Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets

SBC Center, San Antonio
Tuesday, February 1st - 7:30 PM Spurs Time
TV: Fox Sports SW - RADIO: WOAI

The Spurs face a very familiar opponent tonight when they host the Rockets for the fourth and final time this regular season. Houston has crawled back from a 2-6 start, thanks in part to home wins against the silver and black, and tonight they'll be trying to overtake us in the hot mess that is the Western Conference standings. San Antonio's got to counter the high-scoring Rockets while building some consistency for the Hornets and Thunder rematches that follow.

19043286-spurs-rockets-12_29_2011-306x363_medium
This handsome fellow always seems to do well in San Antonio.
AP Photo by David J. Phillip via blog.mysanantonio.com

The Rockets were a top five offense last year and that's been the key to getting back in the western conference scrum for them. They've scored 100 points or more in five of their last six games as Kevin Martin, Kyle Lowry and Luis Scola have been finding their shot. Like the Spurs of late, Houston relies on outscoring opponents and doesn't have much of a defensive identity beyond avoiding fouls. The Rockets' comeback hit a snag in their last game, a 120-108 loss to the Timberwolves where they allowed Micheal Beasley to score 34 points on 14 field goal attempts. If we don't get some front-court scoring from Duncan, Blair and Splitter it'll be hard to keep up.

After fumbling the last possession in the overtime loss to Dallas, this Spurs fan was glad to see Matt Bonner have a strong game against the Grizzlies in Memphis. He's no fan favorite, especially when he's in a shooting slump and the team can't break away from the playoff pack, but as long as he hits the threes and makes with the plus-minus magic (5-9 and +21 in Memphis) he's earning the playing time. The allocation of minutes between Duncan, Bonner, Blair and Splitter (and who plays with whom) is a popular debate for Spurs fans so let me just say we need all four to get through the regular season and you can't write off the redhead based on a fifth of the season.

It'll be interesting to see how Pop distributes minutes among the wing players as well. James Anderson played 20 minutes against Dallas and 2 minutes against Memphis, and Gary Neal went from 30 to 15. We'll be looking for the lineup that rallied in Dallas and got to play the entire OT (Neal, Anderson, Green, Bonner and Splitter) and the variant that uses Tony and RJ for Neal and Anderson while Duncan rests. Our bench can be a real strength this season, especially when the three is falling and Blair and Splitter are working the offensive glass. Blair can earn his minutes with offensive rebounds (he's had 8, 3, and 2 vs. Houston) and by avoiding fouls (4, 3, and 2 so far).

With two elite offenses clashing it'll probably come down to shooting accuracy and who can play a modicum of defense to secure the win. Behold, your lineups, relevant statistics and a prediction:

Lineups

Starters
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Kawhi Leonard
SF: Richard Jefferson
PF: Tim Duncan
C: DeJuan Blair

Key Bench Players
Gary Neal
Tiago Splitter
Danny Green

Lineups

Starters
PG: Kyle Lowry
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Chandler Parsons
PF: Luis Scola
C: Samuel Dalembert

Key Bench Players
Courtney Lee
Chase Budinger
Patrick Patterson

NBA Stats Cube Lineup Comparison Here. Rockets' perspective can be found here: The Dream Shake.

Game Prediction: They won their two home games, we won our previous home game - I'm hoping that pattern holds and it's something like SPURS BY SIX.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and NBA league pass is recommended for those who are willing to pony up the cash. Almost every Spurs game will be broadcast there, which is especially helpful for those of us who aren't in the San Antonio area. Please don't post links to illegal game feeds in the game thread. Links to illegal feeds are not permitted on SBNation, but you can probably find them out there on the internets if you're resourceful and desperate.

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