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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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