The Spurs were missing LaMarcus Aldridge tonight, but most of all they were missing their competitive fire, as they were easily overwhelmed by James Harden and the Rockets, who rode a third quarter surge from James Harden to beat the Spurs 109-93. There were a few bright spots for the Spurs, as Brandon Paul looked good on defense and Derrick White showed promise, but for the most part it was a bad effort from the Spurs, who gave the Rockets easy baskets for most of the game with defensive mistakes and looked disorganized on offense.
Rudy Gay, who was starting in place of LaMarcus Aldridge, opened the scoring with a short jumper for the Spurs. Chris Paul scored, and then Clint Capela got an alley oop assisted by Harden to put the Rockets up. The Rockets continued to build their lead, while the Spurs couldn’t answer with the key play being a two-on-one Spur fast break broken up by Chris Paul, who caused a miss and also got the rebound away from Rudy Gay. After five minutes, the Rockets led 13-5 and Pop needed a timeout. [Writer’s note: I also decided I needed a beer at this point.] The Spurs returned with a hockey line change, five new players, including the rarely seen Brandon Paul. The Spurs still couldn’t hit the ocean from a boat, but they started to play with a little more intensity on defense, and the Rockets were increasing their lead more slowly. I guess that’s some sort of progress. Unexpectedly, the Spurs went on a 12-0 run, overall outscoring the Rockets 17-6 after the lineup change, with Tony Parker and Davis Bertans doing most of the damage. The Rockets led 25-21 after one quarter.
The Rockets jumped out quickly in the second quarter to push the lead to 8. Derrick White, fresh from the G-League, scored a triple to bring the Spurs back. But the Rockets’ superior lineup began to help them build the margin. Clint Capela propelled Rockets extend the lead to double digits with good plays on both ends of the court, blocking Spurs shots and dunking the ball on offense, leading by 14 halfway through the quarter. The Spurs reserves continued to fight, and Bertans hitting baskets and Brandon Paul making key defensive plays. But with Harden pushing down Brandon Paul and hitting the open three, they once again led by 14. The Spurs competed hard for the rest of the quarter, but they still trailed 54-43 at the half.
Murray scored the first point of the third quarter by hitting one of two free throws after a Harden foul. Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker answered with baskets in the paint and the Rockets lead was back up to 14. Danny Green scored a three, but a missed defensive assignment gave Trevor Ariza an open look and the answer, earning Dejounte Murray a quick lecture from Gregg Popovich. Murray played better after the lecture, hitting a couple of shots and tightening up on defense. The Rockets played better, though, extending the lead to 21 with a Harden triple and three free throws after being fouled by Paul. The Rockets began to turn the game into a blowout, as Luc Mbah a Moute was able to get to the basket repeatedly for easy dunks and they led by 25 with 3 minutes left. Derrick White got back into the game, and he did what he could to help bring the Spurs back in, but James Harden was fully engaged and the Spurs could not make a dent in the lead. Harden easily scored or got to the free throw line and scored 16 in the quarter, which had the Rockets in the lead 88-67 after 36 minutes of play.
White opened the scoring for the final quarter for the Spurs with a triple and Kyle Anderson added on with a pair of free throws. But then Chris Paul decided to end it for the Rockets by taking over with a midrange jumper and a triple to extend the lead to 99-73. Halfway through the quarter, Harden and Chris Paul went to the bench, and extended garbage time commenced. Derrick White and Matt Costello did fairly well to end the quarter, and they cut the lead to 10 with just over 2 minutes left. Gerald Green, who had been killing the Spurs all night with deep shots, put an end to the madness with another three point shot. Green did it again after a Spurs miss and it was over.
- The Spurs wore the dark camo uniforms tonight. I like the idea of honoring the armed forces, but damn, those unis are ugly. Houston also opted to wear a dark color, and it was a uniform abomination for both teams.
- The Spurs shot roughly 10% for the first 8 minutes of the game. It’s hard to win like that.
- My internet crashed about halfway through the second quarter, and I lost most of my second quarter notes because I had to reboot. They were brilliant.
- Dejounte needs to get better at finishing. It does no good to get past the defender with your speed if you can’t make the layup.
- Brandon Paul did a great job defending James Harden. He needs to get more minutes.
- This game felt like a scheduled loss for the Spurs, but it was a little disappointing to see that there were many players who lacked intensity and didn’t seem to compete. It was great to see Derrick White and Brandon Paul make the most of their playing time, but there were some other players who didn’t really show up tonight.
- The Spurs lost their 22nd road game tonight, officially locking up a losing road record for the season.
Here’s a Scottish singer who’s most famous for being in an Australian band singing with a very large choir.
The Spurs now sport a 37-30 record and are in a tie with the Nuggets and the Jazz for the final playoff spot in the west. After tonight, they return to San Antonio to celebrate Fiesta with a six-game home stand, starting with the Orlando Magic tomorrow night at 7:30.