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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets

The 3rd meeting between the I-10 rivals takes place in Houston.

NBA: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

Ah, the SEGABABA. This is the 6th of the season for the Spurs, and they are currently (0-5) on the second night. But don’t let that stat skew your perception, this is what the Redemption Tour is all about. The Spurs have dropped 15 games this season, and since November 23rd, they’ve begun reclaiming dominance. Eight of those teams have been beaten. Tonight it’s the Rocket’s turn to face the rejuvenated San Antonio squad.

December 22nd, 2018 | 7:00 CT

Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI

San Antonio Spurs (18-15) at Houston Rockets (16-15)

Injury report

San Antonio Spurs: Dejounte Murray (torn right ACL), Pau Gasol (foot soreness).

Houston Rockets: James Ennis III (strained right hamstring), Chris Paul (hamstring)

Vanishing Cream

The key to beating the Houston Rockets is making James Harden a non-factor. Easy to say and yet a nearly impossible task. The man is the reigning MVP, so his skill set is no surprise, and yet he’s averaging over 30 points per game right now. He’s still a master at cutting to the basket and either getting a lay-up or a kicking it out to a wide-open wing in the corner. The Spurs have to make him pass the ball. Mike D’Antoni teams live and die by the three, so push that agenda. P.J. Tucker, Paul, Eric Gordon, Michael Carter-Williams, Ennis III and Gerald Green can all do damage, but with two of the six out, the pressure is on the Rockets role players to produce at a higher volume. Forcing them tests their resolve, and if there is one thing basketball fans can come to expect from the Rockets, it is that Houston will eventually fold under that pressure.

Got Me Under Pressure

Speaking of pressure, the Rockets are 27th in the league on defensive rating allowing over 111 points per game. Currently, they’re stuck in the mud along with four lottery-bound teams. The Cavaliers, Hawks, Knicks, and Wizards are all waving the white flag. Defensively speaking, the Rockets are the only team unaware of their limitations.

The dominant big man in the match-up between LaMarcus Aldridge and Tracy Chapman Clint Capela has been telling. In each of the previous two games, the victor’s center has scored 27 points. Giving up points in the paint is the Rocket’s only other weapon. LMA closing the Swiss Bank early is a must. The Heat severely limited Capela and ended the night with a win. Spurs, take note and turn up the heat on Clint.

Turn It Up

Every time I watch the Rockets they are sprinting the length of the floor in an attempt to confuse the defense. It works in their favor as often as it doesn’t. Once again, their limited game plan is predictable. It’s all about how the defense is executed. Smooth transitions and help defense while guarding the 3 is tricky, but the Spurs who have limited teams to less than 100 in their last 7 games are just the team to shut this offensive tactic down.

As for the offense, I feel like the Spurs as of late have been playing with a purpose which resembles a faster pace. Their passing game, stirred by Derrick White as well as Davis Bertans, is crisp and accurate. When the bench play is strong, the Rockets run out of fuel. They lean too hard on their starters. A faster-paced Spurs game will eventually exhaust the small rotation and the Silver & Black will ruin the holiday weekend for many Houstonians.

Vegas odds: Rockets by 7

Game Prediction: Spurs by 17 (what can I say, it’s my thing)

For the Rockets’ fan’s perspective, check out The Dream Shake.