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Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs: Game 1 Preview

Nov 12, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) elevates for a slam dunk against the Houston Rockets during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 12, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Clint Capela (15) elevates for a slam dunk against the Houston Rockets during the second quarter at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
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The second round begins for the Houston Rockets with a trip to San Antonio for game one. They got a few extra days to prepare after dismantling OKC, and they’ll need to take advantage of that.

If the Houston Rockets can’t split the first two games in San Antonio, their chances of beating the Spurs decrease by a long shot. Gregg Popovich’s crew is just too talented to lose a playoff series after starting out 2-0. That being said, if there were ever a time when Houston has a chance to steal a game one, it’s now.

The Rockets took care of business against the OKC Thunder with a gentleman’s sweep, giving them a full six days of rest and preparation before the second round. The Spurs, on the other hand, played a hard fought six games against the gritty Memphis Grizzlies. They’ll be tired from the battle and will have had two fewer days of recuperating and regrouping. That all makes the first contest very winnable for Houston.

Game two will be tough because of Popovich’s consistent ability to adapt and adjust based on the previous game’s outcome. If the Rockets shoot lights out in the first outing, they won’t be able to get as many off the next time. If James Harden throws a million lobs to Clint Capela on Monday, Wednesday’s paint will be a lot more clogged up.

But Houston has the element of surprise in game one, and will have to use it. They’ve proven they can win without relying on the three, and that should keep the Spurs guessing at first.

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One of the things that will make or break the series for the Rockets is obviously the Harden vs. Kawhi Leonard matchup. They’re both likely to perform at their highest possible level, but it’s unique because of the defensive side of things.

Leonard will most likely guard the Beard for the majority of the series, and whether or not he gets in foul trouble could be the defining factor. The only thing that will limit Kawhi’s defensive impact on Harden is him having to tone down the intensity in order to stay on the floor.

Harden’s the league’s best at drawing contact, so it’s certainly possible that he takes advantage of the Klaw’s aggressive attempt to lock him up.

Other than that, the game should be pretty straightforward. The Rockets will try to shoot the Spurs out of the building, and the Spurs will work to make life hell for their opponent. San Antonio won the season series three games to one, but each meeting was decided by two possessions or fewer. Game one should be Houston’s, but it could be anybody’s.

Next: (Un)biased Predictions for Rockets vs. Spurs

Tune in to TNT at 8:30 CT for what could potentially be some of the best basketball played this year. After all, the Houston Rockets and Spurs were two of the winningest teams in the league for a reason.

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