The Rockets opened their season with a crushing 117-111 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets fall in opener to Bucks 117-111

It was exciting, it was promising, but ultimately it was unfruitful as James Harden and the Houston Rockets fell to Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks for the third straight time in two seasons Thursday night in their home opener. What was particularly disappointing on Houston's part is they held a commanding near-double digit lead over the Bucks for most of the night before being outscored 39-24 in the fourth quarter. The Bucks' unique defensive strategy managed to stifle James Harden again, limiting him to 19 points on 2 of 13 shooting from the field.

"I didn't play well offensively tonight," Harden said after the game. "This one's on me. I wasn't aggressive enough."

The Rockets as a whole, struggled mightily from behind the arc, only making 5 of their second half 27 three-point attempts. Eric Gordon had a particularly poor night, missing all six of his fourth quarter three-point attempts.

"You got to make shots to beat teams like that," head coach Mike D'Antoni said. "They made the big ones. We didn't."

Star of the game: Russell Westbrook, despite the loss, showed the kind of energy and athleticism he could provide to Houston, pulling in 24 points, 16 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 steals on 54.9% true shooting. Whether it was a fast break, and-one-layup or dish outs to Eric Gordon and P.J. Tucker in the corners after out-running Giannis Antetokounmpo on the break, Westbrook was an absolute blur. His true command of the game came through with the second unit, where Westbrook ran rough-shot on the Bucks at seemingly a million miles per hour. It's completely antithetical to the slow, calculated way James Harden and the Rockets have run things in recent years, but Westbrook showed tonight the kind of unnerving chaos and variance he can bring to Houston's offense.

Honorable mention: P.J. Tucker, steady as always, provided some quality shooting for Houston on a night where they badly needed it, scoring 17 points on 5 of 8 three-point shooting. Tucker also grabbed seven rebounds and was asked to guard everything from Giannis Antetokounmpo on the break to Brook Lopez in the post.

Key moment: In the midst of fighting off Milwaukee's second half run, James Harden and Russell Westbrook showed a flash of their potential possibilities as a duo, in an exciting transition lob sequence. This pairing is still very much clunky, but in this moment (and a select few other ones tonight), Harden and Westbrook showed the kind of dynamism they could be with some sacrifice from both players.

Houston plays their second game of the season Saturday, October 26th against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Houston needs a win to advance

ALWC Game 2 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

It took all nine innings, but the Astros rallied late and took Game 1 by a score of 4-1 and are in the driver's seat in this best-of-three series. They'll return to Target Field, home of the Twins, on Wednesday afternoon to try and get the win and advance to the ALDS. Here's what you need to know about Game 2:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, 12:08 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ESPN 2

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Jose Urquidy+ vs. José Berríos.

Series: HOU leads 1-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Astros 4, Twins 1 Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Urquidy+ vs. Berríos
Game 3* Thu 10/1, 12:08 PM Target Field, Minneapolis McCullers Jr.+ vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Houston's offense has to get going earlier

The Twins' error in the ninth inning in Game 1 was a gift for the Astros that they were able to take advantage of and score the winning runs. It's unlikely to be handed another chance like that in the postseason, so in Game 2, it's paramount that Houston creates their own opportunities at the plate.

The good news is, every batter in the lineup was able to reach base in the first game, either by hit or walk. However, they would go 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position while leaving nine on base during the game. Because they can't expect to have two pitchers to combine for a one-run game on Wednesday, they will have to carry over the momentum from the end of Game 1 into Game 2 to build a lead their bullpen can carry.

Trust your arms to navigate through

Whether it's Jose Urquidy, who is the likely candidate, or anyone else who ends up starting Wednesday's game, the Astros have to be prepared to have a longer stretch of innings filled by their bullpen. Despite his struggles to end the regular season, Greinke did well only to allow one run to the Twins over his four innings in Game 1.

You should expect a similar outcome in Game 2, where hopefully your starter can hold the Twins at bay for as long as they can before needing to make the change to relievers. It will be interesting to see how Dusty Baker plays that situation, mostly dependent on the score at the time, as he could have someone like Cristian Javier come in for multiple innings. The only thing the Astros shouldn't do is fire too many of their bullets and put their chances in a potential Game 3 at risk.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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