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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets

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The Spurs host the Rockets in the first game of consecutive matchups against the in-state rivals that could upend the Western Conference playoff landscape.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets @ San Antonio Spurs

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
April 8, 2015, 7:30 p.m. Spurs Time
TV: FSSW - RADIO: 1200 AM WOAI

I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that every playoff team in the Western Conference will be keeping a close eye on the next two Spurs' games.

That's because, in some odd-but-lucky scheduling by the powers that be, the league's two hottest teams are facing each other in back-to-back games in the final days of the regular season, possibly sending the postseason layout haywire. Somehow, the San Antonio and Houston are playing a short home-and-home series against each other with only 1.5 games separating the Spurs in the sixth seed from the Rockets in the second seed. The fates of the Grizzlies, Blazers, and Clippers can all be altered based not only on how they, themselves, finish off their season, but how San Antonio and Houston's contests go.

This is all very fitting for the reputation Houston has built for themselves this season; the Rockets have somehow become the league villains since last year. James Harden is putting together an MVP-caliber season, but doing so by constantly -- and boringly -- getting to the line and kicking people's reproductive organs. Dwight Howard has sat out most of the season for a mysterious injury which has conveniently healed in time to get him some quality run before the playoffs. Rockets' GM Daryl Morey has been throwing shade at other teams' owners and coaches via social media. Many have called this squad the "new Bad Boys". Even their own blog, The Dream Shake, asked the question "Are the Rockets the most hated team in the NBA?"

All of these factors make this matchup fitting because -- let's face it -- the Spurs are universally respected across the league. You can't hate a team whose star big man is pushing 40-years-old and still getting it done, nor can you hate the NBA's most feared defender who lets his play on the court do all the talking. San Antonio has been the epitome of class and stability in the league, and they're having a late-season, in-state showdown with a team who's decided embraced the hate.

Both teams are on fire as of late. After another beatdown of the Thunder last night, the Spurs extended their winning streak to eight games, and winning nine of their last ten. Kawhi Leonard has averaged 19.4 points per game over than time span, along with just under three steals per contest. Houston is on a three-game winning streak, which has helped them win eight of their last ten. Harden has been going bananas, as of late, averaging 33.9 points per game (!) over that same span of contests. The outcome of the game may not rest  heavier in any other matchup than these two guys, and it will be interesting to see if Kawhi shuts down Harden as defiantly as he did Curry just a few nights ago, or if the Beard poses a different kind of threat to Leonard's defensive abilities.

The landscape of the Western Conference until the NBA Finals will rest heavily on the outcome of these next two contests between the Rockets and Spurs. What should assure all of us is that while some of us, the Rockets, and the media may hype these games up to biblical proportions, we can expect Pop and the guys to hit the hardwood like it's any other Wednesday night matchup.

vs

Houston Rockets (53-24)

San Antonio Spurs (52-26)

April 8, 2015

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:30 p.m. CDT

TV: FSSW

Radio: WOAI 1200AM

Starters

Jason Terry

PG

Tony Parker

James Harden

SG

Danny Green

Trevor Ariza

SF

Kawhi Leonard

Donatas Montiejunas

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