HARRIS COUNTY - HSA INSIDER

A weekly look at all things Houston sports from the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority: Rockets remind us of some big comebacks

James Harden and the Rockets took care of business. Kevin C. Cox

The Harris County – Houston Sports Authority Insider will take you inside Houston Sports each Friday because #WeAreHoustonSports!

The first round of the playoffs is a wrap. Four games to one, if you’re counting.

James Harden appears to be an MVP in-waiting and everyone is taking turns at stepping up when defenses try to stop him. Take away that one head-shaker of a 19-point loss in Game 3 and the Rockets are, indeed, running as one as they careen into the second round of the NBA playoffs against the winner of the Utah-Oklahoma City series.

Yes, everyone’s talking. About Harden and Chris Paul. Clint Capela. The possibility of defensive star Luc Mbah a Moute coming back from his shoulder injury. About taking care of business.

And about the third quarter. Specifically that 50-point explosion – 22 of them from Harden -- by the Rockets in Game 4. It was brilliant. A game changer. A total takedown. And, it seems, hint of things to come.

The only team in history to score more points in one quarter of an NBA playoff game?  Los Angeles, which scored 51 in the fourth in a 1962 loss to Detroit.

Two nights later, the Rockets broke it open just after halftime with a 30-15 run that had us wondering if they’re about to make third quarters their own.

It also got us remembering some of the other huge comebacks we’ve witnessed in Houston sports history.

We’re only skimming the surface, but we offer the following up – in no certain order to get you thinking what you’d put on your list.

* The Astros’ World Series wild, magical run last fall. They came back against the Yankees and the Dodgers – in individual games and in the ALCS and World Series. But what sticks out are Games 2 and 5 of the #HoustonStrong World Series.

We only thought we had seen an incredible comeback in Game 2 when Jose Altuve came home on Carlos Correa’s deep line drive in the bottom of the ninth. In Game 5, what didn’t happen? The Astros had to come from behind three times, including twice when they were down by three runs. They needed five homeruns and a walk-off single from Alex Bregman in the 10th before Houston won it 13-12. Did we also mention the game went five hours, 17 minutes, had a total of 417 pitches and seven homeruns and was the second-highest scoring game in World Series history? And was named 2018 Houston Sports Awards Moment of the Year? Whew.

*Sticking with baseball, we remind you about last May’s game against Minnesota when the Astros trailed 8-2 going into the eighth inning and scored 11 runs in the eighth and three more in the ninth to win 16-8. Going into that game, the Astros were 0-659 in franchise history (back to 1962) when they were down by at least six runs going into the eighth. That win made them 1-659.

*  Tracy McGrady’s whirlwind 13 points in 35 seconds against the Spurs in 2004. With the Rockets down by 10 in the closing minute, announcers said the game was over. Then McGrady took over. He  scored on a three-pointer, a three-pointer where he was fouled and made the free throw and two more three-pointers. The last one came when McGrady got a turnover on the other end of the court and took it the distance to score with 1.7 seconds left to give Houston an 81-80 win.

* The NFL Playoffs, Wild-Card Game, January 3, 1993, Rich Stadium. Not a comeback, rather The Collapse. The Houston Oilers dominated the first half of the game and took a 35-3 lead over Buffalo early in the third quarter on safety Bubba McDowell’s 58-yard interception return. Then things turned. With Jim Kelly on the sidelines, Frank Reich came off the bench, picked Houston apart and rallied the Bills to 38-35 lead before Houston sent the game into overtime with an Al Del Greco field goal. In overtime, Warren Moon overthrew Ernest Givins and Nate Odomes intercepted to set up a field goal and a 41-38 Bills’ win. It remains the largest comeback/collapse in NFL history.

* Super Bowl LI. Okay. No Houston team was playing, but the Bayou City was the game’s congenial host. With New England, down 28-3 early in the third quarter, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 25 unanswered points to tie the game on James White’s 1-yard run and a Brady-to-Danny Amendola two-point conversion, then won the game in overtime on a 2-yard White run.

* Ian Poulter, 2018 Houston Open. The man made for big moments opened the week with a 73, was in 123rd place and had his bags packed for the trip home after round one. He bounced back to shoot rounds of 64-65-67 and earn the final spot in the 2018 Masters with a one-hole playoff win over former University of Texas star Beau Hossler. It was the largest first-round-to-win jump in 35 years on the PGA TOUR.

Feel free to chime in and send us your favorite Houston comeback moment on Twitter - @HOUsportsAwards.







 

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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