Game Day: Houston Rockets versus San Antonio Spurs
The last time these two teams met it was Christmas Day with many expecting the Spurs to steam roll the inconsistent Houston Rockets, but it was the home team who shocked the Spurs with arguably their most complete defensive effort of the year.
Since that Christmas Day upset win the Houston Rockets have lost 3 consecutive games each with fourth quarter collapses and full segments of the individual games when the team abandoned their defensive efforts completely. Now the Rockets must once again do something no one expects them to do: be the first team to beat San Antonio on the AT&T Center where they are 19-0.
To say it will take a major effort from the Rockets to upset the Spurs who are possibly the most balanced team in the Association is an understatement. Factor in the Spurs will want revenge for playing poorly last time out and the odds are more than against them! With that, let’s compare the teams and tonight’s match-up:
Venue: AT & T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game Time: 8:30 PM EST – 7:30 PM CT
TV: NBA TV, ROOT and FSSW
Radio: 790 AM and WOAI 1200AM
- Though Tim Duncan (knee) is listed as a game time decision there have been reports he expects to play
INJURY UPDATE: Tim Duncan will play on Saturday vs Rockets.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) December 31, 2015
- 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, therefore it’s important Houston keep San Antonio within range for the first quarter.
- 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.
- Start 2016 with a renewed commitment to defense: Since beating the Spurs the Rockets have lost 3 straight and done more to convince fans and pundits alike there is major trouble in the locker room than originally speculated. It’s time the Rockets collectively produce 48 minutes of energy and regardless of the final outcome make this the day they commit to “bringing it” each and every time out.
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The odds makers have the Spurs favored by a whopping 11 points and it’s hard to argue that spread given their 19-0 unbeaten home record. The over – under is 200.5 and early action is heavily on the Spurs.
Sure the Rockets beat San Antonio on Christmas, but the Spurs have lost just 6 games this season and none are to the same team. Moreover while the Rockets have been a picture of inconsistency the Spurs are the complete opposite. Case in point, of the Spurs 6 losses one was on opening night to the Thunder by 6 points, one was a weird off night to the Pelicans by 14 points, three were by 3 points and the game versus Houston by 4 points. Suffice to say not only do the Spurs not lose much, when they do they are often in the game competing right to the final horn.
Prediction: Not sure I’m in on the 11 point spread, but I’ll definitely take the Spurs and hope my penchant for the Rockets over performing when I expect them not to continues.
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