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Shorthanded Houston Rockets burned by playoff-chasing Spurs

Houston Rockets, Chris Clemons (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets, Chris Clemons (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
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The Houston Rockets followed their dominant victory over the Sacramento Kings with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs 123-105 as James Harden rested, and Danuel House sat due to injury.

The Houston Rockets, facing a back-to-back, opted to rest two of their starters against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday afternoon. Still, the team burst out of the gate to their only lead of the game. Russell Westbrook, fresh after resting a bruised quad, was on fire to start and scored or assisted on 15 of Houston’s first 17 points as the Rockets built a 17-14 lead.

The Spurs, however, capitalized as soon as Westbrook was substituted with a 15-6 run and finished the quarter with a 31-25 lead. The second quarter was the most lopsided of the game and saw the Spurs outscore the Rockets 35-24.

The entire team struggled to hit shots, and Westbrook was not able to find his groove again after sitting on the bench. The team combined to go 1-of-7 from distance and their offense never recovered. The Rockets defense struggled to stop a Spurs’ offense that always looked for the extra pass but were able to generate. At times, the Spurs’ democratic offense looked like their great teams anchored by Tim Duncan.

The third quarter saw the Rockets improve on offense and defense, but it was still not enough as the Spurs were able to increase their lead to 20. Westbrook led the charge for Houston with 10 of their 29 third-quarter points but was unable to curtail the Spurs, who saw nine different players score.

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The Rockets, down twenty points and two starters, threw in the towel as they entered the fourth quarter. The Spurs grew their lead to 29 in the fourth before the Rockets went on a run in mop-up time.

Russell Westbrook scored 20 points, and Jeff Green chipped in another 17, but the rest of the Rockets shooting struggles doomed them from the beginning. DeMar DeRozan scored 23 points in 28 minutes of action, but Keldon Johnson stole the show with 24 points off the bench. The Spurs absolutely dominated on the boards, with Houston surrendering nine offensive rebounds.

The Rockets knew they would miss Harden on offense but hoped Russell Westbrook would be able to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, the Rockets had a cold night from downtown in the same game they rested their best player.

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The Rockets caught a hot team in a desperate situation on a night they prioritized rest, and it cost them. They have a quick turn around with a game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday. Hopefully, a well-rested James Harden rights the Rockets’ ship.

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