Tough time functioning

Why are the Rockets scared to play basketball without James Harden?

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James Harden can find his shot whenever on the court. He is averaging 38.1 points per game which is first in the league. Harden was criticized for not taking enough shots on Christmas Day. But, is it really Harden's fault why the Rockets lost that game against the Warriors? No, because his teammates should pick up the slack!

Russell Westbrook has looked great for nine straight games but struggled Christmas Day against the Warriors. At times it looks Westbrook is playing in panic mode instead of attack mode. He struggled with or without Harden on the court. Westbrook still needs to work on his confidence even when shots are not falling. Another thing Westbrook still struggles with is forcing shots that are not there. Westbrook must stay courageous, optimistic, aware, and know to pick his moments.

Danuel House must make shots when they matter. House shoots over 40% from the field but struggles when his number is called. Harden would love to see House make those shots when doubled late in games. The only way House can become a great player is when he shows up in big moments. If House wants to be a spot up shooter, he can not shoot 35% from the three-point line.

Austin Rivers can be a tough watch at times because of the talent he is hiding. Rivers has everything in his repertoire to become a great player. He honestly has a good-looking crossover and shooting form in the NBA. It is just sad that he never displays it in game play. Rivers shooting the ball less than 15 times a game is a crime. Sometimes it looks like Rivers is scared to touch the ball. There is no reason for Rivers just to make himself a spot up shooter in games. Rivers is averaging 8 points per game which is an underachievement for his skill set. It is extremely important for Rivers to step up more when Harden gets doubled. He has the talent to compete for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year every season.

Ben McLemore had his bright spots this season but can not stay consistent. By McLemore not staying consistent means he is non-existent in games. There are times earlier this season when he struggled to get minutes or score zero points. This could hurt the Rocket's bench in a dramatic way. He can continue to be the bright spot for the Rockets when confident. McLemore is averaging 10.2 points per game this season. He has not averaged this much since his second season with the Kings. He had a career high against Toronto with 35 points. One thing McLemore must do is make plays when shots are not falling. When McLemore stays active defensively, he becomes a problem for other teams. He has finally found his NBA home with the Rockets.

The Rockets rank dead last in bench play this season. This bench is also shooting right under 40% on the season. If the Rockets want a chance to compete for an NBA Championship, the bench must be better. Daryl Morey could make possible moves for free agents or trades to help the cause.

NOTE: Eric Gordon comes back Tuesday versus the Pelicans.

Jeff Green just cleared waivers with the Utah Jazz. He could be helpful to the bench if Morey decides to pick him up.

Rockets just signed William Howard from the G-League. He is a 6'8 lengthy shooter.

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Houston went yard several times

Astros take series from Angels with a home run parade

Houston homered their way to another series win Wednesday night. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

After losing the opener then winning an exciting game Tuesday night, the Astros were seeking another series victory by winning the rubber match on Wednesday. They would blast homers all through the night, pushing them over the Angels in the finale.

Final Score: Astros 9, Angels 1

Astros' Record: 20-17, second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (2-2)

Losing Pitcher: Andrew Heaney (1-3)

Astros grab an early lead, Urquidy exits with injury

Houston made early noise in Wednesday night's game, with Jose Altuve turning around the very first pitch of the bottom of the first inning for a solo homer. A two-out single later in the inning set up Yuli Gurriel for his seventh home run and 30th RBI of the season, putting the Astros out to an early 3-0 lead.

Jose Urquidy looked in control through the first three innings, allowing just two hits while maintaining the lead. However, after recording the second out of the fourth, he would be visited by training and coaching staff on the mound before being removed, later diagnosed with posterior shoulder discomfort. Brandon Bielak would quickly enter the game, picking up where Urquidy left off by keeping the Angels off the board.

Tucker stays hot as Bielak locks in out of the bullpen

Still 3-0 in the bottom of the sixth, Kyle Tucker would extend his recent hot streak by putting two more runs on the board with a blast to extend the lead to 5-0. Bielak remained in the game in the top of the seventh, having allowed just one hit while retiring all other batters since entering in the top of the fourth. He made it through that inning, putting Los Angeles down 1-2-3, and stayed on the mound in the top of the eighth.

He wouldn't be able to get any further, allowing a leadoff walk followed by a single, putting runners on the corners and prompting Dusty Baker to go to the third pitcher of the night, Andre Scrubb. The Angels would get on the board with a sac fly to make it 5-1, but Scrubb would finish the inning with no further damage.

Astros continue the home run barrage to take the series

Yordan Alvarez would get the run back with Houston's fourth dinger of the night, a solo shot to make it 6-1. They continued to pour it on, with Chaz McCormick joining the home run parade with a three-run blast later in the inning, making it 9-1. Joe Smith would take over on the mound in the top of the ninth, finishing off the lopsided win to give Houston the series victory as they turn the page to another division opponent.

Up Next: Having already faced the rest of the division in 2021 multiple times, the Astros will have their first series against the Texas Rangers starting Thursday at 7:10 PM Central at Minute Maid Park. In the opener, Cristian Javier (3-1, 2.90 ERA) will be on the mound for Houston, going up against Mike Foltynewicz (1-3, 4.50 ERA).

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