Spurs-Rockets Series Preview

The upcoming contest between the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs is bound to be a classic series. This matchup is a clash between a young, dynamic Houston offense and an experienced, gritty San Antonio defense. The top-tier skills of James Harden and Kawhi Leonard, two leading contenders in the MVP race, will also make this a must-watch showdown for NBA fans.

Keys for Houston

The Rockets have the NBA’s second-best offense, averaging 115.3 points per game. They have many scorers capable of putting up big numbers. With so many offensive threats on their team, the Rockets can build a huge lead very early in the game. Houston will be leaning on their explosive offense to make up for their weaker defense.

James Harden leads their attack. This year he’s averaged career highs of 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, and 8.1 rebounds per game. Harden is an elite scorer, and he does an excellent job of getting his teammates involved.

Coming off the bench, Lou Williams has really helped Houston in the playoffs, scoring at least 20 points in three of the last four games. Williams gives the Rockets flexibility late in the game and could be the X-factor in this series. The Spurs will have to keep their eye on Williams, who won the Sixth Man of the Year Award with the Toronto Raptors in the 2014–15 NBA season.

Houston loves to shoot three-pointers—this year they made the most in NBA history. When the Rockets catch fire, they can go on huge scoring stretches. But they’re also prone to going cold. It will be crucial for the Rockets to capitalize on open shots and make their opportunities count.

Coach Mike D’Antoni has been a huge part of the Rockets’ success this year. His most impactful decision was shifting Harden from shooting guard to point guard, which opened up Harden’s game and allowed him to take control of Houston’s offense.

The days of bad coaching, lack of effort, and tension between teammates seem over in Houston. This is a completely revamped Rockets team, who have transformed into legitimate contenders.

Keys for San Antonio

The Spurs like to grind down their opponents. The Spurs have the NBA’s second best defense, with opposing teams averaging just 98.1 points per game against them. If they can slow down Houston’s productive offense, San Antonio will be in very good shape.

Leading the charge is Kawhi Leonard. He is the best two-way player in the game. He attacks the basket with incredible stamina and applies the same amount of intensity on defense. Leonard has developed into the Spurs’ franchise player.

With Leonard and Harden competing on the same floor, fans will be treated to entertaining action. In one of their regular season meetings, the Rockets were clinging to a 108-107 lead with less than thirty seconds left in the game. Leonard hit a clutch three-pointer to give the Spurs the lead. He then blocked James Harden’s layup attempt five seconds later to preserve the win for San Antonio. This could be a sign of more late game heroics to come from Leonard.

San Antonio also has an enviable veteran presence with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, great role models for the younger players. They both have four championship rings and a combined 31 years of playoff experience. They help anchor the team by establishing a great culture on and off the court.

To counter the Rockets’ three-point attack, the Spurs will look to take advantage in the paint. Throughout the season, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol have been productive in the post. And Jonathon Simmons has thrown down some highlight reel dunks.

Orchestrating the effort from the sidelines is Gregg Popovich, who has proven year after year that he’s the best coach in the NBA. He has helped the Spurs reach the playoffs for a record-tying 20th straight year. You can be sure that he’ll get his team ready to take on Houston.

Popovich’s philosophy about team chemistry, ball movement, and unselfish play has the Spurs gunning for yet another title. After an early exit from the playoffs last year, San Antonio is looking to go all the way with hopes of hoisting another trophy. You can expect them to be ready for whatever the Rockets bring to the series.

Bottom Line

Both teams will be laying it all on the line in this Lone Star State rivalry. The Spurs’ playoff experience, veteran players, and home-court advantage give them the slight edge. However, the Rockets’ quick offensive pace poses a significant challenge for the Spurs’ defense. During their four regular season match-ups, every game came down to the wire, and was decided by only one or two possessions. This series promises to be a real thriller. 

(Photo credit: Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

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