Mar 24, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) argues a call with referee David Guthrie (16) against the Houston Rockets during the second half at the Toyota Center. The Rockets won 96-95. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
With 2 games remaining before the regular season kicks off, the Houston Rockets get a look at the defending Western Conference champions San Antonio Spurs Thursday evening. This game will be more of a feel game for the Rockets, rather than a test to see if they can match up well against an elite NBA team, as it is after all, just a pre-season game.
The Spurs won 3 out of the 4 games they played last year, with 3 games that turned out to be very close. Now that the Rockets have an elite post presence in Dwight Howard, the dynamic of the matchup changes dramatically as the combination of Howard and Omer Asik can be thrown on Tim Duncan at anytime.
The Dichotomy Of The 2 Teams
Theoretically on paper, it may appear that the 2 teams are going in different directions: the Spurs, with the age of their core players should be in the twilight of their championship runs, while the Rockets are on a youth movement to build for Western Conference supremacy. That’s not the case, however, as San Antonio continues to remain consistent and in the championship conversation each year. With Duncan at 37, Manu Ginobili at 36, and Tony Parker at 31(but 12 years of wear and tear in the NBA), the Spurs are relying less and less on the Big 3, and more on their young role players(the Kawhi Leonard’s and Danny Green’s of the world).
While the Rockets’s core features no player over the age of 27, it’s not a cake walk to outrun the Spurs, or have an age advantage. Both teams ranked in the top 5 last season in points scored per game(105.5 for the Rockets, 102.6 for the Spurs), but the Spurs finished 8th in the NBA in points allowed per game, while the Rockets finished 28th.
Figuring Out The Rotation
I’m not sure there’s a man on Earth who knows what the Rockets’ starting lineup will look like come Oct. 30, not even Kevin McHale himself. He has 2 more games to see who he wants at point guard to start, and who starts at power forward.
The Howard/Asik experiment didn’t look good at all in the beginning of Monday’s game against the Dallas Mavericks, but showed some effectiveness later on, while Omri Casspi received the bulk of the minutes at the 4-spot coming off the bench. Jeremy Lin has only come off the bench for one game so far, so the next 2 games will provide a good look at how Lin can look as the 6th man, and Patrick Beverley as the starter.
Time: 7 PM CST