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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

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On the second leg of a challenging back-to-back, the Spurs head to Houston to take on Dwight Howard, James Harden and the 5-0 Rockets.

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Scott Halleran

San Antonio SpursHouston Rockets

Toyota Center, Houston, TX
November 6, 2014, 7:00 PM Spurs Time
TV: TNT, RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

Don't mess with Texas: words worthy of gracing any anti-littering sign, hillbilly tattoo, or pair of novelty boxer shorts (I'm working on the trifecta).

They also serve as a stern warning to all other teams in the NBA. With Dallas, Houston and San Antonio a combined 10-2, the Lone Star State is definitely not extending any Southern hospitality thus far.

The Spurs already beat Dallas in their thrilling season-opener. Now it's onto Houston to take on one of the league's few remaining unbeatens, the 5-0 Rockets. On Tuesday Houston took down the Heat in Miami, getting a bit of revenge on Chris Bosh who spurned them in free agency in favor of staying in South Beach. James Harden nearly went for a triple-double and Dwight Howard scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, as the East's last undefeated team fell.

The Rockets have won the last five regular-season meetings against San Antonio. They're a tough matchup in many ways, but especially in the middle. Howard is a physical specimen and, after appearing to lose a step over the past few years, is showcasing the overwhelming strength that has consistently struck fear in the hearts of his opponents. And I'm not just talking about his flatulence.

Beyond Howard, the San Antonio defense will need to fear the beard of 25-year-old shooting guard James Harden. When he's not hitting step-back threes, Harden is maybe the best in the league at drawing contact -- and more importantly, whistles -- in the lane. He's extremely crafty and knows how to get to his spots with ease. His defense has become a common point of national derision as of late but, with Patrick Beverley and now Trevor "Chandler Who" Ariza on the perimeter, and Howard anchoring the paint, it's not as big an issue. If the Rockets play man D, San Antonio will do well in exploiting Harden's defensive, um, disinterest by motioning his man, whether it's Kawhi, Danny, Marco or Manu as much as possible.

Ariza's arrival shored up the void left by the departed Chandler Parsons, and he's filled in very well so far. He made his money last year as one of the league's best defensive small forwards, as well as draining threes from the corner. With Harden drawing attention each time he drives, the Spurs defense will need to keep an eye out for Ariza spotting up in his favorite spots.

With a weak bench that includes a few former D-Leaguers and long-time Spurs villain Jason Terry, Houston's starting five will likely get heavy minutes tonight. They also have a Greek rookie called Kostas Papanikolaou. That's Papanikolaou.

Meanwhile the Spurs might be leaning more on their bench than usual, given this is the second of five games in seven nights for them. That could mean a standard rotation or, judging by how Pop has punked us so far, it could mean 30 minutes of Austin Daye or Kyle Anderson. The Wheel of Pop is likely spinning as we speak.

The Spurs are definitely capable of dealing Houston its first loss of the year. However, with them playing at their current level and getting big contributions from guys like Beverley, Ariza and Terrence Jones, tonight's game will be a challenge for a San Antonio team in the midst of a tough stretch. If the Rockets supporting cast is able to make an impact in this game on both ends, I give Houston the edge.

Note: Following the Hawks game, Coach Popovich said in an interview that Tiago Splitter's calf tightened up and that he was questionable for tonight's game. We'll update you when we know more.

Matchup to watch: The Spurs against the whistle. James Harden has a nose for drawing fouls -- we all know that. But Howard can also be a handful, and a huge free-throw disparity won't do San Antonio any favors on the road. They'll have to move their feet, stay vertical at the rim, and play smart ball for 48 minutes.

@

San Antonio Spurs (2-1)

Houston Rockets (5-0)

November 6, 2014

Toyota Center, Houston, Texas

7:00 PM CDT

TV: TNT

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Patrick Beverley

Danny Green

SG

James Harden

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Trevor Ariza

Matt Bonner

PF

Terrence Jones

Tim Duncan

C

Dwight Howard


For the Rockets' perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

Game prediction: Rockets by 5.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher, and you can get your San Antonio Spurs tickets from Daniel Farias with Spurs Sports & Entertainment: Tel: 210-444-5607 | dfarias@attcenter.com

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