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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

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No longer unbeaten in 2016, the Spurs are seeking a bounce-back win when they host the streaking Rockets on Wednesday night.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
January 27, 2016, 7:00 p.m. Spurs time
TV: ESPN Radio: 1200 AM WOAI

It's been a couple of days since Monday night's thrashing in Oracle -- which is hopefully enough time to shake off any lingering doom and gloom and focus your jeers on another team the Spurs might face in the playoffs.

Despite a listless 5-10 start to the season, Houston's now sitting firmly in the playoff picture, rounding out what look to be the definitive top seven in the West, and just a couple of games from the fifth seed. I haven't noticed a big tactical change in Houston under new coach J.B. Bickerstaff, but the up-tick in effort appears to be there, and that's all that was really needed to get the team playing postseason-worthy basketball.

James Harden will usually be at the center of his team's fortune, and he's put up some more video game stats as of late. He's had two triple doubles in the last four games, along with a 35-11-8 line in their Monday night win in New Orleans. Yes, his defensive lapses can be Vine gold, but his ability to get to his spots and to the line still make him one of the toughest iso players in the league.

Houston's reeled off its last three wins without center Dwight Howard, who's been sidelined with an ankle injury. In the time since Howard last played, the Rockets also re-acquired playoffs hero Josh Smith from the Los Angeles Clippers, who appears to prefer things in Texas over southern California.

With Harden anchoring a reinvigorated offense, Smith bolstering the bench and Trevor Ariza knocking down three-pointers with more consistency, the Rockets are an interesting team again. Howard's absence hurts, though, and I'm not sure Houston can overcome the lack of size and presence in the paint against San Antonio.

The Spurs last played the Rockets earlier this month in a win that coincided with the first scoreless game of Tim Duncan's career. Duncan's sitting out a second straight game due to his knee, suggesting his DNP against Golden State was likely not part of a calculated mindgame by Gregg Popovich.

Matchup to watch: Starting frontcourts. If Howard doesn't play, how do the Spurs match up against Houston's four-out lineup with Ariza at the power-forward spot?


San Antonio Spurs (38-7)

Houston Rockets (25-22)

January 27, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

7:00 PM CST

TV: ESPN

Starters

Tony Parker

PG

Patrick Beverley

Danny Green

SG

James Harden

Kawhi Leonard

SF

Trevor Ariza

LaMarcus Aldridge

PF

Clint Capela

David West

C

Dwight Howard*


Game prediction: Spurs by 12.

For the Rockets fans' perspective, check out The Dream Shake

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.