Here’s a mindblowing fact for you: The San Antonio Spurs have played in four consecutive overtime games dating back to their first extra period of the season against the Houston Rockets on December 3rd. Since then, they’ve made a habit of rallying in the final frame to gift fans a mix of anxiety and free basketball.
The Silver and Black are 3-1 in games that go to overtime this year, but aside from Houston, their three other opponents shouldn’t have required additional effort to put away. James Harden and crew blew a 22-point lead to allow the good guys back into the contest in their prior meeting, but you best believe they’ll be ready to avenge their loss when their divisional foe arrives at the Toyota Center.
San Antonio got by on a breakout game from Lonnie Walker IV, a little luck, and a mishandled challenge on a miscalled breakaway dunk by the Beard. Their sloppy play through three quarters nearly cost them the game, and if they come out flat, Houston won’t need an appeal to hand the Spurs a loss.
San Antonio Spurs (10-15) @ Houston Rockets (17-9)
December 16, 2019: 7:00 PM CT
Watch: KENS | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Lonnie Walker IV (Knee - Questionable)
Rockets Injuries: Gerald Green (Foot - Out), Eric Gordon (Knee - Out), Nene (Hip - GTD), Tyson Chandler (Illness - GTD)
Guarding James Harden
Every team in the NBA game plans to shut down James Harden, but one way or another, he’s going to get buckets. While keeping the perennial MVP candidate in check is no easy task, it’s the key to stopping the Rockets.
Harden averages a ridiculous 39.3 points per game and lit up the Spurs for 50 points in the last go-round. Well, in reality, with context and a boxscore in hand, San Antonio did a phenomenal job defending the two-time scoring champ.
They held Harden to 11-of-37 shooting, forced him into 5 turnovers, and made him earn 24 of his points at the charity stripe. Replicate those results, avoid fouling him beyond the arc, and this could be another resounding victory on their resume.
Protecting the Three-Point Line
No team in the NBA takes and makes more three-pointers than the Houston Rockets. Mike D’Antoni has long been at the forefront of innovative offenses, and this rendition of his full-throttle attack is on pace the break the record for most long-distance attempts in a single season.
For as much time as Harden and Russell Westbrook spend pounding the rock on isolations, Houston has a surprisingly effective offense. Much of that has to do with the abundance of marksmen that surround the perimeter.
The Spurs would be smart to pay close attention to the Rocket’s three-headed three-point threat of P.J. Tucker, Ben McLemore, and Danuel House Jr. Tucker dominates the corners, McLemore makes the most of his left-wing looks, and House is liable to let it fly from anywhere around the arc.
Is it Time to Bench Bryn Forbes?
Coach Gregg Popovich has tinkered with the starting lineup a bit this season, but we’ve yet to see many changes make a lasting difference in the quality of this team. DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Bryn Forbes are the only players on the roster to start every game they have appeared in.
Aldridge and DeRozan have struggled at times, but their ability to bring a variety of advantages to the table makes them nearly indispensable to the starting five. Forbes, purely a three-point specialist, does not fit into that category.
His 117 Defensive Rating is worst on the team, and his -49.29 Defensive Points Saved ranks 460th out of 464 eligible players. The undrafted guard’s one redeeming quality is three-point shooting, and at the moment, his 34.4% accuracy is below league average.
Although Forbes can still be a productive member of the rotation when his shots are falling, it may be wise to look elsewhere while he battles to find his form. Lonnie Walker IV has been sensational on both ends when given an opportunity, and a Derrick White / Dejounte Murray backcourt would form one formidable defensive duo.
For the Rockets fans’ perspective, visit The Dream Shake.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.