Rockets fall, 121-116

Three pointers from Rockets vs. Pelicans

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Pounding the paint

New Orleans decided early on that they were going to exploit Houston's biggest weakness by relentlessly attacking the paint. With superstar big man Anthony Davis sidelined with a finger injury, Pelicans center Jahlil Okafor seized the opportunity to overpower Houston with his massive size advantage. Okafor finished with 27 points while the Pelicans as a whole dominated points in the paint, 70-40.

Tough loss

Despite being bullied down low, Houston never trailed in the match until the very end of the third quarter. Trailing by as much as 15 points, the Pelicans slowly chipped away at the lead inside, while double-teaming Harden and Paul on screens out on the perimeter. The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Houston, while conversely snapping a three-game losing streak for the New Orleans.

Streak continued

James Harden was as contained as we had seen him in the past two months - or at least as close as any team could hope to contain him at the moment. Harden entered the final three minutes of the fourth quarter with just 25 points, which put his unreal streak of consecutive 30-point scoring games at risk. A driving layup followed by a 3-point leaner would end up relieving concerns as Harden went on to finish with 35 points en route to his 24th straight 30-point performance.

Rockets Player of the Game

James Harden: 35 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals

Pelicans Player of the Game

Jahlil Okafor: 27 points, 12 rebounds, 2 blocks, 11-15 shooting

Buzzer beater

Chris Paul continued to play with a minutes restriction in his second game back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for 17 games. He logged 26 minutes and finished with 10 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds.

Next up

Houston begins a four-game road trip Friday against the Denver Nuggets at 9 PM. Houston has won the last two match ups this season.

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The Marlins are showing interest in Yuli Gurriel. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

As the reporting date for pitchers and catchers draws near, there are still some decisions hanging over the Astros. One of them is whether or not to bring back Yuli Gurriel. “La Piña,” as he's affectionately called, is 38 years old. He turns 39 in June. His leadership and instincts cannot be matched. The man has seen a ton of baseball and comes from a family of baseballers. So, what's the holdup?

Enter the Miami Marlins. The ownership group, led by Bruce Sherman, is undoubtedly trying to capitalize on the heavy Cuban population in the Miami area. Bringing in the Cuban Babe Ruth is a great way to attempt to get more fan engagement. The franchise has only been to the playoffs three times. First two times (1997 and 2003), they won it all. In 2020, they were swept in the NLDS. They're most likely offering him a ridiculous amount of money to come to a team with a losing history. Knowing the Marlins are willing to hand out stupid money, would you blame La Piña for taking one last ridiculous payday?

Think about it. He's got two rings and made a ton of money. He can safely retire very comfortably. The lure to come back for another year or two would definitely be about money. The Marlins aren't a real threat in the next couple of seasons to do anything, but are willing to pay me like I'm still a star? Plus, I'm closer to my home country with all my family and friends? Sign me up!

This is where the Astros have to make a decision. Bring Yuli back for another year or move on. If he follows through with his last four years, this should be a bounce back year. Since 2016, his first year in Houston and MLB, he's hit .262, .299, .291, .298, .232 (pandemic shortened season), .319, and .242 last season. The man is a professional hitter. He knows how to work an at-bat and can drive pitchers nuts. His defense isn't bad either. He's a more than capable first baseman.

This won't win me any favor, but I think it's time to move on. Yuli will always have a place in my heart because he was a major factor in the Astros' two World Series wins. Last season's title run was even more satisfying since it helped silence the haters. That was the mouthwash that got rid of the stench of the sign stealing scandal. Piña was there through it all.

Now, it's time to start transitioning towards the future. Piña, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Justin Verlander, and Lance McCullers Jr were the only holdovers from the 2017 team. Verlander was one of the guys the Mets backed the Brinks truck up for this offseason. Altuve (32), Bregman (28), and McCullers (29) should be all that's left of that group. While it would've been great to have Verlander (39) back, the emergence of the youth movement in the pitching staff made his loss somewhat expendable. At some point, the nostalgia wears off. Father Time and Mother Nature are both undefeated. If they were to bring Piña back, he should be a part timer transitioning into a hitting coach. Careers come to an end. It's time to start looking at his exit.

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