Gregg Popovich sat four players in this game to rest for the upcoming playoff run. The old dogs, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili did not get the night off. Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Patty Mills and Danny Green, all in their 20s, were the players that Popovich elected to sit. Pop never stops surprising.
Aron Baynes got the start against Dwight Howard, Damion James started at the three for the good guys, and Marco Belinelli stepped into Danny's spot.
There were several crazy foul calls in the first quarter. James Harden was called for a foul on Belinelli when he wasn't even touched. Then Tim Duncan was given a technical for what looked like an inability to stop as he ran over Patrick Beverley and then leaned over to make sure Beverley was okay. It looked like a nice display of sportsmanship to me. This wasn't all-time craziest technical called on Duncan though. I'm sure many of you recall the time that Joey Crawford threw Timmy out of the game for laughing. On the bench.
The Spurs were awful from the three-point line all night. They finished the game 4-for-17. If they had shot just a little bit better maybe they could have stolen this one. Or, the Spurs were fortunate they didn't get blown out by the Rockets because they were even worse from downtown. They jacked up 22 attempts and matched the Spurs' four made. The Rockets also out rebounded the Spurs 50-43. The Spurs also allowed Houston to grab 11 offensive boards. Of course, the Spurs were missing Splitter and Kawhi who both clean up the glass. Diaw, Ayres, and Daye not so much.
The Rockets opened up a fourteen point lead in the second quarter, but the Spurs fought back and cut it to a manageable seven at halftime. In the third the Spurs pulled within three, but the Rockets stretched it back to 12 pretty quickly and it seemed like the game might turn into a rout. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker were removed from the game and would not see anymore action.
Jeff Ayres and Manu contributed nine in the final four minutes of the third and the Spurs entered the fourth down just eight. The good guys finally found the rim as the fourth quarter started. A quick 7-0 run made it a one-point game with 10 minutes left in the game. The Spurs didn't really have much of a shot to win this game. With the three starters and a key spark-plug out and the Rockets at full strength with something to play for. Still, in the fourth, after they came back from being down 14 I really wanted them to pull out the victory.
The Spurs C team unit of Aryes, Baynes, Diaw, Daye, Damion James, Belinelli, and Cory Joseph really made Beverley, Harden, Parsons, Jones, and Howard work for the win. The Spurs took a five-point lead after a Diaw three and then a Baynes make off a beautiful Boris feed. 87-82 with six minutes left to play.
The Spurs shooting went cold and they went 2-8 for five points over the next five minutes while the Rockets scored 16, took firm control of the game, executed down the stretch, and secured the four-seed in the process.
The Rockets swept the Spurs in the regular season for just the second time ever. The good guys lost this one, but I'm actually less worried about facing the Rockets in the second round. Just one more game until the good stuff starts!
The opponent's fans perspective can be found at The Dream Shake.
The Spurs take on the Lakers in San Antonio on Wednesday night. Who knows who we'll see the court for the Spurs in that one. Maybe something similar to tonight with Beli and Bobo getting some rest with limited minutes for the big guns.