Game Day Preview: Houston Rockets versus San Antonio Spurs
The teams have split the season series to date, but tonight’s match offers plenty of other plot lines for your perusal. This will be the Spurs first contest since their beat down Monday against the Warriors. Further the Spurs remain unbeaten at home so wishing for the Josh Smith unbeaten streak to outlast the Spurs 24-0 home win streak is asking for a lot.
Unlike the Warriors who hadn’t met the Spurs til this past Monday this is the third meeting between the two Texas teams and a month from tonight they’ll wrap up the series in Houston. Talk about getting a series over quickly!
Smith for his part seems to have instilled a joy that was missing in the locker room and more importantly on the court. While many are pointing to Ariza’s sudden break out production on offense it may simply be the addition of a play maker, ball handler and strong defender that is to thank for the 3-game win streak.
Let’s take a look at how the two teams match up:
Venue: AT & T Center, San Antonio, Texas
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST – 7:00 PM CT
TV: ESPN National TV, ROOT and KENS HD
Radio: 790 AM and WOAI 1200AM
- Clearing up all doubts of people who assumed Gregg Popovich was simply playing possum with Steve Kerr’s Warriors Tim Duncan is listed as out for tonight based on his wonky knee.
- Dwight Howard – ankle, game time decision
- Donatas Motiejunas – still out with back pain, CBS Sports lists him out until Jan. 30
- Sam Dekker – remains out recovering from back procedure and listed on CBS Sports as out until Mar 1 minimum
Note: since Howard is questionable it could be Corey Brewer starting in his place
Since Duncan is out again and Howard remains questionable the game will center on James Harden vs. Kawhi Leonard.
For his part Harden has been on fire of late and is posting numbers worthy of an All-Star reserve spot despite what some people (like Mr. Barkley believe… hey I love you Chuck but Harden deserves this over Lillard). ON the opposite side of the court Leonard will be making his first All-Star Game as a starter no less despite telling everyone it doesn’t matter to him – just winning does. Man, he sure is a Spur player.
He has been posting numbers that are worthy of MVP notice and has introduced to the game the reality of the new era of basketball which is players who can defend and score as well as players who are capable of defending more than one position. The other major factor which can’t go unnoticed is Leonard spent this summer improving his offense and is now shooting over 13% better from behind the arc and close to 10% better from the line.
Unfortunately James Harden having an amazing game won’t be enough for the Rockets to win, but he’ll need to be better than his averages and strong defensively for Houston to have any chance at all.
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 despite what happened in Golden State) 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 if he plays, Capela, Smith, Ariza (who’ll likely get some minutes at the 4 especially if Howard doesn’t play) 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. Of note, the Spurs choose to not get offensive rebounds in favor or stopping the opposition in transition. Based on their league leading defense I wonder how many teams will follow shortly given the nature of the NBA to be a copy cat league.
- Play it a possession at a time: As much as it’s unlikely the Rockets can win this game with all the factors against them they need to focus on their defense and literally take this one possession at a time.
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The odds makers have the Spurs favored by a whopping 10.5 points and it’s hard to argue that spread given their 24-0 unbeaten home record. The over – under is 206.0 points and early action is slightly on the Spurs.
Sure the Rockets beat San Antonio on Christmas, but the Spurs have lost just 7 games this season, none to the same team and NONE at the Alamo.
Prediction: Spurs show the Rockets they can still lose with Josh Smith in their line-up (sorry H-Town)
For more exciting news and stories on the San Antonio Spurs visit our affiliate Fansided site: Air Alamo
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.