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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets

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The Spurs got theirs at home on Wednesday, but the stakes are raised as they head into Houston where the Rockets refuse to be go down easily.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs @ Houston Rockets

Toyota Center, Houston, TX
April 10, 2015, 7:00 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: NBATV/KENS - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

As the final minutes ticked away in the 4th quarter of Wednesday's game, the joy of the big victory over the Rockets was already fleeting.

I knew the team we saw in McDonald's colors was a mirage of the second seeded Rockets for three quarters. James Harden completely disappeared after the first quarter, just as his teams' defense melted against San Antonio's burning hot shooting (Harden going invisible and the terrible D by the Rox were unrelated). Any extra tick we can get in the wins column is greatly needed as the playoff push ends soon, but what I wanted to see was two top Western Conference teams battle it out to the end in what could be a playoff matchup in a week's time.

Instead, what we got was the Spurs destroying a team whose towel looked to be thrown in sometime in the second quarter. Houston looked lifeless and defense-less. Losing Patrick Beverly and Donatas Montieiunas for the season are clearly killers for the Rockets, but it shouldn't have been that bad for a team who has Dwight Howard and an MVP candidate.

We should be expect the Spurs to see a more formidable opponent tonight, though. Despite all of Houston's stats at home being slightly lower than their numbers on the road, you know they are going to come out with that Texas-sized chip on their shoulder in an attempt to avoid slipping any further in the playoff race.

Speaking of the playoffs, on Monday's edition of Grantland's Bill Don't Lie podcast, Zach Lowe -- who would later confidently confirm that Kawhi Leonard is a top ten player in the league -- mentioned that the Spurs were going to "have a lot to say" about the makeup of the Western Conference playoffs landscape. Since then, San Antonio has pushed the Thunder outside of the field of eight, knocked Houston down one spot to the third seed, and, tonight, will have a chance to pull ahead of the Rockets by a half game with a win. What seed that will put San Antonio will depend on a thousand other factors with caveats and tie-breakers of their own. Here is an updated post by SB Nation on the current tiebreakers in the Western Conference.

Tony Parker's sore achilles didn't stop him from scoring 27 points on Wednesday, so we can probably expect him to be out there at tip off. Tiago Splitter, on the other hand, looks like he's going to miss Friday's game as well, as noted by Matthew Tynan.

The second game of the home-and-home series will most likely not look like the first, though, if Houston continues their slow transition defense it could be another blowout by the fourth quarter for the Spurs. You have to expect the home crowd is going to play a factor in this matchup, which will probably lead to Harden deciding to play hero and run isos the last three minutes of each half. The fact that James Harden may actually care to perform in front of the Houston crowd will be the biggest difference I think we will see in tonight's game.

But as most teams are figuring out as the postseason nears, San Antonio isn't a team you can just turn it on and off for. As the stakes get higher and higher, NBA teams are finding themselves nowhere near ready to compete on the same level as the Spurs are competing at the moment. In fact, New York Times and Grantland writer, Ben Detrick, may have said it best...

vs

Houston Rockets (53-25)

San Antonio Spurs (53-26)

April 10, 2015

Toyota Cener, Houston, TX

7:00 p.m. CDT

TV: NBATV/KENS

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Jason Terry

PG

Tony Parker

James Harden

SG

Danny Green

Trevor Ariza

SF

Kawhi Leonard

Josh Smith

PF

Aron Baynes

Dwight Howard

C

Tim Duncan



Game prediction: Spurs by 8.

For the Rockets' perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

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