eSPORTS REPORT

The week in Houston eSports: Updates on Clutch Gaming and the Houston Outlaws

The Outlaws returned from a one-week break. Twitter

The Houston Outlaws returned from the one week break between stages looking like possibly the strongest team in the Overwatch League. A solid 2-0 week has them sitting at 9-3, one game behind New York. They are 2-0 with a +5 differential in stage two and a +22 overall map differential. Clutch had a week with one good win against CLG before losing against Cloud 9 after getting counter-picked in the top lane and experimenting with Lee Sin in the jungle.

Clutch Gaming (7-5; tied for third place)

Clutch’s game against CLG broke open with a team fight around the 20 minute mark and very strong play from Solo on Sion. They likely would have won faster than the 47 minute match time, except for CLG getting two very effective picks off on Febiven in the late game. Against Cloud 9, Solo got punished early and often on Ornn against Licorice’s Kled. The C9 lead in the top lane snowballed into a 24 minute win as Lira was unable to turn things around with the Lee Sin pick in the jungle. Clutch’s Academy team is in 7th place with a 5-7 record and looks to continue to improve and gel as a team now that ADC Piglet has returned to the roster.

Predictions (6-2).

Only six games remain this season. At this point a 4-2 record down the stretch is needed to guarantee a playoff berth, though they could still make it in with a weaker record. Barring a collapse by either Echo Fox or Cloud 9, getting a top two seed and a first round bye is highly unlikely. This week Clutch takes on Optic and Flyquest. A 2-0 record this week should happen and put the team much closer to a playoff berth. Week 8 has games against Echo Fox and Liquid. Unfortunately an 0-2 week is probably the likeliest result as so far, Clutch has seemed to be the fourth best team behind those two and C9. Clutch wraps up the spring split against 100 Thieves and the Golden Guardians. Clutch should be able to beat GGS, and the matchup against 100 Thieves will likely be a match where Clutch wins and locks in the four seed for playoffs. Final Split results: 11-7 and No. 4 seed for playoffs. Once playoffs get closer I’ll look at potential qualifying scenarios and likely opponents for playoffs.  

Houston Outlaws (9-3, tied for second place)

The Houston Outlaws began Stage Two with a hard fought 3-2 victory against London and a 4-0 victory against Boston which was much closer than the final map scores indicates. The Outlaws continue to perform very well with Linkzr and Muma taking on a lead role in the victories for the week. The meta for the new patch is already starting to emerge as compositions with extra tanks and a wider support meta are already coming into play.

Predictions (6-0)

The Outlaws are on a roll and this week will present very tough matches against Philadelphia and New York, two of the three teams that beat the Outlaws in Stage One. Philadelphia will be a tough test and New York was the champions of Stage One, but I think the Outlaws avenge their earlier losses with a 2-0 week, even though a 1-1 week is more likely.

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Rockets get another much-needed win. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets went on a redemption tour by beating the Detroit Pistons and Dallas Mavericks. But the most pivotal win was against the Mavericks as the Rockets finally showed their true potential. John Wall finally made his return from his injury hiatus and played with a lot of energy. DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Gordon combined for 61 points. It was great to see Stephan Silas crack a smile as he was able to beat his former team.

The Rockets clearly missed Wall during his eight-game absense. This season, the Rockets are a .500 team with Wall on the court. Wall is the Rockets' floor general that leads, constructs, and also pushes his teammates to become better.

Wall only played 21 minutes in the 133-108 win over the Mavericks but still had eight assists. Even though Wall only had 7 points, his presence was still felt by finding his teammates for open looks beyond the perimeter. Wall made sure Cousins and Gordon got a plethora of touches. He called multiple actions, so they got open looks from three, which was mainly Gordon. Gordon and Cousins' struggles have been similar but with Wall on the court, they were successful against the Mavericks. According to NBA Stats, Wall posted a 111 offensive rating with the starters versus the Mavericks, which included Gordon and Cousins.

"He's the engine to this team. He gets everybody going. He makes the game easy," Cousins told a reporter after the game. "The pressure that he constantly puts on the defense is a tough thing to deal with."

Gordon has struggled all season long with three-point shooting and relied on his slashing abilities. Saturday night, Gordon made six three pointers against the Mavericks, which was 66 percent from beyond the perimeter. Gordon increased his three-point percentage from 31 percent to 34.5 percent after Saturday night's game. Gordon's 33 points came from being able to attack the entire Mavericks' defense. Willy Cauley-Stein didn't stand a chance against Gordon as he was burned multiple times. Gordon's been a lifesaver for the Rockets in the last two games, and hopefully he maintains his play.

Cousins played fantastic against the Mavericks scoring 28 points and grabbing 17 rebounds. This is Cousins' first double-double with the Rockets this season. Cousins became the vintage player from the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. It was extremely fun watching Cousins push the ball up the court and aggressively snatch rebounds. Boogie shot 50 percent from behind the arc by making four three-pointers. He was dominant inside the paint as Cousins went 7/8 from the restricted area versus the Mavericks. This was the game Cousins needed after having a poor performance against the Pistons Friday night.

"It was really, really good. He did it all. He's a physical presence on both ends of the floor," as Silas said on Cousins' performance.

David Nwaba and Mason Jones were big factors off the Rockets' bench by having a combined total of 34 points together. Nwaba has been great in transition for the Rockets the entire season. Keep in mind that Nwaba is returning from an Achilles injury he suffered with his former team, the Brooklyn Nets. Nwaba has became a great defender, slasher, and is averaging a career-high nine points per game with the Rockets. He finished with 18 points on Saturday night versus the Mavericks.

Mason Jones has become a fan favorite of the Rockets because of his confidence. Silas is loving the usage of Jones off the bench but wants to find more minutes for him. Jones had a breakout performance versus the San Antonio Spurs with 24 points off 66 percent shooting from the field. He continues to get better with his reads from the point guard position. Jones' knowledge of running the offense has helped his efficiency on the court. He is never afraid to take clutch shots in pivotal moments of the game.

"To have a young kid who can come in and not be afraid of the moment, that's big. That's a tough position to be in as an undrafted rookie. I trust him. It's a good problem to have," Silas mentioned after the game. "He's showing me he's ready. He's a confident kid, and he should be. That's why he's good. He's not afraid of the moment, at all. He can get us organized, run plays, and score the basketball."

Hopefully, the Rockets can sustain their level of play when Victor Oladipo returns against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday. It will be interesting to watch Oladipo and Wall play in the same backcourt.

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