Is it time to give up?

Was pairing James Harden with Russell Westbrook a bad idea?


James Harden and Russell Westbrook have not been on the same page at all this season. They have struggled to be efficient. Is it time for something new?

When the season began, Harden looked unstoppable on the court. Harden was able to average up close to 40 points per game earlier this season. Westbrook on the other hand, was still trying to figure things out. At times, he looked skittish on the basketball court with Harden. Westbrook found it real hard to find his own shot in the beginning of the season. Even though Westbrook was averaging 21.5 points per game, he was still forcing shoots and looked like a bystander. It almost felt like Westbrook was a weak link to Harden...

Recently, things have reversed between the two. Harden has not played his best basketball since January 3rd against the Philadelphia 76ers. He is also shooting 35% from the field in January. Harden is even taking fewer shots this month. Is he losing confidence in his shot? Suddenly, Westbrook has turned things around for the month of January. He is playing at better pace than Harden is right now. Westbrook is shooting the ball at 52.8% from the field this month; which is great. The Rockets have also been relying on Westbrook instead of Harden late in games this month.

How come these two are not on the same page? This team has struggled because of that. When Harden and Westbrook sat out Monday night against the Utah Jazz, the whole entire Rocket's team played great basketball. Eric Gordon was able to go off for a career high 50 points. Danuel House and Austin Rivers both went off for 21 points each as well that night. Was Harden and Westbrook the problem?

Watching this team struggle against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday night is questionable. Westbrook was able to have a good night by shooting 55% from the field and scoring 31 points. While Harden was struggling from the field by shooting 27% and scoring 18 points Wednesday night.

Honestly, it feels like the Rockets are struggling with these two on the same floor. Harden and Westbrook cannot even play the correct way on the court. Should one of them go so the team can succeed? The trade deadline is approaching for Daryl Morey.

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Houston scored in droves

Astros drub Twins in finale to take series win

Houston's offense showered Minnesota with hits in Sunday's finale. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, with Houston's offense uncharacteristically ineffective in the loss on Saturday, they tried to turn things around with a win to take the series on Sunday. The Astros would bounce right back at the plate, getting hits and runs all through the afternoon to rout the Twins.

Final Score: Astros 14, Twins 3

Astros' Record: 37-28, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (3-0)

Losing Pitcher: Michael Pineda (3-4)

Valdez keeps rolling

Framber Valdez continued to impress in 2021 after starting his season on the IL, posting another quality start with a win against the Twins. After four scoreless frames, he allowed a solo homer to start the bottom of the fifth, just the third hit of the game for Minnesota to that point. He went on to retire the next three batters to get through the inning.

He faltered a bit in the bottom of the sixth, allowing a leadoff double followed by a single, with a run coming across on an error on that play. He once again rebounded to finish that frame, then put up a 1-2-3 seventh to finish his day off, notching another quality start and a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 97 P.

Houston keeps their foot on the gas

While Valdez's outing was a highlight of its own, Houston's offense was the story of the day. They put their foot down on the pedal all day and did not let up, starting in the top of the first when Jose Altuve turned the first pitch of the game around for a single, later scoring on a sac fly by Alex Bregman to put the Astros in front 1-0.

After two scoreless innings, they got right back on the scoreboard in the fourth with a two-run homer by Kyle Tucker, then kept pouring it on with two runs in the fifth on a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel and an error, making it 5-0 at the time. The runs kept coming in the top of the sixth, with a two-RBI double by Michael Brantley, who would score later on a two-run bomb by Yordan Alvarez. Then, in the top of the seventh, Brantley struck again to push it to double-digits with a two-RBI single to make it 11-2 and give Brantley 4 RBI on the afternoon.

With Houston swapping out starters with the hefty lead, even their pinch-hitters were getting involved, with Chas McCormick leading the top of the eighth off with a solo shot to make it a ten-run game. They then loaded the bases with no outs, setting up a sac fly for Myles Straw to make it 13-2.

Astros take the series

In the bottom of the eighth, Ralph Garza Jr. came in as the first reliever out of the bullpen for Houston. He recorded two quick outs but then met Nelson Cruz, who lasered a solo homer to put it back at a ten-run game before finishing the frame. Houston put their twentieth hit on the board in the top of the ninth, their highest total this season, en route to another scoring inning with a sac fly by Robel Garcia to make it 14-3. Garza came in for his second inning of work to wrap things up in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Astros a successful end to this series and road trip.

Up Next: Houston will travel home before an off day on Monday to rest before 20 days of consecutive games. They'll kick off a six-game homestand on Tuesday, welcoming in the Rangers for two starting at 7:10 PM Central. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-1, 2.96 ERA) will make his return from the IL for the Astros, though Jake Odorizzi will "piggy-back" him, and Kyle Gibson (4-0, 2.13 ERA) will take the mound for Texas.

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