Game Day: San Antonio Spurs versus Houston Rockets
Getting selected to play on Christmas Day is an honor only ten teams are privy to. The 5 matches tend to be comprised of LeBron James’ team, the previous seasons Champions, at least one Los Angeles team and often a New York team and then a compilation of top teams and talents around the Association. This Christmas the following teams and schedules were selected:
Noon – New Orleans Pelicans versus Miami Heat
2:30 – Chicago Bulls versus Oklahoma City Thunder
5:00 – Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors
8:00 – San Antonio Spurs versus Houston Rockets
10:30 – Los Angeles Clippers versus Los Angeles Lakers
When the holiday teams were selected it was likely expected the Rockets and Pelicans would be performing at a higher level than their current status. And it wouldn’t have taken much for the schedule makers to assume the Spurs would be performing well given they haven’t had a losing season in over 2 decades! In fact in the past 27 seasons (since the 1989-1990 season) San Antonio has just one losing season to their credit (1996-97 when they were 20-62).
Coming into tonight’s all Texas match the Rockets remain at .500 where they have hovered for the past 3 weeks and the Spurs remain the second best team in the Association with a record of 25-5 behind only the Warriors. Notably the Spurs boast the Leagues best defense and have begun to get their offense on track.
It will take a major effort from the Rockets to upset the Spurs who are possibly the most balanced team in the Association. With that, let’s compare the teams and tonight’s match-up:
Venue: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: ROOT and CW35 HD plus ESPN
Radio: 790 AM and WOAI 1200AM
- No injuries to report
- Sam Dekker had bad surgery is out 3 months
The entire front court hosts an interesting match-up given the veteran savvy of Duncan, Diaw and West alongside the new Spurs star Aldridge. Countering the Spurs incredible front court prowess the Rockets have a two veterans in Howard and Ariza offset by athleticism and youth via their 3 budding stars Capela, Jones and Motiejunas.
If the Rockets are to take a run at the Spurs today contrary to most thinking it would require an all out James Harden scoring presentation it’s actually in the front court they’ll need to be exceptional.
Keys to Winning:
- Get off to a strong start: Don’t let the Spurs bury you early, so it’s important the Rockets keep San Antonio in range early.
- Take advantage of your few better ranked assets: Two areas the Rockets are obviously stronger than the Spurs is their ability to force turnovers (though the Spurs don’t cough the ball up much) for steals and offensive rebounding. The Rockets need to take advantage of these areas.
- Win the paint: The Spurs post arguably the strongest (and wisest) front court in the Association, but if the Rockets are to compete they’ll need to take advantage of their youthful, versatile bigs including Howard, Capela, Motiejunas and Jones to offset the strength of San Antonio.
- Win the rebound battle: As noted the Rockets hold an advantage on the offensive boards so they’ll need to utilize that to create second chance scoring opportunities and work to make their defensive rebounding as strong to create points in transition.
- Chemistry starts here: Sure, we’ve read the stories about Howard and Harden practicing together to create on court chemistry, but they’ll need to start showing it on the court.
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The odds makers have given the Spurs favored by a whopping 7 points on the road with an over-under listed as 201.5 points. Action not surprisingly is heavy on the Spurs given their prowess this season.
Sure the Rockets are at home, but it will take an all out perfect game by Houston to even be in this contest. Any slip by the Rockets will result in the Spurs taking advantage and burying them. And, don’t expect to see a team who’ll lose focus as the Spurs simply don’t do that as their league best 88.8 opponent points per game attests to!
Including today the next 11 games feature the Pelicans, Hawks, Warriors, Spurs (again), Jazz x 2, Pacers, Grizzlies, Timberwolves and the Cavaliers. One stretch of bad games could find the Rockets going on a major slide backwards and it’s conceivable they could fall right out of the playoff mix. Today more than anything they need to instill the standard of play the team will utilize the rest of the season and compete for a full 48 minutes.
Prediction: Spurs by the spread (7)
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Make sure you catch up on our entire Team Preview Series, our Houston Rockets Player Profile Series as well as our SCS Round Table Sessions to help you get through the early season. Start your morning with SCS Rocket Science Daily and visit us throughout the day to keep abreast of all your Houston Rockets news and updates.