Before the game started, Sean Elliot’s scouting report included keeping Houston off the three point line without giving up lay-ups. They did a good job on the first part, but not so much the second as they conceded four driving lay-ups/dunks to the Rockets, leading to Pop’s first timeout at 6:39 down by 2. The Spurs did a good job taking advantage of mismatches and offensive boards and ended the quarter up 26-24, led by nine points from LaMarcus Aldridge. The Rockets were 0-6 from above the arc with only one truly open look.
Manu Ginobili and Patty Mills each hit a three to start the second quarter. The Rockets’ shooting remained cold, but they kept things close on second-chance points largely thanks to long rebounds off missed threes. The Rockets finally hit their first three on their 15th attempt, and then hit two more to turn what was a 10-point Spurs lead to just one. Danny Green responded with a couple of threes of his own, and behind some solid D the Spurs took a 52-45 lead into the half on 52.6% shooting while holding the Rockets to less than 35% from the field and just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc.
Pop took a quick timeout after the Spurs came out of the locker room a little lethargic on both ends. The energy picked up a little bit from there, but the Spurs still struggled to keep the Rockets off the offensive glass and foul line on several “only-Harden” calls. Seemingly nothing would fall for the Spurs in this quarter as layups rolled off the rim and loose balls always found there way to the Rockets, who led 78-71 after a 15-2 run to end the quarter.
Manu made a couple of threes to open the fourth quarter, followed by another from Mills, and the Spurs quickly retook the lead after just two minutes. Manu made another three, but it was erased on a questionable moving screen call. The Rockets took advantage to go on an 8-0 run which consisted mostly of FT’s while the Spurs couldn’t buy anything in their own end. The Rockets’ lead stretched to 13 before the Spurs went on a wild 11-0 run to get within two, and it was a game again with 2:41 left. The Rockets quickly went back up by six before another Green three and steal got the Spurs within one, with the ball, with 31 seconds left. Out of the timeout Mills hit another three to take the lead with 12 seconds left, and that ended up being the game winner.
The Spurs head west to take on the LA Clippers on Thursday, giving everyone a day to recover from this thriller.