The Spurs are a little banged up. Matt Bonner is hurt. James Anderson is just now getting back to playing, doing so with the Toros. Tim's knees are doing something less than pleasant. That said, Yao Ming by himself has the Spurs topped and then add Brad Miller to the list of injured players and I just feel a bad for the Rockets, they are my 2nd favorite Texas team after all. They've got the talent to be an elite team, at least on paper, but their All-Star big man has likely played his last NBA game (which of course won't keep him from being an all-star, thanks for that China). The Rockets still have the talent to be a very very good team. Martin is a good scorer, who once was suggested as a trade partner for Manu....on this site, really, it's true. They've still got Battier, Scola and Brooks who can all play and play well. Houston is hovering around .500 and with a good run or two late in the year can put themselves in the playoffs. If they do make the post season, I hope they get matched up with another team, they aren't going to be an easy out. Let's not drop the intensity, this game is ripe for a trap.
UPDATE: Bonner out, Neal questionable for tonight's game
UPDATE #2: Neal likely to play tonight. (Hat tip to CapHill)
UPDATE #3: Anderson called back to SA, left Austin just before the Toros tipped off and is headed to SA for tonight's game. (Hat tip to Ike Mana)
This is the Spurs last home game before the RRT. The next two to three weeks will be very very difficult for this Spurs team. They will have 3 SEGABABA's, and one week where they'll play 5 games in 7 days. The schedule isn't terribly tough with only the Lakers, Trail Blazers and Bulls being teams that I'd worry about on a regular schedule of games. That said, this is no regular schedule. Tonight's game is important if for no other reason than it's the last one at home for some time and a win would help get the long road trip off to a good start.
Here some music to get you ready for the RRT:
San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets
Where: AT&T Center
When: January 29, 2011, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time - Timezone Converter
Watch: KENS 5
By the Numbers
PG: Parker needs to dominate Fisher. Brooks is exactly the type of PG that gives Tony problems. Fast and quick with a scoring touch. Parker will have his hands full on defense. Tony will need to pressure him on offense as well. I think Parker will be up for the tough match up. Lowry is the starter and has the size advantage on Parker, but if Houston is smart Brooks will see a lot of time pushing the ball.
SG: Manu is appears to be out of his slump. He too will have his hands full on defense with Martin. Martin is a pure scorer and will be looking to keep up his scoring pace that he's on. 23 ppg and he just dropped 27 on the Mavs Thursday night. He also got 12 free-throw attempts against the Mavs. The good news? Martin can't guard a fainting goat, so Manu should be able to light up the scoreboard. Should be a great match up.
SF: Battier is still a Spur is my dreams. Which is saying something, he did play at Duke and that usually puts you on my permanent hate list. As well as Jefferson has been playing, I would trade him in a heart beat for Battier. I think Jefferson will need to be in attack mode tonight if he wants any chance of helping this team win. Battier will likely guard Manu, since as I mentioned above Martin can't. That means RJ will need to punish whoever slides over to cover him.
PF: This should be a good match up. Scola, the Spur that got away, is playing really well. He just went for 30 on 14-21 shooting against the Mavs. The guy can ball and will be a problem for the Spurs interior defense. Duncan should be able to contain Scola to some degree. I'll be interested to see how offensively minded Duncan is in tonights game. I think he will have to put some pressure on Scola on defense to help the Spurs win.
C: Hayes and Blair. Two undersized guys. Hayes is to me what I hope Blair will become, at least defensively. Hayes uses his superior center of gravity and strength to keep post players from taking advantage of his lack of height. I'm interested to see how this match up plays out. I wouldn't be surprised if each guy spends some time guarding the PF for the other team.
This is a weakness for the Rockets. They've got some decent players off the bench, but it's nothing like what the Spurs can bring in. Brooks and Lee are the two main bench players. Patrick Patterson is a rookie out of Kentucky who had an awful -22 +/- rating against Dallas. Meanwhile the Spurs will roll with McDyess, Splitter, Neal and Hill as the main bench guys until Bonner and Anderson make it back.
Adleman is a good coach. Pop is a great coach.
Spurs are enjoying home cooking for the last time for a couple of weeks and are looking to get things started off well. Houston is coming off an ugly loss to Dallas.
Martin < Ginobili
Spurs win, but in a game that is uncomfortably close to the end.
Key(s) to the Game
Key 1 - Rebounding. The Rockets got 11 offensive boards against the Mavs on Thursday and it's not just the big men who grab boards for this team. The Spurs guards and bigs will need to be sharp on the glass (heh).
Key 2 - Three pointers. The Spurs will likely see more "pack the paint" defense in this game. The deep ball will be a factor in stretching out the defense of Houston to allow for a more attacking game. Also, the Spurs need to keep the Rockets from getting hot from downtown. The Rockets are 4th is scoring, they don't need bad 3-point defense to help them out.
Key 3 - Passing/Ball Movement. Both teams are good at getting lots of assists and preventing them. Houston is better at both in fact, ranking 5th in assist percentage at 61.2% and 2nd in allowed assist percentage 52.3%. While the Spurs are at 7th in assist percentage at 60.7% and 3rd in allowed assist percentage at 53.8%. I have a feeling that which ever team can move the ball and get the assists will end up winning this game.
48 Minutes of Hell - The standard for ESPN's TrueHoop Network.
Spurs Planet - Our old friend Wayne Vore is back.
Project Spurs - This site just keeps getting better.
Spurs Nation - Always fresh Spurs stuff and it's good too.
The Dream Shake (SB Nation) - A solid SBN blog.
WOAI 1200AM; Audio League Pass[streaming]
As always, 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.
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