but after the losing streak they had, a win like this matters a whole lot more than how it was carried out. Defensive ratings and point differentials be damned as they currently sit as the 6th seed in the Western Conference. At the moment, Houston needs to bag more of these victories before they refine the way they go about collecting them.

Star of the game: You won't find a stronger argument for what would be Russell Westbrook's ninth All-Star appearance than tonight. Westbrook was sensational, tallying a season-high 45 points, dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing 6 rebounds in the process on 16 of 27 shooting from the field and 13 for 13 shooting from the free throw line. In a game where James Harden was clearly battling a lower leg injury, Westbrook carried Houston over the finish line with easily his best game of the season. For all the rough games Westbrook will give you, it's important to remember that he has the capability to give you a night like this.

Honorable mention: There are a couple of candidates for second place tonight, but it'll ultimately have to go to Eric Gordon who scored 27 points on 8 of 19 shooting from the field, 6 of 13 shooting from three-point range, and 5 of 7 shooting from the free throw line. After scoring a season-high 25 points on Wednesday against the Denver Nuggets, Gordon's been on a little bit of a roll from beyond the arc. It could be a random hot stretch, but it's more likely the case that Gordon is rounding into season shape after returning from his right knee arthroscopy. He won't always give Houston nights like this, but it's nice to know that it's in his capabilities.

Key moment: The Rockets came out of the gates in the third quarter a bit slow defensively, giving up a 13-4 run to give the Timberwolves a 73-67 lead. After that, the Rockets came out of the timeout and went on a 9-3 run of their own to tie the game up at 76-76. Houston ended up building on their halftime lead by outscoring Minnesota 31-24 in the third quarter and Russell Westbrook scored or assisted 19 of those 31 points.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Denver on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. to take on the Nuggets.

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