Just before tip-off, the Houston Rockets announced that their star player, James Harden, would not be suiting up. Harden injured his ankle in Houston's previous game, a 109-116 loss to the Dallas Mavericks. Without the NBA's fifth leading scorer to contend with, the San Antonio Spurs began the game lethargically. It seemed as if the Spurs thought they could get the win just by showing up.
Well, the Rockets came out and played hard from the opening tip. They were not about to just hand the Spurs a victory, regardless of James Harden's situation. The Rockets came out with energy and it took the Spurs the first quarter to match Houston's level of determination.
Once the Spurs finally awoke, the Rockets had already gained confidence, and the Spurs were in for a battle. The game was a fun one to watch. The Spurs shot an impressive 52% from the field, and to keep pace, the Rockets shot 53% from three point land.
The Spurs spent much of the game trailing the Rockets. Every time the Spurs came back, the Rockets answered. Jeremy Lin, Toney Douglas, and Marcus Morris were all very hot from the perimeter, shooting 4 of 5, 5 of 7 and 2 of 3 from deep, respectively. In the second half, Chandler Parsons emerged from his shooting slump to connect on four three pointers. For much of the game, it seemed as if Houston was destined to win this one.
The Spurs began the fourth quarter down by two, 91-93. In the first 40 seconds of the fourth, that lead ballooned to seven and Gregg Popovich took a timeout. With 10:37 remaining, the Spurs were down by nine and everything seemed to be going Houston's way.
For the next several minutes, the Spurs and Rockets traded baskets, until the Spurs made a 12-0 run. The Spurs' defense led to offense and a Tony Parker three followed by a Danny Green double-clutch layup had the Spurs tie the game at 107 with six minutes remaining. A few seconds later, Gary Neal hit a three pointer to put the Spurs up by three. Suddenly, the Spurs seemed to have control.
But just as Houston had done all night, the Rockets continued to battle. Parsons hit back to back threes to give Houston a three point lead with 4:30 left on the clock. The game continued to swing back and forth between the Spurs and Rocket's control. Eventually, overtime was needed to decide a winner.
Unlike the first four quarters, the Spurs greatly controlled the overtime. Manu started the Spurs off well by connecting on a layup and then getting a steal that quickly resulted in two points for Danny Green. Later in the OT, Tim threw a baseball pass the length of the floor to Manu who caught the ball and spun it into the hoop as he was fouled. His ensuing free-throw gave the Spurs an eight point lead that would prove too much for the Rockets to overcome.
There were many exceptional performances for the Silver and Black. Gary Neal led the charge making 11 of his 18 shots from the field, 7 of 10 from distance. Gary finished the game with 29 points and was one of the main reasons the Spurs emerged victorious against the Rockets. There were many, many times during the game when it seemed as if the Spurs were about to let it get away. Seemingly every time the Spurs needed a boost, Gary hit a big shot to bring San Antonio storming back.
Tony Parker recorded an impressive triple-double with 27 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. The Spurs needed every point and assist that Tony could muster. Tony also hit some shots when it mattered. The two that standout are a corner three where the Rockets gave him way too much space to shoot and a spin move in transition that left an embarrassed Chandler Parsons standing still. Tony gave the Spurs the ammunition they needed to stay with the hot shooting Rockets.
As described above, Manu was the best player in the overtime session. He's such a luxury to have on the Spurs. He had a fairly quiet game, but as soon as we needed a leader, he stepped up and carried the Spurs to victory. Although his body is aging, his will to win has not faded.
Tim Duncan shot just 1 of 9 from the field, but still managed to get his standard double-double. Defensively, Tim played well. He challenged and blocked some key shots in the fourth that gave the Spurs the opportunity to take the game into overtime.
Speaking of defense, Danny Green had the play of the game. With 30 seconds left in a tied ball game, Danny had defensive responsibilities on the ultra-hot Jeremy Lin, who would finish with 38 points and 7 assists in his best game of the season. Lin was simply on fire and had been unstoppable for most of the game.
With just 8 seconds left on the shot clock, Lin finally made his move and Danny reached out and got a hand on the ball. Lin recovered and attempted to drive by Green, but Danny again got his hand on the ball and pushed Lin even further back to half court. By the time Lin recovered a second time, the shot clock buzzer rang, giving the Spurs the opportunity to either win the game or send it into overtime. It was an outstanding defensive effort by Danny Green that prevented the Rockets from even attempting what could have been a game-winning shot.
Next up for the Spurs will be an away game against the Utah Jazz this Wednesday. As is always the case with the Jazz, they are incredibly tough to beat when playing in Utah. They are 8-1 at home, 4-9 away.
The day after the Jazz game, the Spurs are slated to play the Trailblazers in Portland in a game that will be airing on TNT. This is too perfect, right? Will Pop sit his stars? Will he send them to San Antonio again? Will he play the game that Stern endorses and make up a few injuries, or will he stick it to him with a DNP - Old? Since this game against Houston went into overtime, and the Utah game will most likely be extremely challenging, odds are that Popovich will sit the Big Three this Thursday. And it's on TNT. Again. Ha, I can't wait.