Much needed

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Rockets snap four-game losing streak with win over Timberwolves in Houston 117-111

If the NBA had a dictionary for overused terms, a picture of this Rockets boxscore would fall under "must-win". There was no universe in which the Rockets could lose this game and then go into the Staples Center with any chance of competing. They just wouldn't have the confidence to be able to do anything against one of the league's premier title contenders.

So it was good for Houston that James Harden remembered he was James Harden and absolutely dominated in the way we've all become accustomed to him doing. Harden's slump was indicative of the team's brief identity problem. It's not that the team didn't have an identity, it's that they forgot what it was for four games. The Rockets have settled into the fact that they aren't going to win games on the defensive glass or playing with size. They're identity is switching everything effectively on defense, driving and kicking to open shooters all around the floor, and generating transition offense to make up for what's not present in the middle.

Eric Gordon's return was huge tonight as an emotional boost for Houston. Gordon only scored 16 points on 15 field goal attempts, but his aggressiveness to take open three-pointers and drive to the rim, both in the halfcourt and in transition, is exactly what the Rockets needed.

Tonight, Houston displayed that with their three-point shooting finally settling into place (15-38 or 39.5% from downtown) and forcing 18 Minnesota turnovers. For Houston to try and get a top-three seed to close the season, they have to recognize that this is what they are and not deviate from it. This means they can't hesitate from three-point range like they've been prone to the past week or settle into half-court rock fight with opponents. They have to play like the Rockets.

Star of the game: For the first time in a very long time, James Harden looked like James Harden. Harden logged 37 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block on 11 of 19 shooting from the field, 5 of 10 shooting from three-point range, and 10 of 14 shooting from the free throw line. He looked confident, his body language was as good as it's ever been, he was engaged on both ends of the floor, and his shots finally started to fall. He looked like the perennial MVP candidate the Rockets have touted out there for the past three seasons.

Honorable mention: Although Harden was clearly the better player, Russell Westbrook was also very good for Houston tonight. Westbrook tallied 27 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals on 11 of 17 shooting from the field and 5 of 6 shooting from three-point range. His energy was much needed when the Rockets were trying to finally take a lead over the Timberwolves in the third quarter and eventually was able to lead Houston over the finish line in the final two minutes.

Key moment: The key moment for Houston was clearly the final 3:06 where Houston went on a 14-3 run to take the lead over Minnesota and shift the momentum back in their favor. Russell Westbrook scored or assisted on 10 of the 14 final points, including the Austin Rivers three-pointer that ended up giving Houston the lead. It honestly felt like the Rockets had been woken up from a four-game slumber.

Up next: The Rockets travel to Los Angeles at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday to take on the Lakers.

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Houston has lost back-to-back games

Astros drop series to Giants with finale loss

Houston's offense came up short again in San Francisco on Sunday. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games against the Giants, the Astros tried to grab the finale to win his high-difficulty series. They came up short, though, with San Francisco once again one-upping them on offense against Luis Garcia, giving Houston back-to-back losses.

Final Score: Giants 5, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 64-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Logan Webb (5-3)

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia (7-6)

Gurriel strikes first, but Giants get the better of Garcia

The Astros were able to grab an early lead against Logan Webb in the top of the first, getting a runner on base to set up Yuli Gurriel for a two-run homer to start the scoring. Luis Garcia, who erased a walk in the first and a double in the second to maintain the 2-0 advantage, ran into trouble in the third. After two quick outs, Kris Bryant, recently acquired by the Giants at the trade deadline, changed the momentum with a solo homer in the first game for his new team.

They scored two more runs during the two-out rally on three hits and a walk, grabbing a 3-2 lead before Garcia would get the final out. He managed a scoreless fourth, but San Francisco got to him again in the fifth, chasing him out of the game with a two-out, two-run homer to extend their lead to 5-2. His final line in the loss: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 89 P.

Giants take series as Astros drop the finale

First out of Houston's bullpen was Rafael Montero, making his debut for his new team. He did well, getting the third out of the fifth then tossing a scoreless sixth. Phil Maton was next, coming in for the bottom of the seventh and erasing a single to keep it a three-run game. After wasting a chance with two runners on in the seventh, the Astros started a new rally in the top of the eighth, getting back-to-back hits to lead it off with runners on first and third with no outs.

They would get just one run from it, though, making it 5-3, which would go final after a scoreless bottom of the eighth by Ryne Stanek and a 1-2-3 inning at the plate by Houston in the top of the ninth. That gave the Giants the series and left the Astros reeling from back-to-back losses as they turn the page to another high-caliber opponent to finish this road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel to the last leg of this road trip, Los Angeles, before a day off on Monday. Tuesday, they'll pick up a quick two-game series with the Dodgers, with Lance McCullers Jr. (8-2, 3.23 ERA) for the Astros going up against Walker Buehler (11-1, 2.19 ERA) for LA in the opener at 9:10 PM Central.

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