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San Antonio at Houston, Final Score: Rockets defeat the shorthanded Spurs, 112-98

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Steals and poor three-point shooting hurt the Spurs in their second preseason game.

San Antonio Spurs v Houston Rockets Photo by Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images

The San Antonio Spurs traveled to Houston for their second preseason game and first one on the road, and although far from perfect and still shorthanded, they did some things better than in the preseason opener. After a solid 31-25 first quarter, turnovers and poor three-point shooting plagued the Spurs the rest of the way and prevented them from going on any consistent offensive runs on their way to a 112-98 loss (although the “blowout score” mostly came during a battle of the third strings in the fourth quarter).

Observations

  • I have a confession to make. I moved to from San Antonio to Houston this summer, so now I’m a fulltime League Pass user when it comes to watching the Spurs. Except when they play the Rockets, then I have to watch the Rockets broadcast because of blackout restrictions. The idea that I’ll possibly never hear Bill Land and Sean Elliott call a Spurs-Rockets game again is somewhat sobering. The Rockets broadcast was — not same, to put it in kind terms. I can understand the Rockets announcers getting some Spurs players mixed up since it’s the preaseason, but the most awkward moment was when Bill Worrell confused DeMar DeRozan with Luka Samanic, and then blamed the afro . . .
  • Speaking of Luka, for everyone who is still waiting to see something from him, you’ll have to wait a little longer. He did not make the trip to Houston due to a bout of food poisoning and reportedly will not come for Thursday’s game either.
  • As promised, Gregg Popovich started this game smaller, replacing Jakob Poeltl with Rockets-killer Lonnie Walker IV in the starting line-up. Walker looked much looser than the preseason opener when he was just returning from back spasms and promptly hit three of his first four threes. As a whole, the entire starting unit played faster and looser compared to the Thunder game, and the Spurs hit 6-13 from three in the first quarter (including one from DeRozan, making him 2-2 from outside the arc in the preseason).
  • Devin Vassell continued to impress early. He scored six points in the first quarter off the bench, including a pull-up three off a screen and smooth finish at the rim in transition. He also played harassing defense and dove for loose balls. He wasn’t quite as flashy as the previous game, and obviously he still has room for improvement, but he was the lone bright spot off the bench for the short-handed Spurs in the first half. He replaced DeRozan in the starting line-up for the second half and had a final score line of 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 steals.
  • In a bit of a “it’s the preseason, so why not?” move, Pop chose to counter Rockets coach Stephen Silas’s super-small line-up featuring five players from about 6’3” to 6”7 with a super-tall line-up of Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Rudy Gay, Trey Lyles and Jakob Poeltl in the second quarter. Predictably, the Spurs didn’t do much offensively with that line-up, but the height difference between the two squads was comically noticeable.
  • The addition of DeMarcus Cousins has given the Rockets something they haven’t had in recent seasons: a scoring big who is also a solid defender. John Wall, who looked pretty good for someone coming off a two-year layoff due to major injuries, also provides yet another star point guard mate for Harden. The Beard reportedly remains adamant that he wants to be traded, but he might secretly have the most well-rounded team he’s had in Houston yet.
  • While they looked better than in their preseason opener, rebounding and turnovers were the Spurs main issue in this one. Although they created 11 steals of their own, the Rockets had 12 themselves, most of which either came from picking the Spurs pocket at the top of the key or making simple reads in the passing lanes, resulting in a 19-10 edge in fast break points. That combined with the Spurs going cold from three (4-18) after the first quarter played a big role in them being outscored 87-67 the rest of the game.
  • It’s worth remembering that without Keldon Johnson and Derrick White, this is not the typical Spurs team we’ll see going forward. The sooner they return the better, but in the meantime patience will be required while everyone else gets more development time. The good thing is the Spurs showed improvement in some areas from the last game to this, and in the preseason, that’s all anyone should really care about.

For the Rockets fans perspective, visit The Dream Shake.

The Spurs will remain in Houston and conclude the preseason against the Rockets on Thursday. Tip off will be at 7:00 PM CT on CW35.