Gutsy victory

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets gut out win over Clippers 102-93

The Rockets came home into the Toyota Center Wednesday night against a strong LA Clippers squad without two of their six most important rotation players, got into foul trouble early, lost a man late in the game (Clint Capela), and still managed to come out with a victory. Considering all of that, this was by far Houston's best win of the season and there's not even a close second. It's become clear that the Rockets have found their groove, particularly on the defensive side of the floor.

From the start of the game, the Rockets took command of the contest (13-3 Houston lead in the opening minutes) and only let up for a brief moment in the fourth quarter. Chippiness and unorganized chaos was really the story of this game. For instance, Russell Westbrook finished the first quarter with a staggering four fouls and could play real minutes again until the second half. This forced James Harden to play nearly 44 minutes total and carry to brunt of the offense. Harden impressively held up defensively for most of the game and really only struggled when defensive stalwart Patrick Beverley was defending him (1 for 7 from the field).

The Rockets had several of their key players in foul trouble and it forced head coach Mike D'Antoni to use players like Chris Clemons and Thabo Sefolosha for 11 and 12 minutes respectively and Austin Rivers finished the game with 34 minutes logged himself. Westbrook, Ben McLemore, and P.J. Tucker all finished the game with at least 4 fouls each.

It really looked like the Clippers would pull away with the game in the fourth quarter and then James Harden took complete control of the game. At the 6:52 mark of the 4th quarter, the Clippers took their largest lead of the game (84-80), before Harden scored 17 of Houston's next 22 points to give the Rockets a 102-91 lead with 24 seconds remaining. It was the stretch that sealed the game and possibly the stretch that cemented that Harden will indeed be competing for another MVP honor this season

Star of the game: James Harden logged 47 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals on 70.2% true shooting. Those numbers are crazy enough, but when you factor in that Harden played 44 minutes while maintaining that efficiency, it becomes absurd. This was a masterful performance all around. Of course, the three-point shooting is what sticks out (7 for 13), but Harden manufacturing buckets for the Rockets by getting to the free throw line (16 of 17) and getting floaters up was also quite impressive. There were moments of slippage defensively, but overall, he was also good there.

Honorable mention: His night got cut short tonight, but it should be noted just how well Clint Capela was playing before he sustained a head injury that forced him out of the game. Capela left the game with 12 points, 20 rebounds, and 2 blocks on 6 of 7 shooting in only 32 minutes. If it wasn't for the injury, there was a possibility that Capela would've broken his own personal rebounding record (25) that he achieved last season against the Nuggets.

Key moment: James Harden stealing the ball from Kawhi Leonard and getting a lob pass to Tyson Chandler out of it is really what put the game away for Houston. To get a steal in that sort of moment on a player like Leonard, who's having an excellent season in his own right, is what wins basketball games when you're as short-handed as the Rockets were tonight.

Up next: Houston continues their homestand by facing the Indiana Pacers at 7:00 p.m. Friday night.

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Houston looked much more like themselves

Astros return to form in win over Angels at home

Cristian Javier was impressive Thursday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Hoping to avoid spiraling further out of control, the Astros turned the page from their disappointing road trip and the recent stretch of games. They hoped to start this new homestand on a good note, welcoming in the Angels for four games of this eight-game stint at Minute Maid Park.

Houston would get the much-needed win, with their offense coming alive early in the game to put up big innings, which they rode to the victory thanks in part to a great start by Cristian Javier.

Final Score: Astros 8, Angels 2

Astros' Record: 8-10, fifth in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Cristian Javier (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Alex Cobb (1-1)

Astros' offense starts clicking early

Houston would grab the early momentum, despite leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. They would get a leadoff double by Aledmys Diaz in the bottom of the second, followed by an RBI triple by Myles Straw to jump in front 1-0. They made it a three-run inning, with an RBI by Carlos Correa then a bases-loaded RBI-walk by Yuli Gurriel, though for consecutive innings would leave three runners stranded on base.

Correa drove in another in the bottom of the next inning, getting an RBI single to push the lead to four runs, then would come in on a two-run single by Alex Bregman, who made it 6-0. That set things up nicely for Cristian Javier, who was on the mound trying to take advantage of the opportunity for another start.

Javier has an electric start



Javier was electric over the first three innings, including getting eight of the first nine outs by strikeout while allowing only a walk and double during that span. He would have longer innings in the next two, but in both cases would keep the Angels off the board, finishing in line for the win. His final line: 5.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 98 P.

Houston gets the much-needed win

Meanwhile, Houston's offense kept scoring. They pushed the lead two runs further over the fourth and fifth, getting a run in each with another RBI each for Straw and Bregman. With Javier's night done, Bryan Abreu was first out of the Astros bullpen, and despite allowing a controversial two-run home run to Albert Pujols, of all people, that looked to be a foul ball, got through the inning.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the seventh but would get just one out while hitting a batter and allowing a single before Dusty Baker brought in Brooks Raley to face the heavy left-handed part of the Angels lineup. Raley would get through it, sending things to the seventh-inning stretch with the six-run lead intact.

Raley would get another out before Joe Smith would finish that inning in the top of the eighth. Ryan Pressly, who has been starved for work lately with no save opportunities, would close things out in the ninth as Houston would start this series off with a win.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 7:10 PM start on Friday night. Andrew Heaney (1-1, 5.65 ERA) will be on the mound for the Angels, while Zack Greinke (2-1, 2.81 ERA) will look to repeat the success of his last start; an eight-inning shutout performance for the Astros.

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