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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets

The Spurs will be well rested and getting at least one starter back as they look to return to form at home. How will they fare in slowing down the Rockets' dynamic, James Harden-led attack?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs vs Houston Rockets

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX
Date: 11/09/16, Time: 8:30 PM Spurs Time

In blowout losses to the Jazz and Clippers, the Spurs have made it clear they're not the same stingy defense from years past -- at least not right now. But there's reason to think things should improve as they move on from a tough early-season schedule that was further exacerbated by injury and the integration of a number of new pieces.

Enter Mike D'Antoni's Rockets, who have toggled all their skill settings to offense, shirking the other end of the floor in hopes that they'll beat their opponents to 120 every night. At the center of it all is James Harden, whose move to the point has fully tapped into his abilities as a playmaker, resulting in his best statistical season yet.

D'Antoni has surrounded the Beard with shooters and guys who run the floor, molding the Rockets into a post-modern version of the 7 Seconds or Less Suns. They don't play at the same frenetic pace as those Phoenix teams, but they do bomb away from three over 35 times a game, most in the league.

But while those teams kept their heads above water defensively thanks to guys like Shawn Marion and Raja Bell, these Rockets are hoping that Clint Capela, stepping into a bigger role following Dwight Howard's departure, will be a decent-enough deterrent at the rim. Capela has length and some good instincts, but it's unclear if he'll develop into a true defensive anchor, and Houston's going to hemorhage points while they figure that out. They're currently 28th in Def Rating and bottom-two in defensive field-goal percentage both around the basket and from three-point range.

Point Harden

With the floor spread and the ball in his hands, Harden has quickly transformed into a bigger, scruffier Steve Nash, commanding the defense's full attention at all times.

He's currently fourth in the NBA in scoring at 31.5 points per game, and he's leading the league by a mile in assists per game with 12.7. At 9.2 minutes per game, no one in the league holds onto the ball nearly as long as he does (John Wall is second at 8.3). Harden's not just the head of the Rockets' snake -- he's the body, tail and tentacles (this is a very weird snake).

Houston's offensive rating is terrific when he's on the floor, but drops precipitously when he steps off. D'Antoni looked to address this recently by moving Eric Gordon to the bench and have him lead the second unit. Gordon's looked good so far in Houston, and they beat Washington with him in his new role, but it'll be interesting to see if he can handle that kind of playmaking role in the long run.

Rest and health returning for the Spurs

The Spurs' opening schedule has been one of the more grueling in the NBA, but they're coming off three days' rest heading into tonight and likely getting at least one starter back. Danny Green, who's been out since the beginning of the year with a quad injury, is expected to make his debut tonight, while Tony Parker's status is up in the air.

The Klaw versus the Beard

We don't normally see Kawhi D up on opposing team's primary ball-handlers, but this may be something to look out for nonetheless. There's value in locking down on Harden and trying to deny him the ball late in possessions, and few are better at that than the two-time DPOY.

San Antonio's lost its last two at home, but I expect that to change tonight. Green's return should be a net-positive. As dangerous as the Rockets can be offensively, the Spurs should have control of the game, owning the glass, controlling the pace, and exploiting the many vulnerabilities in the Houston D.


San Antonio Spurs

(Record: 5-2)

Houston Rockets

(Record: 4-3)

November 11, 2016

AT&T Center, San Antonio, TX

8:30 PM CDT



Patty Mills*


James Harden

Danny Green*


Corey Brewer

Kawhi Leonard


Trevor Ariza

LaMarcus Aldridge


Ryan Anderson

Pau Gasol


Clint Capela

Vegas line: Spurs by 7.

Game prediction: Spurs by 6.

For the Rockets fans' perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

As always Tony must dominate Fisher.

As always, PtR's Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. But if you're not able to log in here, you can try the Fanvana app which helps connect sports fans and was created by a fellow Spurs fan. Check out the free app on iOS or Android to discover other Spurs fans and join the live chatter for tonight's game. You can follow PtR's tweet stream directly on Fanvana as the game unfolds.