THE COUCH SLOUCH

The Slouch looks at the rest of the NBA season (plus another Astros-related Q&A)

The Slouch looks at the rest of the NBA season (plus another Astros-related Q&A)
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As is our annual tradition at the NBA all-star break, Couch Slouch looks ahead to the remainder of the season – laced with remarkable perspicacity* – at no additional cost to you, the reader.

Yes, I will provide the acumen of subscription-based The Athletic and the access of pricey NBA League Pass…ALL FOR FREE.

Let's do it!

It used to be, "NBA Action, It's FANtastic." Now it's, "NBA Action, Bombs Away!" For much of NBA history, a basket was worth two points. In 1979, they decided that some baskets – from longer distances – would be three points. Then more recently, some analytic smart alecks figured out that three-point baskets were worth one more point than two-point baskets, so let's just make three-point baskets.

The game has changed.

The Milwaukee Bucks' 7-foot center, Brook Lopez, has taken more three-point shots this season (242) than two-point shots (234). The Dallas Mavericks' Kristaps Porzingis, at 7-foot-3, is the tallest man on the floor, yet he has taken almost as many three-pointers (277) as two-pointers (362).

We have evolved from those Pistons'-Bad-Boys, Pat-Riley-with-the-Knicks 88-85 slugfests of the late 1980s and early '90s to the current-day 128-126 playground skirmishes. The games have gone from rugby matches to the Ice Capades.

The fast-break layup has morphed into the fast-break 23-footer.

There is feasibly a middle ground between 88-85 and 128-126; I don't know what that exact number would be, but I always vote for the middle ground.

Three cheers for Ben Simmons, the three-ball contrarian. The multi-skilled Philadelphia 76ers' point guard will not do what everyone wants him to do – take three-point shots. You know how some kids have a mental block about math? Simmons has a mental block about three-pointers.

In his first two NBA seasons, Simmons did not make a three-pointer, attempting only 17 of them. This season he is two-for-six from beyond the arc.

You be you, Ben, two points at a time.

I stand with Simmons: Years ago, newspaper editors insisted I write longer articles with bigger words. No way, I told them – I write short and I use one-syllable words. And I'm still here.

(* "Perspicacity" is a rare exception.)

If it were up to Gregg Popovich, no one would ever take a 25-foot shot. One of the NBA's greatest coaches ever and one of the most severe critics of three-ball, Popovich is in danger of having two remarkable streaks end: In 22 full seasons of helming the San Antonio Spurs, he has never had a losing record and never missed the postseason.

"I've hated the three for 20 years," Popovich said in 2018. At the moment the Spurs are 28th out of 30 NBA teams in three-point shots made and 29th in three-pointers attempted.

The Spurs are 23-31 – five games out of a playoff spot – and their best chance might be to petition the league for transfer into the Eastern Conference.

As usual, the Eastern Conference should be quarantined. The 19-38 Detroit Pistons have a better chance of making the East playoffs than the 33-22 Oklahoma Thunder and 33-22 Dallas Mavericks have of earning home-court advantage in the West playoffs.

Then again, the Pistons also have a better chance of making the playoffs than Ben Simmons does of ever making another three-point shot.

The Golden State Warriors have gone from penthouse to outhouse, three points at a time. Many folks – I am not among them – are delighted that the Warriors, after five straight NBA Finals appearances with consecutive seasons of 67-15, 73-9, 67-15, 58-24 and 57-25, currently have an NBA-worst 12-43 record.

Enjoy it while you can.

Next season, aside from a core of young talent and the likely No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the Warriors will also have all-star Draymond Green, plus the return of the NBA's greatest three-point-shooting back court ever, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Zion Williamson is the real deal. But he's only taking one three-pointer per game. DO THE MATH, son: 3 > 2.

Ask The Slouch - Special Houston Astros Edition (again)


Q. Is it true that Astros owner Jim Crane has hired Rudy Giuliani to visit Ukraine in search of proof that Hunter Biden was the mastermind behind the sign-stealing fiasco? (Rick LaDuca; Ashburn, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. If the Astros ever hire Bill Belichick and Tom Brady as manager and starting pitcher, respectively, will Rob Manfred preemptively suspend them as repeat cheaters? (Tom Walker; Colonie, N.Y.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q.When MLB adds trash cans to its merchandise list, will they only be available with the Astros logo or will they include all teams with former Astros players/coaches? (David Roberts; Fairfax, Va.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

Q. How much trouble is Carlos Beltran's grandmother in for not providing proper guidance? (Ron Anderson; Lynnwood, Wash.)

A. Pay the man, Shirley.

You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just email asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!

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Astros defeat Cardinals, 8-5. Composite Getty Image.

Yainer Diaz homered in a second straight game to lead the Houston Astros to an 8-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday night.

Playing without star right fielder Kyle Tucker, the Astros got a three-run homer from Diaz in the third inning as they took the first two games of a three-game set with the Cardinals. Diaz hit a go-ahead two-run homer in Monday’s 7-4 win.

Tucker, who left Monday’s game after hitting a foul ball off his right shin, was diagnosed with a contusion and sat out Tuesday night. He is tied for second in the majors with 19 homers.

Houston scored six runs off Cardinals starter Andre Pallante (1-2). He allowed six hits and walked three in three innings.

Astros starter Spencer Arrighetti allowed three hits and one run in three innings. He was evaluated by trainers in the second after he was struck in the left leg by a 103.8 mph comebacker. He threw 64 pitches and left the game after the third with a left calf contusion.

Astros reliever Tayler Scott (2-2) allowed three hits and one run in two innings. Ryan Pressly pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save of the season.

The Cardinals cut into Houston’s lead with solo homers from Masyn Winn in the sixth inning and Nolan Gorman in the seventh. Gorman’s homer appeared to graze off the glove of a leaping Mauricio Dubón after a fan bumped into the Astros right fielder.

Alec Burleson homered for St. Louis in the first.

The Astros improved to 3-1 in June but remain six games under .500 (28-34). The Cardinals fell to 3-5 on a nine-game trip that wraps up Wednesday.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: RHP reliever Keynan Middleton will undergo season-ending surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right arm, manager Oliver Marmol said. Middleton, who signed with the Cardinals in the offseason, felt discomfort in his forearm during spring training and started the year on the injured list.

Astros: RHP Cristian Javier is expected to undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery on Thursday, the Athletic reported. Astros general manager Dana Brown and manager Joe Espada have said they wouldn’t have any information on the 27-year-old's condition until later in the week. Javier is 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA.

UP NEXT

RHP Miles Mikolas (3-6, 5.54 ERA) will start the series finale for the Cardinals on Wednesday. Astros RHP Ronel Blanco (5-1, 2.44) will try to bounce back from his first loss of the season in his last outing, against Minnesota.

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