Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs game preview - December 8

N.B. Lindberg
San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
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Houston Rockets vs San Antonio Spurs: Stats to know

The Spurs are an absolute mess. The only things they do well are grab offensive boards (5th) and limit fouls on defense (7th). Their biggest problem is they allow a league-high 58.2% opponent effective field goal percentage. The gap between them and the Rockets in 29th is the same size as the gap between the Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks in 21st. If you’re hoping for Jalen Green to break out of his shooting slump, tonight is the night. 

Stylistically the Spurs’ offense is defined by passing, movement, and quick decision-making. They attempt the ninth most passes per game, have 7th fewest average seconds per touch, and run the most miles on offense per game. The results, as mentioned earlier, have been quite poor, but it is definitely a style that pundits enjoy watching. 

The Spurs’ playtype data aligns nicely with their tracking data. They isolate so infrequently it’s not worth mentioning any of the numbers, they infrequently operate in the pick and roll, and they don’t feature many post ups. Instead, they have the third-highest frequency of spot up jumpers, the second-highest frequency of handoffs, and the eighth-highest frequency of cuts. The Spurs also attempt the ninth most drives per game, but that has only led to the 18th most points per game. 

No matter how you slice it, the Spurs are bad at what they do on offense. This shouldn’t be a surprise coming from the team with the worst offensive rating in the league and a franchise that has selected one player in the top ten since taking Tim Duncan first overall in 1997. 

On defense, the Spurs’ primary issue is they give up the highest percentage of their opponents' shots zero to three feet from the rim. They’re not relatively awful at defending those attempts, but enough volume around the rim can undo even the stoutest defense. 

They’ve also allowed a league-high 39.9% shooting from 3-point range. Usually, I would say this is likely to regress, which it is, but I think the Spurs might just be bad at contesting shots on the perimeter. They’ve been so far and away the worst team at defending threes that it would be hard to believe it’s simply bad luck. 

The Spurs give up a large number of wide-open threes but are nowhere near the worst offenders. However, they allow the fewest tightly contested threes in the league. The Spurs’ 3-point defense is bad, and it deserves to be.