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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

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The Spurs look to extend their win streak to eight and play Grinch in Houston.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets

Toyota Center, Houston, TX
December 25, 2015, 7:00 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: CW35 HD/ESPN - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

The Houston Rockets shocked the world last postseason despite injuries to several key contributors. With the addition of one of the league's best pure point guards in Ty Lawson over the summer, it only made sense to dub them as a serious title contender coming into this season.

We're over a third of the way through the year, and the Rockets sit in 7ht place with a mediocre 15-15 record. While Houston has played better of late, there still is a stark contrast between this Rockets team and last year's.

Offensively, they're chucking up roughly the same number of threes as last season (aka ALL OF THE THREES), but connecting on a mere 33.8% of their attempts. That's good for 21st in the league, only ahead of teams that either don't believe in threes, don't have shooters, or some combination of the two. Some of this can be attributed to Harden's putrid start to the season, but there's also a distinct lack of shooters. It seems intuitive that you shouldn't commit to a strategy when you don't have the right personnel. That said, the Rockets were previously successful with an equally poor shooting roster, so what do I know?

One aspect that absolutely must improve if the Rockets want to jump back into serious postseason talk is their defense. They're currently 22nd in the league in defensive rating, a steep drop-off from last year's 8th ranking. Houston's precipitous defensive decline has gone hand-in-hand with Dwight Howard's physical deterioration and Harden's complete and utter lack of effort. James' MVP-caliber season last year was notable because he upped his defensive intensity and effort. This season? He's reverted back to his old ways...

And despite all the disappointment this Rocket season has been so far, you can't help but be a little nervous against this team. Houston is still an immensely talented club, loaded with noted Spur killers, playing in one of their most important games to date. This is a FIGABABA for the Spurs, so if things get rough early, don't be surprised if Pop rushes to the reserves.

Matchup to watch: Leonard vs. Harden. It feels criminal skimping out on a Howard vs. Duncan matchup given their history, but the result of this game will likely come down to the matchup between the two MVP candidates. Harden is nowhere near last year's dominant form right now, but he's been one of those Spur killers throughout his career, and he'll no doubt look to keep that going tonight.

@

San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 25-5)

Houston Rockets

(Record:15-15 )

December 25, 2015

Toyota Center, Houston, TX

7:00 PM CDT

TV: CW35 HD/ESPN

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Patrick Beverley

Danny Green

SG

James Harden

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Trevor Ariza

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Clint Capela

Tim Duncan

C

Dwight Howard

Game prediction: Spurs by 3.

For the Rocket's perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.