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 BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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