Out-played

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets get smacked by the Clippers in Houston 125-105

Depending on who you ask, this game could be used as confirmation for a lot of what we already believed about these two teams. The Clippers are mammoths defensively and have the personal to counter Houston's micro-ball lineups better than any other team in the NBA. It starts on the glass, where the Rockets were outrebounded 57 to 51 and more importantly allowed 15 Clippers' offensive rebounds.

On probably Houston's most important remaining game of the season, Los Angeles just played significantly harder than the Rockets, from the opening tip. There's really no excusing Houston's effort given the magnitude of this game and this importance on the final standings (the Clippers now hold a three game lead in the standings with a tied season series record). The Rockets have stated that the second seed is the final remaining goal of the season and they may have tossed out all hope of that tonight.

A lot of the focus will be on Houston's shooting struggles and to be fair, it was definitely a factor tonight (13 of 40 from three-point range). However, the Clippers were just a brute force defensively, seemingly forcing 24-second violation after 24-second violation and the Rockets could not get out in transition due to their inability to get stops defensively. The poor shooting was pretty unprecedented, but this loss hangs squarely on their shoulders.

"Great learning experience for us on both ends of the ball," said James Harden after the game. "We got 21 games left to prepare ourselves for the bigger picture. So we watch film tomorrow, get better, and be ready to go next game."

Star of the game: The thing about floor spacing is it doesn't disappear when your shooters miss shots for a game. Defenders still slide over and leave the paint relatively unattended to. This was evident in Russell Westbrook's performance tonight as he logged 29 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal. It felt like Westbrook consistently played with the most effort on the Rockets from buzzer to buzzer and tried his hardest to bring the Rockets within striking distance.

Honorable mention: I guess this goes to James Harden by default, but it wasn't pretty. Virtually everyone outside of Russell Westbrook was inefficient an and bad defensively. Harden got the rim a lot in the first quarter and for a while, was the only one scoring on the Rockets. This trend obviously didn't keep up as Harden logged 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 1 steal tonight on an abysmal 36.7% true shooting.

Key moment: There were no key moments tonight. The Clippers dominated Houston from the opening tip and aside from a few poster dunks, this was an uneventful game.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Charlotte at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday to take on the Hornets.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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