Unlikely blowout

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Short-handed Rockets team trumps Timberwolves 125-105

The Rockets report, brought to you by APG&E: Short-handed Rockets team trumps Timberwolves 125-105

This was a game the Rockets were supposed to lose. Missing four out of your top six rotation players on a back-to-back is the definition of a "schedule loss". However, the Rockets persevered through and came away with their seventh straight win and probably their second most impressive win of the season (the Clippers win being the first). From the start, it was clear that James Harden's intentions going into this game was to put the team on his back and pray that he finds contributions from any of the remaining role players.

Harden took 41 shots - the most field goals attempted since Kobe Bryant's retirement performance (50 field goal attempts, 60 points).

Fortunately for Harden, young players Isaiah Hartenstein and Chris Clemons came to play, with team highs of +26 and +32 respectively. Hartenstein wasn't an offensive threat, but he grabbed a monster 16 rebounds, hustled on the offensive glass (5 offensive rebounds), and played hard enough to replace some of the production the Rockets missed with Clint Capela being out with a concussion. Clemons, the sharpshooter from North Carolina, didn't shy away an inch, scoring 19 points on 55.6% shooting from beyond the arc.

The Rockets also got solid contributions from Ben McLemore (20 points on 4 of 11 shooting from three-point range) and Austin Rivers (19 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block on 8 of 17 shooting from the field). Top to bottom, this was a fantastic team performance for the Rockets. It's the type of character win that will come to define their season.

Star of the game: It may not have been his most efficient performance, but James Harden was certainly effective and led a team lacking four out it's six best players to victory. Harden logged 49 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds on a pedestrian (for him) 53.4% true shooting, but was 8 for 22 from three-point range and a +16 in the 39 minutes he played. It was more Harden's command of the game and his leadership that showed through than his scoring.

Honorable mention: Chris Clemons has proven to be useful in every game he's played for the Rockets this season and this was no different. The 5'9" point guard tallied 19 points and 2 steals on 7 of 11 shooting from the field and 5 of 9 shooting from three-point range. Clemons was also a team-high +32 in 28 minutes. When healthy, Houston's guard rotation is too deep for him to find playing time. However, it's games like this that Clemons can prove to be useful to the Rockets until they find a permanent role for him in the future.

Key moment: There was a point in the first quarter where the Rockets looked like they were going to fold. Down by 11 and lacking firepower, nobody would have blamed them for doing so. Then, the Rockets went on a 11-2 run, in which James Harden scored 8, to cut the lead to 2.

Up next: The Rockets go back home to Houston to play the Portland Trail Blazers at 7:00 p.m. on Monday.

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Justin Verlander will start for the Astros on Friday night. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

Houston Astros (22-28, third in the AL West) vs. Oakland Athletics (21-31, fourth in the AL West)

Oakland, California; Friday, 9:40 p.m. EDT

PITCHING PROBABLES: Astros: Justin Verlander (2-2, 3.97 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 26 strikeouts); Athletics: Ross Stripling (1-8, 5.19 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 32 strikeouts)

BETMGM SPORTSBOOK: LINE Astros -170, Athletics +142; over/under is 8 1/2 runs

BOTTOM LINE: The Oakland Athletics begin a three-game series at home against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Oakland has a 21-31 record overall and a 12-14 record in home games. The Athletics have hit 65 total home runs to rank third in the AL.

Houston is 22-28 overall and 8-13 in road games. The Astros have a 13-4 record in games when they did not allow a home run.

The teams match up Friday for the fifth time this season. The Astros lead the season series 4-0.

TOP PERFORMERS: Brent Rooker has 11 home runs, 17 walks and 32 RBI while hitting .286 for the Athletics. Max Schuemann is 12-for-35 with a double and two RBI over the past 10 games.

Kyle Tucker leads Houston with 17 home runs while slugging .638. Alex Bregman is 9-for-38 with three home runs and six RBI over the last 10 games.

LAST 10 GAMES: Athletics: 2-8, .225 batting average, 5.25 ERA, outscored by 27 runs

Astros: 7-3, .272 batting average, 3.13 ERA, outscored opponents by 20 runs

INJURIES: Athletics: Esteury Ruiz: 10-Day IL (wrist), Darell Hernaiz: 60-Day IL (ankle), Alex Wood: 15-Day IL (rotator cuff), Paul Blackburn: 15-Day IL (foot), Joseph Boyle: 15-Day IL (back), Freddy Tarnok: 60-Day IL (hip), Luis Medina: 60-Day IL (knee), Sean Newcomb: 60-Day IL (knee), Aledmys Diaz: 60-Day IL (calf), Miguel Andujar: 10-Day IL (knee), Ken Waldichuk: 60-Day IL (elbow), Trevor Gott: 60-Day IL (elbow)

Astros: Oliver Ortega: 60-Day IL (elbow), Bennett Sousa: 60-Day IL (shoulder), Penn Murfee: 60-Day IL (elbow), Luis Garcia: 60-Day IL (elbow), Lance McCullers Jr.: 60-Day IL (elbow), Jose Urquidy: 15-Day IL (forearm), Kendall Graveman: 60-Day IL (elbow)

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