Sunday, 19 January, 2020

Game 4 Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

Vera Richards | 08 May, 2017, 06:21

They stifled the Rockets offense time and time again. The dynasty is done, they said.

Sitting in front in front of his locker wearing his game shorts and black compression tank top, Rockets guard Patrick Beverley wasn't quite ready to put the Rockets 103-92 game three loss to the San Antonio Spurs behind him.

What gives? The Spurs were supposed to be dead in the water.

Houston has struggled to replicate that kind of performance ever since as San Antonio have tightened their offence to shoot 49.7 per cent overall and 36.7 per cent on 3-pointers over the past two games. The Beard dropped 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting and dished out an impressive 14 assists. Luckily for San Antonio, Kawhi is good enough to handle it.

Not coincidentally, the Spurs' improved defense came as coach Gregg Popovich inserted Pua Gasol into the starting lineup and shifted Kawhi Leonard onto James Harden.

Then, Parker hurt his knee.

James Harden and the Houston Rockets will host LaMarcus Aldridge and the San Antonio Spurs for game 4 of what is turning into a wild second round playoff series. Lou Williams played only 10 minutes in a game where the Rockets couldn't score. With Harden on the floor and the shooting that surrounds him, this series could flip quickly. He also converted just 1-of-7 shots at the rim.

The Raptors were forced to play without All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who is still nurisng an ankle injury. Usually the beneficiary of whistles, he was slapped with a technical foul midway through the fourth quarter, the collective result of several protestations directed at the refs.

Now that Parker will miss the rest of the postseason with a leg injury, the Spurs will be tested like they rarely have been before. This unit was 74 together and typically the one Popovich deployed in end of game situations.

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"It's a challenge", Popovich said of trying to contain the freewheeling Houston offense.

Offensively, the Spurs had five players finish in double digits. Players approach it differently.

The Spurs power forward saw a long-awaited return to form in Game 3 against the Houston Rockets, finishing with 26 points on 12 of 20 shooting (60 percent) with seven rebounds and four blocks.

I noted in my preview piece about this game that Aldridge was the series X-Factor.

Before I get into it, let me point out that things turned out pretty well for the Houston Rockets this season.

Obviously, being down 2-1 in any series doesn't warrant panic.

Luckily for the most offensively and defensively balanced team in the National Basketball Association and one of the most experienced, San Antonio can compensate for that obstacle and make do with a pair of big men in Gasol and Aldridge, who between them have 11 All-Star selections. The Spurs' defense was the best performing throughout the regular season and after a blowout in Game 1, that trend has continued since. Even without their veteran point guard, or facing one of the best offensive teams in recent memory, San Antonio remains a force to be reckoned with.

It's easier said than done, but the Spurs must avoid taking the bait in Game 4.

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