After squandering a 22-point lead and falling victim to a missed call in their first game, the Houston Rockets need to make a statement against the Spurs.
Fans of the Houston Rockets haven’t forgotten what happened on December 3rd at the AT&T Center, and rest assured the team hasn’t either. Behind another monster performance from James Harden, the Rockets built a 22-point lead in San Antonio before it all came crashing down.
After a now-infamous moment in which the officiating crew botched a situation so badly that it cost Houston two points despite a made field goal, the Spurs suddenly had new life, mounting a furious comeback that ultimately led to a crushing 135-133 loss for the Rockets. The ensuing protest, predictably, was denied by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who stated the Rockets had sufficient time to overcome the error.
Now with a rocking Toyota Center crowd behind them, the Rockets will have revenge on their mind as they host the Spurs for round 2 of the Texas rivalry Monday night. In their earlier showdown, James Harden put up 50 points, nine rebounds and six assists while Lonnie Walker IV had the game of his life for the Spurs, scoring 28 points on 10-of-18 from the field.
With Walker leaving the game early in the Spurs’ recent victory over the Phoenix Suns, there’s a chance the extra-cautious Gregg Popovich might sit the 21-year-old for Monday’s matchup with Houston. Unlike in the first matchup, however, LaMarcus Aldridge will be available for San Antonio, who has given Houston fits in the past.
The Rockets are currently a heavy favorite against San Antonio, and rightfully so. The Spurs, despite having won three of four, have needed overtime in all four of those games to do so (including the last time these teams faced off). Since the Spurs have now played in a record-setting four straight overtimes, there’s a chance they could be fatigued by the end of the game as well.
Houston needs to do its best to get the team involved early behind the playmaking of Harden and Russell Westbrook. For whatever reason, the Rockets seem to have bad outside shooting nights against San Antonio. Certain Spurs like Bryn Forbes, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills can be exploited on the defensive end, as they all either lack the size or talent to keep Houston out of the paint.
If Mike D’Antoni can balance attacks to the rim with the team’s usual style of letting it fly from the outside at will, this should be an easy victory for Clutch City and at least somewhat get the bad taste out of the city’s mouth after what happened last time.